The actress shares her coping mechanisms for an outrageous moment in time.

By Joey King
Updated Apr 03, 2020 @ 12:00 pm
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All right, I’ve just had my first cup of coffee today, and I’m ready to go. When Laura Brown asked me to write this piece, I filled a notebook with ideas on how to start it, give some uplifting wisdom or something in the middle, and close it out gracefully. But globally insane times call for nonkosher methods (such as starting a sentence with “but”), so I’m going wherever my fingertips take me.

Just a few weeks ago I was reading an article about the novel coronavirus, and there was a line that really struck me. It said, “It’s only a matter of time before you know someone who has it.” That scared me because I knew it was probably true. I also knew that even though I was scared and didn’t sleep the following four nights, I was not alone in my anxiety. This comforted me mildly, but not enough to stop me from sitting at my kitchen table nervously cracking my knuckles as Curb Your Enthusiasm played soundlessly in the background. (Larry David’s irritation toward small things soothes me. We all have our thing.)

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Since then, I have remained a ball of nerves. I haven’t been so worried about my work, and I feel very fortunate that I’m able to handle this situation without too much financial discomfort. But (there it is again) I was worried about the global impact this would have on the less fortunate, the lack of room and supplies hospitals would have to accommodate the sick, and my own elderly family members. And then there was my biggest worry of all during this time: What side of human nature will reveal itself?

Right now, I know five people who have the virus. It went from zero to five in what seemed like an instant. Restaurants are closed, people have to stand in line to get eggs now, Asian-Americans are being harassed with awful acts of racism, and nobody can hug anymore. Everything changed quicker than you can say “StopHoardingToiletPaper.” I know for a fact I’m not the only one who has let this pandemic consume them and suck the happiness and creativity right out of their hearts. Everything sucks right now; that’s a fact.

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But! Loads of stuff doesn’t suck. Elon Musk said he is now turning a New York factory into a facility that will produce ventilators for hospitals. OK…wait a second. Imagine being Elon and you’re just sipping on your coffee one day and eating a brown-sugar cinnamon Pop-Tart in your bouncy moon shoes, because that’s obviously what you wear in the comfort of your own home. You take a sip of coffee, and the warmth of knowing you invented Tesla (and many rockets) fills you, then you take another sip knowing you’re probably going to save a lot of lives. Yeah, Elon, go you.

All right. I’m getting off track here, but my point is there are reasons to smile during this outrageous moment in time, and it’s OK to do just that. Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy, but having family and loved ones stay at my place is something I’m incredibly grateful for. Just as the days of the week started to blur together and not matter anymore, Steven (sweet boyfriend) said to Hunter (cute sister), “Hey, on Friday we should have Formal Friday and wear our best clothes around the house.” BRILLIANT! Now, there is a drawn-out calendar with a different dress-up theme for each day of the week. This one silly idea helped turn our days from mostly depressing to occasionally exciting.

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If you can find a way to accelerate creativity when life is paused, that’s a wonderful thing in itself. Laughing is not forbidden, but neither is crying. Feeling lonely and in need of human contact is OK…and feeling like you want to rip your hair out if you hear your brother chew his protein bar like that one more time is also OK. Depression isn’t selfish. A practice that helps me is trying to view myself as if I were looking at a stranger and to separate my emotions from my consciousness. I am not my thoughts, and my thoughts don’t define me. I know it sounds strange and near impossible, but when I feel overwhelmed and down, I try to say, “Hey, look at Joey — Joey is feeling sad” instead of saying, “I’m feeling sad.” The mental separation really helps and brings a perspective that I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. Ask why these feelings are occupying your mind. What can do you to change that? What can you do to accept that?

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One of my favorite lessons is one I’ve learned from an Erma Bombeck quote: “Worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” I often sit in a mental rocking chair and don’t take my own advice, but when I do, I’m left with a much clearer head and more empathic heart.

The coronavirus pandemic is unfolding in real time, and guidelines change by the minute. We promise to give you the latest information at time of publishing, but please refer to the CDC and WHO for updates.