Every now and then something happens out there in the ‘real’ world that really knocks us about. Being an expat never seems quite so isolating as when a huge natural disaster strikes, or a violent incident affects a place you know, or the politics ‘back home’ takes a turn towards crazy. The lack of control, the self-doubt about life decisions…
The corona virus (2019-nCoV) is a case in point. It is something directly affecting expats in particular since uncertainly now surrounds travel plans, work environment and, depending upon where you are and where you are from, how you are viewed by those around you.
Things are not helped by some individuals – and indeed some countries – reacting with Draconian measures and the press lighting the flames of panic at every opportunity. (If you have young children, it can be hard to explain why people are wearing masks…) Talks of lock-down, enforced quarantine and rumours of ghost-town scenes from previously bustling cities all feed into our predilection for sensational stories and exaggeration.
This is not to suggest that what we are experiencing is trivial. And in a very real and not at all existential way, what YOU are experiencing is what you are experiencing.
There are things you can do to alleviate fears and anxiety.
Firstly, be absolutely rigourous with your own personal hygiene.
Second, do what human beings have done for millennia – stay away from people who are ill. We naturally do shy away from people with coughs and colds – it’s rooted in evolutionary biology and is one of the reasons you are here today, as opposed to, well, not being…
Thirdly, get informed. Have you heard that everyone from country X is being quarantined? Supermarkets in country Y have empty shelves? Have you checked the sources, before repeating the rumour to someone else? Spreading untruths, or half-truths, about the situation helps no-one deal with it appropriately. You can do worse than visit the World Health Orgnanisation on this.
And finally, if you are struggling, by which I mean your thoughts and fears about this are prohibiting you from carrying on your everyday life, then talk to someone. These are not trivial concerns. Find a health professional to discuss them with if they are taking over your life. At the very least, you will gain a sense of perspective. Take some time for yourself and be aware of how you are feeling.