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A Simple Way to Spread Kindness When You’re Anxious About the Coronavirus

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I won’t sugarcoat it. As someone who lives with intense anxiety, this week has been hell.

I’ve turned on the television to see the pure panic in the eyes of the people getting interviewed. I’ve watched the local store shelves empty. I’ve sat through video calls at work instructing us about what to do when (not if) the coronavirus (COVID-19) — the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system — comes to my city. It all seems so unreal and something out of a science fiction movie.

I panicked, thinking about what this could mean for my family and those I love. I panicked for myself in a few moments too. I’ve sat in tears on my couch, thinking about all of the people who can’t afford to stockpile items to feed their children. I’ve sobbed about the elderly not being able to go into the store to fight off a young 20-year-old buying five cases of toilet paper. I cried for the families that will have to go without pay to stay home with their children as our schools close. I even felt so much sadness for the student-athletes who won’t get to play in the sports they have worked so hard at their whole lives and how some of them will never get a chance to put their jerseys on again. This week has left my heart feeling so heavy and so uneasy that my anxiety soared through the roof.

I was born into a family of “helpers” so I truly believe it’s in my DNA to want to help in situations that seem hard, confusing or sad. I’m also an empath which means I feel everything very deeply and sometimes that means absorbing all of the emotions around me. (It is a truly exhausting gift.) For that reason, I have been searching for something I can do to help during the moments when I feel the most helpless. Then, it hit me.

In the grocery store this week, my fiancé and I took the time to thank some of the workers who were there stocking shelves. They looked at us with tired eyes and tried to laugh off our kind words and then, with all of the laughter gone, they said a very serious: “You’re welcome … and thank you.” It hit me then that we might have been the only people who thanked them the entire week. I was angry and sad at that realization, but also hopeful. This is where I will be able to help and make a difference during this scary time. It was the one thing that calmed me and made my heart feel a little lighter. 

I know what some of you will say. I know my kind words won’t kill the virus. I know they won’t improve the survival rate. I know they won’t stop this virus but, as someone who understands the power of words and how much they can help, I know a kind word can change someone’s whole day, week, month, year and life because words have done that for me many times over. I know a smile can make someone panicking feel more at ease because I’ve had one shared with me in moments of uncertainty. I know that people helping people doesn’t only mean giving them supplies — it also means helping their soul. 

I encourage you to do something so easy that will not cost you a dime. Share a smile with the person who looks like they are about to have a panic attack at the grocery store. Thank the person stocking your shelves and know that they are working long, exhausting hours right now to try to make sure your family has what they need while they are still worried for their own. Thank the clinics and hospitals for having a plan in place to serve others and staff for continuing to show up every day whether they are scared or not. Offer a kind word to anyone you see who might need one. The world can seem so isolating when negative global events happen; this will help everyone understand we are not alone and that we are all in this together.

Remember that as the toilet paper runs out at the store, the soup aisles empty, the canned vegetables are all gone and the water has been “sold out” for days, there is one thing that will never be out of stock: kindness. I, for one, hope that kindness spreads even faster than this virus.

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Photo by Fa Barboza on Unsplash

Originally published: March 17, 2020
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