The Guardian

'Focus on the things you can control': how to cope with radical uncertainty | Oliver Burkeman

We aren’t as powerless as the coronavirus pandemic makes us feel. This is how to stay calm, one Post-it at a time
‘Pick a task, write it on a Post-it, then do it.’ Illustration: Giulia Neri/The Guardian

In 1939, in a sermon preached at Oxford University in the midst of a different global crisis, CS Lewis made a distinction that’s worth revisiting today. It wasn’t the case, he pointed out, that the outbreak of war had rendered human life suddenly fragile; rather, it was that people were suddenly realising it always had been. “The war creates no absolutely new situation,” Lewis said. “It simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice… We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life’. Life has never been normal.”

In this time of acute collective anxiety, this sort of insight might not

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