Comment: Panic a natural reaction to threat but not only one

There’s no shame in losing your cool over the outbreak, but maybe shelve the zombie books for now.

By Renee Quistorf / For The Herald

My mantra for today, chosen almost a week ago, is “My brain is calm and quiet. I am an example of what is possible.”

Of course the exact opposite happened to my brain while I was on my run this morning. I was listening to a recorded book called “World War Z” by Max Brooks. I don’t recommend it, especially if you are experiencing a lot of anxiety about the current circumstances we find ourselves in.

Granted, I have had my mental ups and downs during the past few weeks. For the most part, though, I’ve been calm and confident about returning to normal fairly soon. Until this morning.

“World War Z” (discussed on a recent “Fresh Air” podcast) was published in 2006, and is about a plague that starts in China. It quickly spreads across the world, and many people die. The dead are “re-animated,” and return as zombies. I know, right?

As I listened to this fiction, I decided to stockpile more food at home. From there, my brain was off and running right along with my body. By the time I was nearly home, I was sprinting. I had to let my husband Bill know that this thing is worse than we thought! We need cash. We need more dry goods. MRIs. Buckets of peanut butter!

I had to tell Bill there was no way he could return to work. We have to prepare to evacuate Washington state, and return to the (safer?) rural Midwest to be with our families.

I raced by some neighbors (friends), who said they were “Doing GREAT!” I hope I didn’t burst their bubble when I breathlessly told them I was rushing home to order 25-pound bags of beans and rice. After I passed by, I imagined they just looked at each other and shook their heads in pity! Ha ha.

By the time I tore through the front door, I was almost in tears. My heart felt like it was beating right out of my chest. If Bill had thought I wasn’t taking this virus thing seriously enough before, I now allayed any doubt.

“Stop listening to that book. Calm down. Everything is going to be OK,” Bill reassured me, pulling me close, and hugging me. Ever stoic, my hero then offered, “If you think you need to go back to your family, I’m OK with that. But I am committed to do a job here. I can’t go with you.”

Fortunately the voice of reason quickly returned. As I recovered, I realized my mind had conjured a worst-case scenario. But everything was going to be OK. “When we panic, we don’t think rationally. In a time of crisis, rational thought is the greatest weapon you could possibly have,” Brooks said on “Fresh Air.”

Right. And I had just experienced that first hand. Fortunately we are not in the last days. Preparing means “Clearing your mind and thinking about what you have to do. It means making a list of what you need to buy, prioritizing what needs to come first, thinking about how you’re going to take care of the people around you. That is preparing,” Brooks continued.

Now I have compassion for others who are worried. Brooks adds: “Right now we have to be careful about who we listen to, because panic can spread much faster than a virus.”

Yes, yes it can. And it quickly took hold of me.

My rice and beans are on their way. Just in case.

Renee Quistorf lives in Everett. She sold her small business in 2016, and is now enjoying her free time. Her husband Bill is the chief pilot for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department.

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