Stay safe.” After all, one cough can change your life, they say. Ah, yes – the phrase that is being flung at you by everyone, including the local cashier. Of course, they may mean well. We have been thoroughly convinced how utterly unsafe we are. So as considerate as it sounds, it can’t help but serve as a reminder of how at risk you may be. For some, that saying itself triggers anxiety and fear.

The media have made certain that we live in a steady state of fear by endlessly reporting on nothing but the coronavirus 24/7. They make no secret of their desire to hem us all in by constantly reminding us of what may happen if we dare venture forth, or break their “rules.” Furthermore, to many, there is a hidden message of: “I sure hope you are doing what I think is necessary for you to stay ‘safe.’” Indeed, some have assumed the responsibility of advising or even attempting to control what others’ behavior should be at this time.

Perhaps you are fond of hearing those words, as they express concern and care to you. Quite possibly, you are in agreement with government-forced lockdowns and mask enforcement. However, many people of conscience are not. You view the mask as a safety measure; others view it as the new symbol of tyranny. Indeed, things can get quite thorny when peoples’ perceived levels of safety or freedom are in conflict.

Does “Stay safe” mean: stay safe according to my understanding of what safety is? Do you blame those who fail to obey the rules you have come to believe in? Is that phrase truly a message of support or more of a command then?

“Stay home.” After all, there’s no place like home, right? Home, where your WiFi connects automatically. It’s where you can say anything you want, because nobody listens to you anyway. Heh.

But “home” is certainly not a snug, secure, safe place for victims of abuse. Nor is it a riskless, reassuring place for a depressed, suicidal, or unbearably lonely person or someone struggling with addiction. What of those who are now being denied medical care and follow-ups for existing or emerging health conditions other than the dreaded coronavirus? Don’t pray with more people than the governmental edict allows. Stay away from your loved ones or your neighbor just may report you to the “authorities.” The “Stay home, stay safe” injunction seems to convey a tad more than regard for another’s welfare, does it not?

Are we acting together with a shared goal of defeating this common “enemy”? I encourage all to please be respectful and open-minded. There are many different ways to resolve this crisis, or even how to conceptualize it in the first place. You are free to intellectually challenge some ideas, even rigorously; but for that to occur, you must entertain opposing views. You may not regard them as equally valid, but know this: Growth and change occur as the result of disagreement and debate. Look no further than Biblical writings whose methods rely on questioning, argumentation, and even verbal sparring.

So what should take the place of this new stock phrase, “Stay safe”? Perhaps “Stay sane” may be apropos.

The chill pill you took this morning appears to be a placebo. Reminders of protection and public safety abound. Yes, we wash our hands and our lettuce because no matter what you think, Salmonella isn’t an Italian lounge singer. And let’s be honest: If you think OSHA is a small town in Wisconsin, you’re in trouble.

Instead of wishing someone a pleasant or nice experience, many have chosen this precaution mantra to repeat to everyone they come in contact with. May I suggest offering a message of hope instead? Remind someone that miracles happen every day. We have no assurance that we will wake up alive tomorrow morning; yet we all still make plans. A simple “Take care” will do. Or “take care of yourself.” What happened to the good ole “Have a great day” or “Enjoy the rest of your day” or “Good to see you”?

No need to have fear reinforced all day long in our collective consciousness, sweet friends. I doubt that anyone is taking their health for granted these days. Our natural inclination as humans is to connect and engage with each other. Nearly everyone who is “anti-social-distancing” deeply misses shaking hands, hugging, or even patting someone on the back. This hyper-awareness and attention create a safety culture. Truth be told, we face routine hazards every day of our lives.

A risk-free life is impossible. Human beings cannot bubble-wrap themselves indefinitely, and we all know this. Many sports rank high on the danger spectrum. Indeed there are scores of people who do not cotton to the government monitoring their every move, or taking away their only source of income by deeming them “non-essential.” Who even came up with that phrase?

Needless to say, if you or a loved one is at risk, by all means take proper precautions. If you are uncomfortable with the way your friend is handling things, feel free to take a friendship pause for now. It’s okay to politely decline an invitation. You are still in charge of your own choices. It is okay to disagree. But try saying to your loved ones: “I hear you and I might even feel the same way in your position.”

In addition, we have all seen the aggressive store signs, “No mask. No entry,” with a big exclamation point at the end. How about: “Thank you for wearing a mask before entering.” Feel the difference? It’s been said: “A smart person knows what to say. A wise person knows whether to say it or not.” Most importantly, sweet friends: Always be kinder than you feel.

Caroline is a licensed psychotherapist, crisis counselor, and writer with an office in Queens.  She works with individuals, couples, and families.  Appointments are available throughout the week and weekends.  She can be reached at 917-717-1775 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or at