Overcoming Fear and Uncertainty During the Pandemic
6 ways your life and career can become more manageable
Posted June 25, 2020
Fear is a common emotion being felt today as many worry about the ever-growing number of COVID cases ... and the ramifications.
Not being armed with enough facts is a common denominator of fear. And that is certainly the case about the trajectory of the virus. It raises such questions as: How bad can this get? How might it affect my health, personal life, work, and loved ones going forward? Will this virus continue forever?!
Add to the COVID case resurgence the pandemic deaths and illness; business casualties and job loss; and it would be unnatural not to feel anxiety.
Knowing that fear thrives in the absence of data can give you some solace, however. For one thing, that point alone can remind you that you’re not in control of macro events around you, virus included. While you can take proactive steps to protect your health, for example, the big picture will take its own course.
Here are six steps to help you thrive through COVID fears that are so prevalent today as we head into 2021:
1. What exactly are your fears? A key part of tamping down anxiety is clarifying the specifics. What aspect of COVID is the biggest trigger for you? Committing fears to writing and evaluating them, is often helpful. If you don’t know exactly what you’re worrying about, you’re compounding a vague blanket of stress.
Deepak Chopra says it another way: “Most people talk about fear of the unknown, but if there is anything to fear, it is the known.” One interpretation of this is to save worry for when you do have the facts. Ironically, when you're armed with data, it’s easier to transition into a state of acceptance or action.
2. What are the facts versus fears? This is the proverbial reality check. It takes great skill to step back objectively and look at any challenging situation from a non-emotional perspective. Try adding a column of “the facts” next to your fears — and compare the two. For example, “Fear: COVID will make it impossible to find a job for at least another year.” “Fact: We don’t know how long the virus will last; vaccines will be forthcoming in the next few months; I have always found a job within a few months.”
Of course there are many who legitimately worry about more basic issues, like survival, during these uncertain times, especially after loved ones have died from Covid. It's critical to remain armed with facts and statistics — and be surrounded by medical professionals you trust, now more than ever. That includes being open to therapy, e.g., through Telehealth, when times become too overwhelming. Now is a good time to remain centered and ensure optimal health in the most wholistic way.
Keep in mind that a certain amount of managed fear is always useful, too. It will guide you into cautious behavior, such as wearing a mask and continued social distancing — being safe.
3. Put things in perspective. The coronavirus is likely the most significant event to occur in a lifetime. As such, it can be easy to believe an event like this will last for an eternity. While no one knows the duration of COVID — during 9/11, we all imagined a new life marked by regular mass terrorism. One approach is to ask yourself, “Will today’s worries occupy my mind five years from now?” It’s more likely that other matters will be top of mind by then. Eckhart Tolle, whose inspiring views on "living in the now" have been so widely acclaimed — has said that all forms of fear are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.
4. Know what you can and cannot control. Knowing the difference between what you do and don't have the power to change can mean much greater happiness. And that in turn can give you greater confidence as an added outcome. Try to take comfort in knowing that you’re doing all you can. Don’t be consumed by hourly news headlines. Remember the phrase: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react,” by Charles R. Swindoll. Your reaction is completely “under your management.”
5. Take proactive steps to stay motivated. It’s not uncommon for many to use life's challenges as opportunities for personal development. Can you allow your strength and resilience to overcome fear, as you’ve done before? If you’ve experienced a layoff, consider taking motivational steps to counter the negative impact of COVID, which will also benefit your job search.
6. Adopt "gratitude." It can be difficult to shift gears and be appreciative when suffering or worried. But if you can learn how to experience gratitude, you will likely improve your mental and physical health. Oprah Winfrey has described it on a personal level this way: “The more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased. What you focus on expands. When you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.”
It’s understandable to experience anxiety in the world we now face. But until more facts become available, you can better manage COVID fears with new habits and empowering tools that improve all aspects of your wellbeing.