“Don’t Panic About the Coronavirus. Act.” was the headline on a story I wrote last week, back, when we were still going into Slate’s offices to do our journalism. Things could get bad, in fact they’re already getting bad, the piece explained; we very much need to take measures like staying away from other people to help prevent or at least reduce very bad outcomes. Even when staying away from people felt like a scary future, at least it was something to recommend people actually do—panicking is not useful.
But not panicking about the novel coronavirus is easier said than done. So is not losing your mind when you are isolated in your apartment. The day I started working on that article, I cried before I left for work, and I cried at work while sitting inside one of the phone booths where I do interviews. My work bestie Heather brought me emergency tissues, and then we went for a walk. Now, of course, Slate’s offices are closed, as they should be, and I am stuck working on stories about the coronavirus in my home, without Heather.
I already do a good bit of work to care for my mental health—for example, I “went” to therapy on Wednesday, via video, which helped a bit. But we’re all about to face somewhat trying times, from an anxiety and mental health standpoint. So on Friday, I talked to three therapists and a psychiatrist about their advice on keeping the inside of one’s brain from devolving into a total shitshow during this time when a virus is basically dictating our daily routines. They’ve been thinking about this a lot: The coronavirus “is really all anyone is talking about,” Lindsay Henderson, director of psychological services at Amwell, a telehealth platform, told me, of her own sessions with clients last week.