These are times of fear and anxiety, we are in the middle of a global pandemic that is impacting cities and even entire countries. Some of us live in areas that are already severely affected by the coronavirus, and even worse, by misinformation and media panic.

Even so, there is ignorance on the part of many people, who continue to celebrate parties and see all the recommendations against the virus as an interference in their private lives. In the meantime, all of us are constantly following the news headlines and wondering: “ Now what’s next? ”.

What is most difficult for most people is the uncertainty associated with the emergence of the coronavirus. There are endless anxious questions because:

  • We do not know exactly if we or a member of our family have been infected for a long time, since symptoms appear later.
  • We do not know how we will be personally affected or how severe the impact could be.
  • We do not know what the effects will be on general health, the economy or cultural life.

All of this makes it very easy to imagine disasters and fall into overwhelming fear and panic. This post is intended to help you gain some control in a situation where we all have little control. And that is the best strategy against the fear of the coronavirus.

Because the situation is confusing and uncertain, there are some things you can do, even in the face of this unprecedented crisis.

Tips to not get carried away by fear during the coronavirus pandemic

These are psychological tips to not get carried away by fear of the coronavirus that can help you to be in control despite this threat.

1. Do your research, but don’t become addicted to the news

It is important to keep up to date. Specifically about what is happening or what is planned in your city or town. Only then can you follow the recommended security precautions and do your part to slow the spread of the virus.

But be careful: there is also a lot of misinformation and sensationalism that only arouses fear. Be critical of what you read and see. Stick to reliable sources such as local health authorities, or important institutions in your country.

On the other hand, you have to avoid constantly looking for new information on your cell phone or television. Constant monitoring of news and social media feeds can quickly turn into self-defeating, obsessive anxiety.

The limit is different for everyone, so pay attention to how you feel and adjust the amount of news and articles you consume. If you feel overwhelmed by all the news, limit your media consumption to a certain time of day. For example, every afternoon at 6 pm for half an hour.

Be careful what you spread

Do your best to review the information before sharing it. There are also many false news and rumors about this crisis. We can all help prevent the spread of rumors and unnecessary panic.

2. Focus on what you can control

In these times where panic spreads quickly, feelings of helplessness can arise. This can lead to fatalism and a state of shock, in which one feels unable to do anything.

But there are always some things you can do.

  • Wash your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) with soap and water or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face (especially your eyes, nose, and mouth).
  • Stay home as much as possible, even if you don’t feel sick.
  • Avoid crowds and groups of three or more.
  • Avoid all non-essential shopping and outings.
  • Keep a distance of one and a half to two meters between you and other people when you are away from home.
  • Follow all the recommendations of the health authorities.

Don’t let fear of the virus dominate every conversation

It is important that you take a break from stressful thoughts about the pandemic and enjoy the company of others. Laugh with others, share stories, and focus on other things in their lives.

Not only viruses, but also emotions are contagious

So choose carefully who to contact for help. Avoid talking about the coronavirus with people who tend to be overly negative or who increase your fears. Better reach out to the people in your life who are caring, cautious, and positive.

3. Make a plan B

It is completely natural to worry about what might happen:

  • If your job and therefore your income is restricted or could be lost completely.
  • When your kids have to stay home and can’t go to school.
  • If you or someone you love gets sick or needs to self-quarantine.

Maybe some of this has already happened to you. While thinking about these things can be scary, taking the initiative and taking decisive action can help alleviate at least some of the fear.

  • Write down your specific concerns about how the virus could interfere with your life.
  • And make a list of all the possible solutions you can think of.
  • Try not to get too attached to the “perfect” options. Include everything you can think of that can help you get through it in some way.
  • Focus on specific things that you can resolve or change, and not on circumstances over which you have no control.
  • After evaluating your options, create an action plan and start implementing it.

You may have considered starting your own business, perhaps working as a coach, or offering offers online. Whatever the case, now may be a good time to reflect on this and start making decisions.

4. Stay connected, even if you are physically isolated

Many people with the coronavirus, especially young and apparently healthy people, have no symptoms but can still transmit the virus. So the most important thing we can all do right now is practice social distancing.

But social distancing also has its risks. We are social beings. Isolation and loneliness, or even quarantine due to the virus, can worsen anxiety and depression and even affect our physical health.

That is why it is important to stay connected as much as possible and seek help when you need it, even though we have to radically limit personal meetings.

  • Get in the habit of keeping in touch with friends and family.
  • If you tend to isolate yourself when you’re depressed or anxious, consider making regular appointments by phone, chat, or video call to counteract this tendency.
  • Since personal visits won’t be possible for a long time, stay connected through video chats. This personal contact is like a vitamin for your mental health that reduces the risk of depression and helps reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Social media can be an effective tool, not only for connecting with friends, family, and acquaintances, but also for feeling more connected to our communities, our country, and the world. It reminds us that we are not alone.

Even so, you must be aware of how you feel browsing through social networks. Feel free to silence keywords or people that make your fear worse. And log out if it makes you feel worse.

5. Take care of your body and mind

This is an extremely stressful time and therefore it is best to apply all the proven strategies to manage stress :

  • Eat as healthy as possible.
  • Sleep enough.
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness .
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Don’t judge yourself if you have more depression or anxiety than usual. You are not alone in this fight. We are all going through this.

Stop the “what if?” Thought spiral.

Giving up the desire for security and control is easier said than done. If you feel like you are about to explode into negativity or panic, stop for a moment.

Mindfulness is a process in which your own attention is focused on the present moment. Nothing changes, it is not explanatory, it is not critical. In mindfulness, you perceive what and how something is right now, not what and how something should be.

6. Adapt your daily routine to the new situation

Even if you are stuck at home, try to maintain your normal sleep, school, food, or work schedule as much as possible. This can help you maintain a sense of normalcy.

Take your time for activities that you enjoy and that make sense to you.

  • Feed your mind in a positive way. Read a good book. Or watch a comedy, play a fun board game or video game, alone or with your family.
  • Try something new. It does not matter if it is a new recipe, a manual activity or a creative activity. Do something that needs your full attention so you don’t spend too much time worrying.
  • If possible, go out over and over again. Exercise, sunshine, and fresh air will do you good. Even a walk in your neighborhood can help keep your mood high. Just make sure to avoid crowds and keep the recommended distance of two meters from people.
  • Do exercise. Stay active to relieve your fears and stress. Get your exercise bike out of the basement. Find exercise videos online. There are many things you can do without equipment, such as yoga and exercises that use your own body weight.
  • Include a relaxation exercise in your daily routine. When stressors throw your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can bring you back to a balanced state. Regular practice brings greater benefits.

7. Help others, and therefore yourself

At times like these, it’s easy to get caught up in your own fears and worries. But among all the stories of people fighting for toilet paper, it is important to take a deep breath and remember that we are all affected by the coronavirus crisis together.

Studies show that those who support other people in a crisis are less anxious and generally happier and healthier than those who act selfishly. Helping others doesn’t just make a difference for your community, and even everyone right now. It can also support and improve your own mental health and well-being.

Much of the fear associated with this pandemic comes from feeling weak. However, if you act kindly and help others, you can regain control of your life and give your life meaning and purpose.

Even if you maintain social distancing, there are some things you can do to help others:

  • Get in touch with other people who need help.
  • If you know people in your community who are isolated, especially the elderly or disabled, you can try to offer them support. Maybe an older neighbor needs help buying or getting a medicine?
  • You can leave purchases or packages at your door at any time to avoid direct contact.
  • You may even be able to help others just by lending your kind, soothing voice on the phone.
  • Many local social media groups can help you connect with people at risk in your area.

8. Make friends with the insecurity of life

We all like to feel safe. That is why we implement insurance against all possible risks. We lock the apartment door at night. We choose our usual brand of beer abroad. We look at strange people with a suspicious look if we just met them.

But life is insecure no matter what, how and when

Every birth is a life threatening risk. Even with the best medical care. Childhood is full of dangers. Most accidents happen at home. Not only do you get competent help in the hospital, you can also contract a deadly germ that you didn’t have before. Every time you close your eyes in bed at night, you have to trust that things will work out.

Life is insecure, in every moment, but we suppress that idea constantly. And now, with the fear of the coronavirus, we realize this again.

However, the growing intolerance of insecurity makes us more susceptible to anxiety. A study during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic showed that people who had difficulty accepting the uncertainty of the situation were more likely to experience increased anxiety.

The solution is to learn to deal with the uncertainty in daily life by relaxing the constant search for maximum security a bit .

  • Stock the recommended 10-day emergency supply, but don’t rack up as much as if nuclear war were just around the corner.
  • Make spontaneous exits through your front door, take a walk without looking at the weather forecast.
  • Limit the time of day you see news about the coronavirus.
  • Use the free time you have gained to do something nice.
  • Practice sitting and doing nothing for five minutes, and enduring the feelings that arise.

9. Don’t run from your fear

There are several ways to combat fear. Drinking, eating, smoking marijuana, or watching Netflix more than usual. Or constantly check the news every quarter of an hour, hoping to allay your fears. While these behaviors may help temporarily by distracting you, they can increase your anxiety in the long run.

Avoiding fear at all times can backfire.   Instead, allow your anxious thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations and accept fear as a normal part of the human experience.

When waves of coronavirus anxiety strike, explore this experience. Sit it down and describe it very precisely. For yourself or for others who do not judge you. If you want, keep a journal to better understand your fears.

Paradoxically, confronting anxiety leads to less anxiety eventually.

Every skydiver knows it.

Serious crises like this quickly unleash the fear that surpasses all fears: the fear of death. If you are faced directly with the possibility of dying through images or messages, it may happen that you feel paralyzed and only focus on the possible signs of the first symptoms. After this you have to try the following:

  • Reconnect with your very personal meaning in life. Be it in faith, in spirituality, in relationships, or in pursuit of an important goal in life that you absolutely want to experience.
  • Do something important that you’ve been putting off for years. Perhaps now is the right time to bury an old quarrel or reconcile with someone. Take responsibility for your life. If you keep concentrating on the “why” of your life or rediscover it, it can help you a lot to cope with your fears.

10. Always go to the “here and now”

In these anxious times, it is important to remember the best strategies to prevent and reduce anxiety. It is best to observe where we are directing our attention.

  • If we focus our attention mainly on the past, we prefer to think about the things that we should have done differently. The things we miss, the things that went wrong.
  • If we focus our attention primarily on the future, we are worried. Because we don’t know how the situation will develop.
  • So stick with the much mentioned here and now as often as possible. Because that’s the only moment that is real.

A look back is just a memory. Looking into the future is pure fantasy. Only your perception of this moment is real. How does this work?

As all mindfulness and meditation teachers have been preaching for millennia:

  • Sit down and close your eyes.
  • Pay attention to your breathing. If you want, count your breaths.
  • When fearful thoughts arise, notice them, but don’t hold them back.
  • They are just thoughts, they are not real.
  • The real thing is that you are sitting, you breathe and you are obviously alive. How wonderful.

Prioritizing these behaviors during the coronavirus crisis can significantly increase your psychological well-being and strengthen your immune system.

11. Remain the sensible adult that you are

Under great stress, people almost always use strategies that are deeply ingrained in our brains: fight, flee, or kill.

These strategies work, we owe our survival to them. But they only have real use for absolute emergencies. The current situation is extremely serious, and that is precisely why you need to be in the sensitive adult state of consciousness as often as possible.

Unfortunately, in the face of the crisis situation, many people bring out the worst aspects of their personality, instead of growing and improving. They become …

  • Self-centered child who wants all toys for himself. “Get away! This is my toilet paper! “
  • Renitente pubert, who ignores and even protests official recommendations or prohibitions.
  • Fatalistic apocalyptic who has figures of Nostradamus on his nightstand and has always known that our lives are destined and predetermined.
  • Compulsive hoarder, who trembles against the idea of ​​the end of the world and accumulates folding shovels, light ammunition and canned sausages.

Remain the sensible adult that you are. This way you can interpret relevant information and official communications appropriately.

12. Seek professional help when you need it

People prone to anxiety and related disorders may find the coronavirus epidemic particularly overwhelming. Consequently, they may experience anxiety symptoms that compromise work, self-care, and close relationships.

If this applies to you, get professional help from your closest doctor or psychotherapist. Anxiety problems can be successfully treated with cognitive behavioral therapy or deep psychological therapy and certain medications.

Sometimes you just have to talk to someone who will listen to you, take you seriously and don’t talk nonsense.

Dr. Eric Jackson

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses. He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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