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Whether you’ve got a cold, or Covid, or melancholia, or something that’s not yet in the medical textbooks, take comfort in the fact that many have been in worse shape — and even survived to become president.

Before George Washington concerned himself with the health of our nation, America’s first commander-in-chief had to contend with an amazing array of personal afflictions. During the course of his life, he dealt with smallpox, malaria (six times), diphtheria, anthrax, dysentery, tuberculosis (twice), quinsy, carbuncle and pneumonia, to say nothing of losing all his teeth.* It’s only fitting that there’s a hospital in D.C. named after him.

While George needed some luck to make it through these gauntlets (not to mention a brutal war with the British), it’s important to recognize the capacity of the human organism to fight sickness. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to take care of your body along the way. To this end, George exercised faithfully, supped and grogged in moderation, tried to get the proper sleep, and avoided tobacco.

He also believed in balms and nostrums to keep the grim reaper at bay. According to records from his presidential library, among the items he ordered from an English apothecary in 1759 were the following:

6 Bottles Turlingtons Balsam
8 Oz. Spirit of Lavender
1/2 lb. Ipecacuane powderd
1/2 lb. Jallop powderd
12 Oz. Venice Treacle
4 Oz. best Rhubarb
12 Oz. Diascordium
4 lb. Pearle Barley
4 Oz. Balsam Capevi
5 Oz. Liquod Laudanum
5 Oz. Spirits Hartshorn
4 Oz. Spanish Flies
3 lb. Bird Lyme
6 lb. Oyl Turpentine
2 lb. Linseed Oyl—cold drawn
4 lb. Allam
1 lb. Spirma Citi
4 Oz. Tincture of Myrrh
4 Oz. Balsum Sulpher
4 Oz. Pulvus Basilic
2 Oz. Mer. Dulcis
4 Oz. Salvolatile
10 lb. Hartshorne Shaving
2 Quarts strong Cinamon Water
While many of these treatments are no longer popular, rhubarb has plenty of antioxidants and lavender is used for insomnia, acne and hair loss. But please take it easy with the laudanum. That’s a very powerful concoction.**
For more on this amazing survival story, try the  Washington Post,  the Library at Mount Vernon, or Doctor Zebra.

*Yes, George ultimately died of epiglottitis at age 67, but that may be because they practiced blood-letting back then and removed 35% of his plasma. And besides, 67 was elderly for the early 1800s. Men like Washington were lucky to survive into their late forties or early fifties. Women had it even tougher.

**Laudanum was considered a cure-all in Washington’s day, and why not? It contains a mixture of opium, alcohol, morphine and codeine. It’s doubtful a doctor would prescribe this today, but you can ask.

Unless you are an anthropoid or alien, sometime in the last 24 hours you had a moment of doubt, worry or alarm.

It might have been fear of losing your job. Or possibly you distrusted a friend or partner’s feelings for you. Maybe you worried that fire or storms would destroy your home. Or had a nagging feeling that getting older might actually kill you. Why, with Halloween almost upon us, you might even have a fear of All Hallow’s Eve itself. (This is termed Samhainophobia, and originates from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to usher in the darker time of year — and ward off ghosts.)

Whatever your trepidation, how do you get rid of gnawing anxiety, creepy shivers, or full blown panic?

Start by thinking of one scary thing that’s on your mind right now. Something you tend to avoid, but that sparks fear in you.  Whatever your boogeyman is, say the word out loud. Be it “sharks” or “elevators” or “corporate administrators” or “trapped on a Boeing 737 Max.” Giving voice to your fear can make you realize that what spooks you is mostly living in a dark corner of your mind, and is not an imminent threat. If sharks scare you and you live in Kansas, the worry is not a real threat. If you work on Wall Street and have a fear of farm threshers, you’re good for now. 

Now take it a step further: Think about the worst thing that could happen if your fear actually materialized. What if that shark found its way to Kansas and bit your leg clean off?  It’s true your professional tap-dancing career could be over, but you might still go on to win a gold medal in the Paralympics. If you lost your business, lost your faithful dog, lost your spouse or lost your mind, it can be the start of a bold new chapter in your life adventure.

The point is, when your worst fears happen, it is never game over. You will always have the power to change your attitude, even in the worst of situations.  What about death, you ask? On the plus side, you finally get a good night’s sleep!

But this doesn’t mean you should walk around completely unprepared for the worst.  Excrement does hit the fan, so what is the simplest solution to overcoming the fear you may be avoiding? After all, the only thing worse than our fear becoming manifest is being caught with our pants down, when we always knew better.

While we can’t list them all, here are a few suggestions to place in your fear-dispelling toolkit. Good luck, and may you vanquish your fear once and for all!

83-function swiss army knife, should you find yourself abandoned in deep forest.

 

Tactical pro flashlight to shine a light on burglars, predators and small rodents.

Roadside assistance kit when there’s no cell service to call Triple A.

 

Bear attack deterrent, for bear attacks.

Book to read before asking for a raise.

 

Modern homo sapiens first walked the Earth about 50,000 years ago. Since then, more than 108 billion members of our species have been born. Which means 101 billion have already croaked, kicked the bucket, or bitten the dust.* You will too. Does that scare you? It shouldn’t.

Why do we fear death? Mainly for selfish reasons. “I need more time to finish my masterpiece!” “I’ve never visited Nome or Kiev!” “I was promised a cushy retirement if I played by the rules for 40 years!” “I am an important __________(your professional status here) and the world needs me to continue!”

Except the universe doesn’t care about your family, your goals, your summer trip to the Cape. If it’s time for a flood (or earthquake, or pandemic, or meteor) to hit, then that takes center stage — and you’re reduced to an insignificant carbon-based life form who may not survive.

How curious! How mysterious! How perfect!

The truth is, most of us quarantine ourselves each day from the realities of nature. We’ve been socialized to embrace the sweeter things in life (corn syrup, air conditioning, leather recliners), and shy away from the dark, unruly forces we can’t control.  But that negates a huge part of existence.

That’s why now is a swell time to spend some quality hours embracing the source of your deepest anxiety. Invite it to tea, and offer it a finger sandwich. The more you embrace it as a part of you, and give it respect, the less it will snarl and bite and render you helpless.

Once you and your fear are on speaking terms, you’ll realize that your anxiety may be unfounded. Are you really in mortal danger at this very moment? And if so, what’s wrong with that?

Let’s take a lesson from Mexico’s “Dia de Muertos.” Rather than fearing the reaper, why not joyfully celebrate this natural part of the human cycle, and toast the memories of departed ancestors. May fear take a backseat to fiesta!

*According to the primary texts on Buddhist psychology, fear is not even inherent in what is known as basic mind. What is inherent? Clear seeing, spaciousness, pure awareness. Of course, it takes practice to think this way. Or not think, as the case may be.

 

 

Is rushing out to buy a closet full of face masks really the best way to confront your fear of catching the deadly COVID-19?

We think not.

For one thing, masks are really intended for those doing the spreading of disease, not those who are trying to avoid it. They offer little guarantee of preventing the illness due to the size of the microbes that can penetrate the mask (not to mention people’s habit of removing the masks to touch, scratch, and poke at their face).

But perhaps most important, these masks make you look like you’re already on your way to the hospital — or worse. Just by putting one on, you’re admitting you’re scared to death of getting sick. This fear and stress is a real turn-off to your immune system, and can cause you to be more susceptible to catching the virus, not less!

For a SuperOptimist, a face mask is not the weapon of choice for confronting the coronavirus. Facing a pandemic we have no control over, we recommend confronting it head on — by wearing the helmet of your choice.*

Whether it be Roman Gladiator, Viking, vintage leather football, World War II infantry, or standard construction model, sporting a good, solid helmet at all times makes it clear to the world that a deadly virus will not intimidate you, no siree. A helmet says you’re not to be messed with by airborne particles (or anything else, for that matter).

Not only that, the confidence you’ll exhibit wearing a helmet will have your colleagues at work taking a step back in order to let you pass. That’s a good thing, as the farther they are away from you, the less likely you’ll pick up their germs. Plus if you live in an urban environment, a helmet will protect you from falling debris from construction sites, of which there are many.

So rather than quarantine yourself in public behind a surgical mask, we advise you to wash your hands frequently, avoid close contact with sick people, and grab yourself a helmet.  Now get out there and show those microbes of malfeasance who’s boss!

*While we subscribe to time-honored holistic methods of healthcare, we are not licensed physicians. Ask your doctor if SuperOptimism is right for you.