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Controlling Fear

A few days ago I shared a news article on my Facebook page. The piece reported about a Tennessee man who purchased nearly 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. He meant to sell them online at a profit. It turned out that he managed to sell some of his stock to the tune of up to $70 per bottle. Amazon and eBay discovered his scheme, quickly shut down his listing, and banned him from selling on the platforms. He was then stuck with thousands of unsold inventory, and an investigation for price gouging. (Update: I have since deleted the post to keep a more positive tone in my timeline.)

People looking to make profit in time of panic is not unheard of. Try to find some face masks online. While looking to stock some for our class participants, our Purchasing team found the price to be skyrocketing, even more than 10 times the normal price. At that price, stock were snapped up within hours.

The coronavirus pandemic that we are living in today presents a lot of uncertainty. This is a new kind of virus that spread rapidly, though less severe than SARS or MERS. Anyone can get it, from the poorest to the richest, from the lowest to the highest. Anyone who is unguarded can get it. The worst part is, until now there is no known and tested medical cure for the sickness. This kind of uncertainty causes fear and anxiety in us.

Fear makes us do irrational things. I remember almost 20 years ago, I was on my way home from visiting a friend. It was already late at night. The traffic was jammed and I had been trapped in it for almost an hour. Suddenly I saw cars in front of me began to turn back. In my mind there must be something terrible ahead that made them do that. There could be a riot! Without much thinking, I began to turn my car around.

I knew there was a wide median separating the two directions, and there was nearly a foot drop from the top of the median to the road. But I was so scared I stepped on the accelerator, forcing my car to jumped the median. As I made the crossing into the reverse lane, my front tires made a hard landing on the asphalt. I was lucky the car was able to take that beating without damage. The fact was, those cars turned around because they didn’t want to wait any longer in traffic. Nothing else!

So how can we keep ourselves from being controlled by fear and anxiety?

There is one principle in the book “How To Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie that has become my favorite, especially in this coronavirus situation. The principle says,

“Forget yourself by becoming interested in others. Every day do a good deed that will put a smile of joy on someone’s face.”

The principle encourages us to stop thinking just about ourselves, and to start taking care of others.

I read an interesting article by BBC. It tells the story of a group of Canadians who started a movement the article calls “caremongering” or care trading. Mita Hans and Valentina Harper of Toronto and others saw there was so much scary news spreading in the media. They want to spread something opposite instead.

They started a Facebook group where people can ask and offer for help. It’s somewhat like a group where you can trade stuff, but in this group you trade kindness between those who need it and those who can give it. They thought the group would gather a few dozens people. Instead, news travels fast in social media, and soon the group grew into thousands of members. People in other cities created similar groups, helping more and more people in need.

A man in Halifax who desperately needed hand sanitizers due to compromised immune system received replenishment from a donor. A single mom in Ottawa received food for her baby. A group of people in Toronto offer to cook meals for those who are unable. A community in Prince Edward Island gave grocery cards to a woman who was laid off because of coronavirus related closures. The list of kindness that people do to each other goes on into the thousands.

Fear can spread like wildfire. But kindness can spread too. Rather than be controlled by fear, why not focus on being kind to others?

Psychology Today ran an article that discusses the effect of helping others on reduction of anxiety and depression. The article concludes that by helping others, we not only make other people feel better, but we also help ourselves feel better. As a bonus, not only we relieve ourselves from depression and anxiety, we also improve our relationships with people as we show kindness to them.

You don’t have to start a Facebook group. Just look around and see if there is anyone who needs it.

  • How about the security guards in your neighborhood, who work around the clock to ensure your safety? Some appreciative smile would make it worth their trouble.
  • Why not check into your WhatsApp and see the people in your list who you haven’t heard from for a while? I’m sure in time of social distancing like now they would appreciate someone asking them their news.
  • How about scanning your Facebook timeline? Don’t just give them a thumbs up for something good your friends share. Write a heartfelt compliment. Or give thoughtful or uplifting comments for those who share some life challenges.
  • Have you shown appreciation for your wife’s cooking? Your children’s hard earned grades? Your husband’s assistance when you need him to fix something around the house?
  • Why not try to be more patient and compassionate when people make mistakes? Let them know it’s okay to make mistakes, and offer them help to do it better the next time.

Instead of letting fear driving you, why not spread joy by sharing kindness to others? You help both yourself and others by doing that.

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