Three Words to Survive Covid-19

A standard part of our Movers Mindset podcast is asking our guests to select three words that define their practices. While our initial goal was to help the guests think more deeply about their practice and to reveal some of their underlying philosophy, we learned that picking the three words had a way of focusing thinking that lead to greater clarity. This point was driven home when the Movers Mindset team selected three words to define our practice—our practice of producing a podcast that takes the deeper dive into the mental and philosophical aspects of independent human movement.

For us, it was the independence and self-directed action that founded our initial interests in Parkour and related movement practices. Beneath the flashy daredevil moves was a precision and control that clearly required full mental focus, clarity of thought, understanding of the world and one’s place in it, and the confidence to act based on one’s own understanding and knowledge. These principles of independent, self-directed action are the stuff that makes heroes, and even in a sport that looks like purely physical competence, the mental aspects always were the foundation of the practice. If you want to learn how heroes are made, our podcast tells the story from a wide range of perspectives.

Selecting our three words had the underlying goal of making the discussion even more philosophical and principled. The producers of Movers Mindset share the vision of encouraging clear thinking and the application of sound philosophy in a variety of disciplines. Our three words, Discovery , Reflection and Efficacy were chosen to guide thinking from observation of reality through rational thinking and action based on observable and validated facts. In a broader sense, we expect and hope to show the importance of rational philosophy in everyday life.

Our plan was to discuss Discovery first as a way to see and grasp reality. Then discuss Reflection and the importance of logical thinking to understand and integrate your discoveries into something understandable and actionable. Finally, we planned to discuss Efficacy —where this all pays off through the increased competence and confidence that develop from understanding yourself and the world around you. The more you discover, understand, an integrate, the greater efficacy you experience through both greater success and increased self-confidence.

We were part way through the process when we were faced with a number of personal challenges—including the COVID-19 ( CO rona VI rus D isease 2019) event currently impacting most aspects of our daily lives. Throughout the crisis, so far, we have remained healthy and have not yet succumbed to the virus or the even more virulent and contagious panic that is spreading even more rapidly. While a more detailed discussion on the three words can be found in, Discovery Reflection Efficacy, using them as a tool to guide your actions and thinking is straightforward. Since correct action in the face of the newly declared pandemic can be a matter of life or death, you are probably already motivated to find out how the right philosophy can save your life in this crisis.

Philosophy is a system to guide your actions and choices. Since you have options on your actions, it is possible to make errors. A good philosophy minimizes those errors and allows for correction; a bad philosophy leaves you disarmed in the face of a crisis—resulting in feelings of fear and helplessness, the opposite of efficacy. If you feel confused, or frightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, this approach should give you greater clarity, calmness and confidence.

The approach is integrated across the ideas contained in the three words Discovery , Reflection and Efficacy. Discovery is finding out what is true, in this case, what is the nature of the virus, what do we know about it. Reflection is evaluation of what you know. How do you know it is true? Is the information useful and relevant for your immediate purpose of survival and protection of your family and friends? Finally, efficacy embodies the idea of effective action—action that is rationally guided and reality-based. The terms and principles are integrated such that with a mindset toward efficacy or effective action, only certain pieces of knowledge are relevant .

If your goal is to protect yourself from exposure to COVID-19, it is important to discover how the virus is transmitted, how big a dose of virus is necessary to contract it, and how you can increase your resistance to it. It does not matter if the virus came from a food market or a laboratory, or whether it will benefit the Chinese economy or help Bernie get elected. These may be fun and interesting questions, but they do not fit the goal developing a rational plan to stay safe, so gently put them aside for now. Knowing the severity of the disease is also important with respect to how much effort you devote to thinking about it. While stocking up on supplies and taking severe protective measures seems silly to prevent a paper cut; such measures may be perfectly rational in the face of an Ebola outbreak.

Discovery is always the first step in solving a problem. Discovering the nature of the problem means looking at reality and any information you have and trying to find a self-consistent set of observations that give you a complete enough understanding of reality to act effectively. Reflection on what you learn is critical to ensure that you do not hold any incorrect ideas—or at least that you hold no self-contradictory ones. Reflection means thinking in a way that mirrors reality and is fully consistent with your observations and conclusions. It also means keeping in mind how the information will help you act.

Applying this to COVID-19, we discover that it is a “severe acute respiratory syndrome”(Wikipedia, Coronavirus disease 2019) caused by a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause disease ranging from mild common colds to more severe diseases like COVID-19 or SARS. They consist of RNA surrounded and protected by a helical (spiral) capsid (protein coat). RNA is pretty fragile by itself, and this is why the protein coat is important. Each of these facts is the result of digging to discover the answer to “What causes COVID-19?” If you recognize that COVID-19 is a retro virus and that HIV is also a retro virus, you may have the insight that some of the treatments for AIDS may be effective against COVID-19. Unfortunately, this is only really relevant if you are actively involved in researching treatment methods. Otherwise, it is just interesting.

It is far more useful to discover that the viral coat makes it sort of durable. It will not be destroyed by a low concentration of alcohol, or a quick rinse of the hands. Good hand washing techniques are critical for getting the virus off your hands. The process so far is that we discover the virus has a protective coating, we reflect on how we can protect ourselves with this knowledge, and we realize that washing hands is a good method. Now we have to discover how to wash our hands effectively and reflect on the consequences of that action. This is something we can do to protect ourselves; which means we have efficacy.

Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20-40 seconds will remove most of the viruses and other germs from your hands. However, it will also remove a lot of the natural oils on your hands—leaving them susceptible to cracking—allowing for an easy entrance path for the virus. Keeping good skin health, you discover is important along with keeping your hands clean. The simple application of a moisturizer after cleaning seems like it should be a good idea and it is something you can do without too much difficulty.

What else do we know about transmission? We know the virus can survive on surfaces for some time, it can be airborne from coughs and sneezes, and it can be transmitted by direct contact. Each discovery of new information allows for reflection on how to act with efficacy to minimize exposure. Clean surfaces and avoid contact with contaminated surfaces. Avoid areas where high concentrations of airborne viruses are present. Stay away from infected individuals and those people who have been exposed to them. Do not touch your face—more specifically do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth—all easy paths into your body.

What about masks? We have heard that the N-95 mask can help prevent transmission. Also, in the wake of shortages we have head from health professionals that the masks are not effective—except if you have the virus already, they may prevent transmission. So, we should preserve the limited mask supply for health professionals who are working with infected patients. Experts are divided here and are giving contradictory information. If the mask prevents transmission outwardly when worn by an infected person and transmission inwardly when worn by a health professional, it is probably at least somewhat effective at reducing exposure— if the virus is present . It may be overkill to wear the mask all the time, and irritation from the masks may actually create additional pathways for the virus to get past your skin barrier. None of this matters, of course, if you cannot get the masks. While staying away from other people guarantees that you will not get the virus, wearing a mask around others can reduce your risk—if they are infected. Abstaining from exposure is best, and wearing protection is better than no protection. Note, our focus is on what is true, how do we know, and what can we do with that information to protect ourselves. There is no concern for the social acceptability of mask wearing, the greater good, or the need to obey the will of the government. The concern is strictly with what can you do to protect yourself. If you understand that, you can survive and even share the information to help others.

How dangerous is this virus? This involves understanding additional details about what we mean by dangerous. How likely is it that you contract the virus? If you do contract it how likely is it that you get seriously ill? How likely is it that you transmit the virus to friends, family and others you value? A lot of these questions depend on your habits and lifestyle, so you need to understand how exposure impacts infection. In general, the more exposure you get, the worse your risk. Shaking hands with hundreds of people is riskier than not shaking hands, but how does this compare to a quiet evening at home sitting close to someone who is already infected but asymptomatic? What is critical here is that you as an individual must decide in a way that rationally considers your well-being and the health of those around you—especially those people you love and value. A healthy 20-year-old couple has a different context than an 80-year-old couple with diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis. Keeping your context in mind is critical to making sure that you are acting objectively without falling for a one-size-fits-all approach.

Avoiding transmitting the virus to others is at minimum good manners and is a key part of being responsible for your actions. If suspect that you are infected, do your best to not expose others. Wear a mask, stay home, cover your coughs and sneezes, etc. Note that since there are things you can and should do to protect yourself and prevent transmission that you know will work, you should have a sense of efficacy. That means you understand that there is something you can do that works against this virus. You can do something and do not need to be a helpless, fearful victim.

Observe that if you already practice good hygene. You wash your hands correctly and avoid touching your face when your hands are potentially contaminated, it may feel like you are not doing enough to address this new threat. However, if you follow good procedures that prevent disease transmission in general, you will have a decreased risk of contracting the virus.

This bring us to fear. Discover and reflection with efficacy will dispel fear. Some concern is rational when real threats are present. COVID-19 is real, it is a threat, but it is not beyond your understanding and it is not beyond your control. Fear of the unknown does nothing to help you survive, but neither does fear of the known. Concern, caution, additional attention are all things that can lead to an effective response, but fear does not help. Fear makes real and imagined threats seem worse; fear can paralyze you into inaction and stifle your ability to discover and reflect. While you cannot fight fear directly, you can dispel it indirectly through understanding and recognizing that you have control over your situation. Be cautious, be vigilant, but do not be afraid.

Secondary threats are a problem when dealing with a civilization that is philosophically ill-equipped to deal with a crisis. A culture that panics over weather, plastic straws, and even expression of ideas is likely to panic in the face of a genuine threat. Shortages result as a consequence of panic buying. The inability to get masks is not surprising. Panic buying and limited supplies with insufficient stock has led to shortages and a loss of potential sales. Although shortages of bleach, and hand sanitizer are not too surprising, the shortages of toilet paper and wine are a little strange. In any case, the lesson is that it is a good idea to keep a number of supplies on hand. Maybe, having a few masks is a good idea all the time. Keeping a little extra bleach, hand sanitizer, and even some extra toilet paper and wine may be what it takes to keep you feeling comfortable and efficacious through the current and future crises. For business owners, it seems like keeping more back stock of supplies and finished goods is a wise idea as well.

We also discovered in this crisis that China is the source for some key medicines and components of drugs. In a crisis like this, is it any surprise that China kept the supplies for its own people. No. This perfectly rational behavior. China should value its own survival more highly than it values the survival of the rest of the world. It does indicate, however, that as a nation we need to act to ensure that we have the supplies, medicines, and capabilities to effectively respond to the current and future crises effectively. Note, discovering the supply chain facts should lead to reflection with a goal of finding an effective solution. This could take the form of domesticating the manufacture of key components or of maintaining some level of supplier-managed inventory (SMI) where a back stock of supplies is maintained domestically as a condition of foreign manufacture of strategic components. Observe, that while we can solve this problem rationally, the solution has an impact on your future survival, and should be noted and put aside while we focus on the goal of surviving now.

Finally, we have discovered that the virus impacts older people and people with compromised immune systems more seriously than others. How can you make sure that you are among the non-infected? Stay as healthy as possible and avoid immune suppressing activities. Heavy drinking, poor sleep habits, stress (including fear), smoking, and even other illness can impede your immune response. Stay healthy. You may have noticed that cold and flu season occurs during the winter months—November through March. Colds can happen year-round, but are more common in the winter. Influenza drops off significantly from April through October. Maybe the virus will die off in a few weeks, but why should we expect this?

As an exercise, find out what you can about why flu season happens consistently from November through March—even with mild winters and summers. Is it sunshine? Is it the UV or vitamin D, or spring and summer flowers? With a goal of efficacy, reflect on what you might be able to do to protect yourself now. If you decide to get some flowers, expose yourself to UV or take additional vitamin D, make sure you know what you are doing is safe. Evaluate your planned actions in the context of your life, values, and goals. Also, just because you have taken a precaution and have acted to protect yourself do not assume that you have become invincible. It is still important to wash your hands and practice some level of social distancing.

If you work through the exercise and find that you can improve your resistance by sniffing flowers, taking vitamin D or by getting a tan, make sure that you fully understand safe exposure levels and associated risks.

Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Face it with discovery, reflection and efficacy. Do what you can to protect yourself guided by reality and logical reflection with a mindset directed toward effective action. Realize that if you do this, you have efficacy and can act to minimize your risk and optimize your success even in the face of a dual global pandemic of COVID-19 and panic.

The staff of Movers Mindset and the members of Umbrella CAST wish you good health and happiness during this difficult time. Rational actions based on good understanding are crucial to get through this successfully. We hope you find the three words Discovery, Reflection, and Efficacy helpful in formulating good plans and actions and in reducing your risk by recognizing that you can act effectively and be successful in this and any crisis.