In times of great adversity, we’re drawn to things that bring us comfort: Music, yoga, warm baths, private bedroom viewings of “The Devil Wears Prada.”
But in a three-month period overtaken by panic about COVID-19, it seems a heroic new genre of self-soothing has emerged: the ASMR coronavirus video.
As anxieties have mounted about the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, a group of ASMR YouTubers have decided to try their hands at calming their disquieted viewers.
Typically, ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos are meant to simulate real-life situations. They’re watched by millions of people who get “a brain orgasm of sorts” from the sound of whispering YouTubers doing things like folding clothes, or noisily eating foods, or gently brushing their hair.
But this new genre takes it a step further. In one 30-minute video, for example, from the account ASMR Darling, the YouTuber plays a doctor doing a full checkup on you, the viewer, for COVID-19.
She checks your ears. She swabs your mouth. She exits the screen to wash her hands, then returns to offer you some valuable information, “because there’s a lot of panic about the coronavirus right now, and it’s important that we establish what is fact and what is not true,” she says from behind a mask.
The point is right there in the title: raising awareness and dispelling myths. “I understand it is a sensitive subject, but I think using my platform to debunk myths around the virus and giving real health tips will be beneficial to anyone who watches,” Taylor Darling, the woman behind the video, told BuzzFeed News this week.
The video already has over 400,000 views, and includes an adamant reminder in its description that “ASMR is not a medical treatment.” (It has not been monetized, either.)
If you search “coronavirus ASMR” in YouTube, you’ll find dozens of similar videos, ranging from pretend doctors administering pretend COVID-19 vaccines (a real one does not yet exist), to a tortoise munching on a piece of watermelon carved to look like a strain of coronavirus.
Has a more modern form of keeping calm ever existed?
Other research-backed ways to stay calm
With COVID-19 cases continually on the rise, many people are taking comfort in forms of hysterical preparation, like hoarding face masks and disinfectant wipes or stockpiling on bleach and groceries.
Health experts have said that those responses are probably blowing things out of proportion. Panic buying is natural, but getting too worked up won’t help. (Besides, picking up essentials like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, soap and non-perishable foods is a better option than building a bunker and stashing Purell.)
If you’re looking for another way to keep calm — other than the obvious watching of ASMR videos — here are a few things that might help:
Keep washing your hands
There’s not much to say about this one than what’s already been said. You’ve probably seen the notes in your office bathrooms and the dispatches from various health officials.
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. There’s even an app that can measure that time out in song lyrics, so you can hum along and make sure you’re maintaining good hygiene.
As it is, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cited a study indicating only 31% of men wash their hands. One of the best ways to stay calm is making sure you count yourself among those who are keeping vigilant.
You know how you sometimes forget to breathe when you’re under stress? It’s a natural response to times of stress and anxiety. Hyperventilation and shallow breathing happen when we’re freaking out.
But purposeful, regular breathing can help to prevent the state of absolute panic you might be sliding toward.
If you’re feeling anxious, one very small way to address your body is to take a minute to breathe and to relax as best as you can.
It’s true that COVID-19 is a threat. But psychotherapist Liz Ritchie says that freaking out isn’t the best solution. While it’s important to stay informed about what’s going on, try to limit time on social media.
“Try and achieve a healthy balance by sticking to factual data, e.g. World Health Organization (WHO), rather than some of the emotionally driven websites,” she says on the St. Andrew’s Healthcare website. “Don’t jump to conclusions or be fatalistic; work with the facts!”
She also recommends avoiding “scaremongering” language that can feed anxiety, like “plague,” “pandemic,” and “death toll.”
Keep in contact with friends and family
Everyone is talking about social distancing. It’s trending on Twitter. There are think-pieces about it in the Atlantic. Sports leagues are suspending their seasons, award shows are getting cancelled and talk shows are filming without studio audiences.
But one important thing to do is not to isolate yourself completely. Keeping in contact with friends and family is a good way to stay distracted from the concerns we’re all sharing. Maintaining perspective in moments of crisis is a key way of avoiding unnecessary added panic, and a way to do that is to avoid self-imposed loneliness.
Even if you’re staying at home, don’t be afraid to reach out to those you care about.
This article originally appeared in HuffPost Canada.