Coronavirus. Just the word causes faster heart rates, shorter breaths and queasy stomachs, hallmark signs of anxiety. There have been many times when I’ve written about our psychological reaction to current affairs on this blog. Game-changing events, natural disasters or tragedies that affect our public peace of mind and well-being all serve to kick up our flight/fight response.
My guidance to lower our anxiety is good, road-tested and basically the same regardless of the stressful situation:
- Remember to breathe.
- Stay in the moment.
- Take a break from the news media.
- Take thoughtful action.
- Be calm for the kids.
- Don’t give in to anxious thoughts.
And all of this applies right now when we’re trying to wrap our brains around this serious health threat. But somehow this current virus thing feels different, even to me.
Why are we having such a hard time with coronavirus?
You’ve seen a video of a herd of gazelle peacefully grazing in a meadow. As soon as just one lone animal lifts its head and bolts, the others don’t stop to ask questions. In an instant, they are right behind the runner, trying to get as far from wherever the perceived threat is as possible. The temptation to panic is in our DNA. Human beings are both hunters and prey. And as prey beings we are ultra-sensitive to what the others in our herd are doing.
Challenge #1: In this situation, our herd is everyone on the blessed planet.
The media to us today is like a hungry lion in the savanna is to an innocently grazing gazelle. Being threatening is what they do to keep viewers, listeners, readers obsessively glued to their reports. Our nervous system, as wonderful as it is, is not equipped to handle the 24/7 news cycles that we have today.
Challenge #2: News outlets are very good at whipping up agitation, fear, drama.
Trust at least one reliable source for good, useful, unemotional information. Turn the volume down on all the fast-talking, hyperventilating others.
Otherwise, just be aware of who you talk with and listen to about this subject. Do they represent the first crazy-ass gazelles to run? Because I can tell you, they all stampeded to Target to buy hand sanitizer only to find faster ones beat them to it.
Or are they the ones that stop and ask, “Wait a minute, what’s going on right now?” They are filtering through to the action steps they can actually take (wash your hands). Keep your head and frontal lobes engaged and make a thoughtful choice of how you receive information to help you choose your next reasonable next steps.
Challenge #3: When being crazy anxious appears to be a reasonable decision.
But it isn’t. Being anxious is never really a decision. It’s a knee jerk reaction to a threat, real or otherwise and in the case of the virus it feels very real. So what do we do?
The reality is that for the vast majority of us nothing is happening right now. We are anticipating a future crisis. In the New York Times article The Difference Between Worry, Stress and Anxiety, the writer suggests three things to help you with your worries
- Give yourself a worry “budget,” an amount of time in which you allow yourself to worry about a problem. When that time is up (start with 20 minutes), consciously redirect your thoughts.
- When you notice that you’re worried about something, push yourself to come up with a next step or to take action.
- Write your worries down. Research has shown that just eight to 10 minutes of writing can help calm obsessive thoughts.
Yes, it is reasonable to be concerned, it is wise to take precautions and to take thoughtful action to protect yourself, your family, your community and your business. It is just as reasonable for you to enjoy all these aspects of your life. So please remember to smile and be grateful.
CDC Recommendations/information re: Coronaviru
CDC Recommendations/information: There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty
- There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms.
- People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider for direction right away.
Explore What’s Next Coronavirus Disease 2019 Precautions
At Explore What’s Next we are taking every precaution recommended. In addition to providing plenty of soap and paper towels for hand washing, we have hand sanitizer in every bathroom. Our offices and The Studio are thoroughly cleaned top to bottom, once and week, with an extra deeper cleaning once a month. We are experts at providing video and phone sessions if you can’t come into the office. We believe in preparing for the worst while hoping for the best and always doing everything we can to encourage good outcomes one day at a time.
About The Author
Elvira G. Aletta, PhD, Founder & CEO
Life gave Dr. Aletta the opportunity to know what it’s like to hurt physically and emotionally. After an episode of serious depression in her mid-twenties, Dr. Aletta was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that relapsed throughout her adulthood. While treatable, the cure was often as hard to bear as the disease. Later she was diagnosed with scleroderma, another chronic illness.
Good therapy helped Dr. Aletta. She knows good therapy can help you. That’s why she created Explore What’s Next.
Today Dr. Aletta enjoys mentoring the EWN therapists, focusing on coaching and psychotherapy clients, writing and speaking.
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