How to Stay Safe and Not Panic: 6 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Health and Well-Being

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is feeling worried, anxious, and sometimes downright terrified. All the media are reporting 24/7 about the latest Coronavirus news. Where I live in Northern California, we’ve had a record warm spell with little or no rain in February and so far in March and we worry about the fire season this summer. Plus, the election news is chaotic and I worry about the next election. Fortunately, I have a supportive wife and family and I’ve spent years helping people deal with stress.

So, here are some of the practices that I am using to stay safe and to keep panic away:

1. Increase love, decrease fear.

Years ago, when Carlin and I lived in Marin County, we met Dr. Jerry Jampolsky. He had just written the book, Love is Letting Go of Fear that touched our hearts and healed a lot of the fear and worry that we had at the time. In a recent edition of the book, the musician Carlos Santana offered these words. “Love is Letting Go of Fear is the sweetest, gentlest healing melody to my heart…It has helped me find a sense of inner peace, joy, and happiness beyond what I had ever experience before—or ever thought possible.”

“Wouldn’t our lives be more meaningful if we looked to what has no beginning and no ending as our reality,” Dr. Jampolsky asks at the beginning of the book. “Only Love fits this definition of the eternal.” He goes on to say, “Fear can be the most virulent and damaging virus known to humankind.”

I ask myself every day, “Is this bringing more love into my life, or is this bringing more fear?” Every day, I try and choose love, though it isn’t always easy.

2. Be aware of our negativity bias.

The neuroscientist, Dr. Rick Hanson says, “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” In the past, it was a survival mechanism to alert us to danger in the environment. “To keep our ancestors alive,” says Dr. Hanson, “Mother Nature evolved a brain that routinely tricked them into making three mistakes: overestimating threats, underestimating opportunities, and underestimating resources (for dealing with threats and fulfilling opportunities). This is a great way to pass on gene copies, but a lousy way to promote quality of life.”

So, what can we do? “For starters,” says Hanson, “be mindful of the degree to which your brain is wired to make you afraid, wired so that you walk around with an ongoing trickle of anxiety (a flood for some) to keep you on alert. And wired to zero in on any apparent bad news in a larger stream of information.” 

Knowing my brain bias, I ask myself where is the good news in all this? We’re travelling less which helps the environment. We’re staying home more and being with family and friends. We’re recognizing that everyone is connected with everyone else and if we allow it, we can increase our empathy. 

3. All worry and fear is in the future. Ask yourself, “how are things now?”

One of the simplest and most powerful exercises I have learned over the years to calm myself and one that has helped millions of my clients is to simply ask the question, “How are thing right now?” When I do, the answer is almost always “Right now things are OK.” I can scare myself if I start imagining future catastrophes that could befall me, my family, or the world. But the truth is we live in the present moment, and in the present moment things are fine. 

Sometimes, it’s true that things are not fine. Sometimes we’re sick. A family member is going through a difficult life change. A close friend may be dying. There may be real dangers on the horizon. But even then, there are positive things that are happening in our lives. We can tune into what we have to be thankful for and how we can support ourselves and each other.

So, how are things right now for you?

4. Limit your media exposure.

When there is danger in the world, our negativity bias seeks out information that can prevent something bad from happening. But remember, the media has a saying: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Whether it is to sell more newspapers or to increase ratings, the media has a tendency to continuously give us information about the potential dangers we face. So, we can get hooked on the latest “news.”

I ask myself, is watching, listening, or reading about this helping to calm me, to reassure me, or is it feeding my panic, anxiety, and worry? 

There are a lot of ways to get information. Choose ones that empower you and make you feel safer and more in control of your life. Make a plan and put it into practice. Resist the temptation to constantly look for new information. With each news report, we get a little rush of adrenaline that increases our fear.

I’ve stopped watching T.V. news about the Coronavirus. If I want accurate information that I can trust, I turn to these sources:

For a simple, authoritative, understanding of “What You Need To Know About Coronavirus & 15 Tips For Staying Safe,” I recommend Lissa Rankin, M.D. 

Dr. Rankin reminds us, “Whenever news media starts declaring states of emergency and uttering words like ‘pandemic,’ people understandably start to panic. Keep in mind that the news media’s job is to keep you informed about global events, but it’s also their job to get your attention and sell ad space. Panic sells. But if you don’t let fear run through you in a healthy way and you get stuck in cycling anxiety, fear, and panic, it puts your nervous system into stress response, disables your body’s self-healing mechanisms, and actually makes you more susceptible to things like viruses.”

I also respect the work of Julie McMurry, MPH. “I have a master’s degree in public health from the University of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as well as a background in infectious diseases and vaccine development,” she says. “The impact of this pandemic will be needlessly amplified by misinformation, so be careful. I’ve endeavored to be as accurate as possible without causing panic.” 

I have a PhD in International Health and I trust her information. You can also get updates from Julie by email. Check her out:

For information about the U.S., I check out The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

I also take a look at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease because the director, Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. has such wide-ranging experience with infectious disease prevention.

To get information about what’s going on world-wide, I check out The World Health Organization.

5. Keep connected with your friends and neighbors.

As concerns about the virus increases, more people are isolating themselves. They reason that if they limit their contact with people, they will be safer. However, humans are social beings. We need to stay connected with friends and community. But we do need to accept the we need to protect ourselves.

We’ve had a meditation group that meets every Monday at our house. At the end of the group we usually hold hands. This time my wife, Carlin, introduced a variation she uses with her women’s groups. Instead of holding hands, we lift our arms and touch elbows. We all laughed, told everyone to take care of themselves, and look forward to our meeting next week.

A local restaurant, put this sign in their window: “One of the driving forces behind the Brickhouse is being part of our community. The Brickhouse team is mindful of making sure we do our part to help keep Willits healthy and thriving.” They went on to describe the extra steps they were taking to keep all surfaces clean and disinfected and to offer a place of warmth, care, and love. I went there today to have lunch and loved connecting with my community. 

That said, we need to limit our public contact and remember to wash our hands and resist the temptation to touch our faces (Most people tough their face at least sixteen times an hour). 

Who do you want to connect with? Reach out, make contact. Feel the love, care, and support, but do it safely. 

6. Create a local Tribe for mutual support.

My long-time friend Bill Kauth is offering a free webinar on how to build your own personal community. We all need community, but in our chaotic, fragmented world, its often difficult to know how to actually do it. For years Bill and his wife Zoe have been building tribes and teaching others how to build their own. 

They are offering a free, live, webinar to give you the information you need. Calling in Your Tribe: Creating Your Personal Heart-to-Heart Community. They will also offer a follow-up paid 7-week online course called, “Time for Tribe.” Check it out the free webinar here.

I hope you find some value that can keep you safe and connected. If you found this article helpful, check out my blog, here.

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