According to a door-to-door survey commissioned by The Straits Times and carried out by market research company Nexus Link, 81 percent of Singaporean residents fear being infected by COVID-19.
I belong to the 19 percent who are “concerned but not afraid”. While I religiously wash my hands and elbow lift buttons, I have not rushed to buy masks, hand sanitizers, rice, or toilet paper, even after the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) risk assessment level in Singapore was raised from Yellow to Orange on 7 February 2020.
It is not because I am stupidly arrogant or pridefully reckless. It is because I believe that while we cannot control many things that happen to us in life, we can choose how we respond rather than react to situations or simply follow the crowd.
Fear and Anxiety are natural reactions, but I believe that we can choose how we respond. Choosing how we respond is to assert control over our lives rather than to allow circumstances to control or enslave us.
I think fear and anxiety often rob us of the best in life. I am thus sharing why I do not fear, just in case it might help you live a better life.
The Opposite of Fear is Love
As the opposite of fear is love, I believe that the only way we can conquer the fear is with love.
I have chosen to not fear by choosing to love truth. In this case, I chose to embrace the following truths:
- There is no existing cure for Covid-19
- I am going to die one day
- Transcendence is our highest need as human beings
We live in a VUCA world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. This has been keenly felt all around the world since China reported the emergence of a new virus on 31 December 2019.
In the face of uncertainty, we can never be sure that we are right. We can only make an educated guess based upon the information that we have and our assessment on the veracity of the information that we receive.
After following trusted news sources closely and listening to interviews with experts, I personally concluded that the new virus is much like the flu, and that Singapore would be less affected than China because we live in a hot and humid climate – just the type of weather the virus hates. I was also inclined to believe an expert’s opinion that the situation would naturally resolve moving into the summer months, just like it did during the SARs outbreak in 2003.
But the truth is, to this day, I do not know whether I am right.
Truth: There is no cure.
Response: Build my immunity.
We still do not know for sure how the virus is really transmitted, how it came about, and when it would end. But we know certain truths for sure:
- There is no cure, as of today
- Most of the patients basically overcome the illness with their own immunity
I thus decided that the best response would be to choose to build my immunity because that would be my main weapon to fight the virus should I be infected in the worst-case scenario.
According to this article by the Straits Times, we can build our immunity by
- Eating fruit and leafy vegetables rich in vitamin C
- Getting plenty of Vitamin D by exposing oneself to sunlight
- Enriching ourselves with Vitamin
- Taking anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, ginger, green tea, and mushrooms
- Filling up on probiotics such as yogurt and kefir
- Eating a colourful array of at least 10 different types of fruit and vegetables, as well as fresh herbs, daily
- Avoiding acidic foods such as processed foods, red meat, and sugary foods
- Getting enough sleep
However, as humans are made up of three parts – body, soul, spirit – it is important for us to take care of not only our physical body, but also our emotions and our thoughts and the process by which we make decisions.
As my friend who practises Traditional Chinese Medicine once told me, if you want to protect and maintain your health (保健保养), you first have to protect your heart (保心) as it is the seat of emotion and the origin of our thoughts.
And it is important to guard our thoughts as our thoughts affect our choices, which then affects our actions, which then affect our destiny. What we focus on grows: if we focus on fear, fear grows; if we focus on love, love grows. We become what we fear. It is important for us to be mindful of what we focus on.
And it is also important for us to laugh, as research has shown that laughter can help us fight off diseases by balancing all the components of our immune system. Research has also revealed that when we laugh, the number of natural killer cells that destroy tumours and viruses in our bodies increases.
So instead of worrying over whether you can get enough masks and hand sanitisers, perhaps it might be more useful to adhere to a healthy lifestyle, and laugh at a meme or watch a funny movie.
Truth: I am going to die one day, and I never know how or when
Response: Build a positive legacy
The next truth I embraced is that I am going to die one day, and I never know how or when.
While a Covid-19 infection might be one way I could potentially die, there are a multitude of ways that I am even more likely to die, such as a car accident, a heart attack, or a serious knock on my head.
Knowing that life is short and that I am going to die one day helps me to think about what I want to leave behind – do I want to be known as the person who hoarded tons of packets of instant noodles and rolls of toilet paper during the Covid-19 outbreak, or do I want to be known as the person who positively contributed to the community in some way during the crisis?
As the Chinese saying goes, “生不带来，死不带去” – we came into this world with nothing, and we will leave this world with nothing. What remains would be our legacy – how we have impacted lives, whether positively or negatively – and the memories that remain with the living, whether good or bad.
Much of life is, however, not black and white, and many areas fall within the grey zone. So, when we face dilemmas in life, may we guided by our values such that we add to life, and not subtract from it.
When you are tempted to follow the herd and cave into the of fear of losing out, pause and ask yourself the following question:
“If someone took a video of me and it were publicised in the major news and social media platforms all around the world, would I be proud of myself?”
Or if you are a parent, ask yourself:
“If this video were shown to my child’s friends, would my child be proud or embarrassed of me?
While we will invariably be the “bad person” in someone’s story and we will make mistakes along the way, we can always strive to do our best to make a positive impact in the lives of those who pass our way, even strangers.
Truth: Transcendence is my highest need as a human being.
Response: Choose to help others.
While many people think that self-actualisation is our highest need as human beings, Maslow’s extended Hierarchy of Needs reveals that our highest need as human beings is actually that of transcendence – that is helping others be the best that they can be.
And as we can see from climate change and the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we need to look beyond ourselves and our families to think about our communities, organisations, nation and the world, if we want to continue to have a HOME where we have hope and memory.
HOME = HOpe + MEmory
After all, individuals make up families, families make up communities, communities make up organisations, organisations make up a nation, and nations make up the world
If our nation and the world do not go well, we and our families cannot expect to do well over the long run.
Thus, it is in our best interest to think beyond ourselves and live a life of service to others. We need to live with passion and serve with compassion.
We need to give up our wants to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. It is not an act of generosity or compassion – it is our duty.
As Mahatma Gandhi, widely thought to be the “Father of India” and one of the strongest symbols of non-violence in the 20th century, said: “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear”. Mr Gandhi also said: “Fear is not a disease of the body; it is the disease of the soul.”
And the only way we can conquer the fear is with love, since the opposite of fear is love.
We are always making choices and we can choose how we respond every minute, every second, and every moment.
So how are you making this Covid-19 infected Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world a better place today?