There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus is a genuine concern that we should all be protecting ourselves against. But there is a psychological component that can’t be overlooked that is equally is not more pervasive than COVID-19 itself. In many ways, fear is the real contagion that we’re trying to keep in check. Thanks to rolling 24-hour news cycles and social it can spread from person to person much faster than any virus could ever hope to achieve. As such, fear has been steadily rising all over the globe. Countries that were initially dismissive of the pandemic are slowly coming to terms with the seriousness of the situation. There’s a grudging acceptance. Except, it has gone much beyond that in some cases. Not only is there is a fear of the disease, but of the unknown, making provisions and also the fear of others.
We’re hardwired to respond to threats in our environment. It can be seen within herd animals in the wild who alert each other the onset of a predator, and it applies equally to the human race. We’re a social species that take our cues from one another. But it is only meant to be a momentary response. It’s a catalyst that prompts to move to a place of safety. The problem we face now is that for many, fear has become our baseline state. These may be far from normal circumstances. But that doesn’t mean we should be high alert at all times.
When we’re constantly rooted in this heightened state, it clouds your judgment. You can’t make rational decisions when you’re coming from a place of fear. It leads to anxiety and anger, which promote behaviours such as panic buying and racial insults at ethnic minorities due to the origin of the virus. It divides us at a time when our compassion is most required. The concept of fear as a form of behavioural immunity from danger is not without merit. But right now, it needs to be tempered with a certain amount of restraint.
Your emotional health is an intrinsic part of your immune system. The more you give in to feelings of fear, the more stress hormones you create in cortisol. If you remain in this state for extended periods, it lessens the effectiveness of your immune system by reducing the number of cells capable of fighting the virus. This can cause a domino effect in which your fear leads to anxiety which leads to depression and a repetition of the cycle. Over time, you breakdown your defences, leaving you far more vulnerable to the attack of infections, pathogens and other viruses.
However, you can make some minor changes that will help alleviate the effects in a relatively short period. Limiting your exposure to the news is one of the most commonly-cited strategies to relieve stress anxiety. And for good reason. It presents hard facts and will unintentionally create drama with its sombre – albeit necessary – style of delivery to be respectful of those affected. So while you do need to continue taking precautions while out in public, the best thing you can do for yourself is to change your attitude. This isn’t intended to further complicate matters by making your fearful of fear itself. But simply to make you aware of the prevailing narrative in your head and how it could possibly compromise your health if you remain in that state too long.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
***If you’re struggling with anxiety associated with the COVID-19 outbreak and think you might benefit from speaking to someone, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.
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