Some Unofficial Advice From Italy

by S. Abbas Raza

I have been in lockdown for some time and one gets used to it. You should stay home too now, as much as possible.

Since I live in northern Italy, a few friends in America have privately asked me if I have any advice for them as America now heads for the situation Italy has been facing. Most recently, my friend Anna Hall wrote this, “Are you ok Abbas? We are about to follow Italy into this abyss — suggestions for sanity and humanity welcome.” Okay, then, here is my personal, non-expert advice based on my experience so far:

• Stay calm but be concerned: this is probably the greatest single challenge the world has faced in our lifetimes. Decisions made in a panic are not good, so meditate, take your anti-anxiety medication, and don’t keep reading everything about Corona all day every day—I did that for a couple of days and then I couldn’t sleep. It is very important to pay attention to one’s mental well-being at this time, as well as physical.

• It is best to get serious advice and information from reputable scientific sources, not friends, family, or Facebook. Go here for some resources.

• Stay at home. Buy groceries for at least a week at a time (two if you can do that) and then don’t be tempted to run out for that one brand of potato chips you suddenly have a craving for. Now is the time to be disciplined about this. As one doctor advised, behave as if you have the virus and don’t want to give it to others.

• A good way to make a comprehensive grocery list is to walk through each room in your house with a pad and pen and look around carefully and see what you might run out of in the next week or two. This way, I remembered to buy shaving blades when I was in the bathroom looking around, for example, which I would have forgotten otherwise. Same happened with laundry detergent in the laundry room, etc.

• Convince others to take the problem seriously and insist that they cancel plans for socializing, travel, etc. Do this calmly and without getting worked up, otherwise they will dismiss what you say as the product of irrational fear. This will only work if we all do it. Obviously.

• Avoid public transport and walk if you can. Driving a car is also better than public transport, for once.

• The natural tendency is to want to visit one’s parents and other family in a time like this. Don’t. Instead Skype with them and keep in touch more than normal through phone, email, social media, and every way except actually being there. Everyone needs reassurance these days, and it’s nice for people who love you to hear your voice.

• Just in case, make a plan with your family about what you will do if one of you gets sick. Better to do this while calm and healthy than in a panic.

• Use this time to exercise more (we’ve been playing a lot of ping pong because we have a table at home), read, do stuff you’ve been putting off that can be done at home. Or just watch TV. That’s good too.

• I’ve also found that being extra clean and keeping the house spic and span helps a lot psychologically to ward off thoughts of disease.

• I asked my wife what she would advise people to do and she said, 1) Structure your day and have a schedule, 2) Buy hand cream because all this washing dries hands out, 3) Buy a variety of foods to store as you get sick of eating the same things, 4) Take an online course.

• Be extra kind to everyone and remain patient and avoid emotional outbursts. And stay home if you can!

Be well, and be safe.