Coping With the Fear of COVID-19
The news has petrified us about the possibilities. Here's how to cope.
Posted March 9, 2020 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
Most of us cling to our fears, which often causes us to give away our power and makes us feel more vulnerable. All the news surrounding the risks, challenges, and deaths associated with the current coronavirus, COVID-19, has definitely weakened us.
As a high-risk, immunosuppressed individual, I’ve personally joined the hordes of people who have many unanswered questions and fears relating to this virus. I was a nurse and also pregnant when HIV was identified in the 1980s, but the reaction to this disease is different from how people reacted to AIDS. Unlike back then, and similar to many others today, I’ve already ordered extra hand sanitizers, toilet paper, and freeze-dried food. I don’t believe I’m overreacting, though. I believe these are all prudent actions.
Confronting fear leads to a sense of accomplishment and a sense of empowerment, and allows us to feel a little more control over situations. The point of this blog post is not to provide a rationale for fear, but rather to suggest ways in which we can balance our fear by maintaining a sense of well-being during these types of challenging times. Try these self-care tips in the wake of fear:
- Maintain a calm state of self-awareness and limit the amount of time you watch or listen to the news. It’s important to know what’s going on in the world, but you also need to know when to turn off the TV or stop reading the news and maintain a sense of balance. Tell yourself that being fearful might be causing some chaos in your life.
- Connect with others. Try to interact with positive-thinking individuals and those who have a good influence on you. These individuals can be friends or even a therapist. Listen to your heart and determine who resonates with your worldview. Studies have shown that loneliness can lead to the stress response, so try not to isolate yourself. With the most recent orders for "Safety in Place," and lockdown, connecting via email, phone and letter writing is very important to minimize the chance of loneliness.
- Reduce stress. When stressed, cortisol production is increased. Cortisol helps fight inflammation in the body, but when it’s constantly secreted, then it’s less effective in fighting inflammation and disease. To reduce stress in your life, try maintaining a regular meditation practice, practicing yoga, and incorporating proper breathing techniques into your daily routine.
- Use humor, which is an excellent way to temper fear. It also helps keep things light and not so intense.
- Build your immunity. Those with strong immune systems minimize their chances of getting sick, so get proper exercise, eat well, and take the necessary supplements. Also, research has shown that those who get at least seven hours of sleep a night have more resistance to viruses, and thus have fewer side effects.
- Eat healthy foods. Try to avoid processed foods and sweeteners. Some foods that can contribute to your overall health include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach, almonds, yogurt, green tea, papaya, kiwi, poultry, sunflower seeds, and shellfish. Also, remember to stay hydrated and minimize alcohol consumption.
- Practice gratitude. When you’re feeling fearful, try replacing that emotion with an appreciation for all the good in your life. Even when under lockdown, it's important to be grateful for having a roof over your head and some food in your refrigerator.
- Maintain a journaling practice. Journaling is a safe place where you can vent about your fears and frustrations. Sometimes writing can help you work through what’s bothering you. It can help you get out of the rabbit hole of negativity about how “awful” everything is. Gratitude journaling is also a powerful practice.
- Take up a hobby (or more than one). Think about what brings you peace of mind and also gives you pleasure, whether it’s golf, tennis, crafts, games, art, music, writing, or watching movies. Also, reading a good book can open your mind to new ideas and thought processes—especially inspirational memoirs and novels. There are many things you can do in the solitude of your home.
- Consider hypnosis. This can help eliminate negative thought patterns and beliefs. (It’s more successful for some than for others.)
- Practice good hygiene. Use hand sanitizers of proper hand-washing techniques when in contact with anyone or anything outside your home. Hand washing is critical for disease prevention and spread, especially before eating and during food preparation. It’s important to wash for at least 20 seconds. Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and if you do have to cough or sneeze, do so into the inside of your elbow. In general, viruses can live on surfaces for at least 24 hours, so viruses can be easily passed among family members. Make sure to frequently wipe down surfaces.
In summary, accept the fact that this strain of coronavirus is part of our existence now and the numbers seem to be increasing by the minute. This virus is very contagious and its symptoms more serious than many in the past. While dealing with the difficulties of this time, it’s important to affirm the positive and remember what is good and powerful in our lives. Surrendering can bring about a sense of peace and calm; and in doing so, we’re empowering ourselves and not allowing fear to control us.