This pandemic has taken a huge toll on our psyche and we should do something about it.
Who hasn’t seen a million different news on the subject? We are bombarded by information on how the virus works and the consequences to the economy. Yet few talk about the negative psychological effects surrounding this pandemic.
And much of our strength and resilience as a society will come from how we cope with our fears as individuals.
Our emotions can be our perdition or salvation. There’s a choice to make. We are the first person responsible for our well-being. And there’s so much we can do to help ourselves!
Let’s see the 4 main fears we face during this pandemic and how to deal with them effectively.
FEAR 1 (physical): My body is vulnerable
We fear that our body will betray us. We think we’ll get infected and this could lead to life-threatening consequences. So we try to stay very alert and we react strongly to any change in our body sensations.
On the other hand, we might perceive our body as something we must protect. In this case it’s not perceived as a threat but as a beacon of health we might lose. So we try to keep its present strength and we care for it deeply.
How to cope with it? — Better assess your body
Be aware of the signals your body gives you. Don’t overestimate or underestimate them, just listen to what your body is telling you.
You can increase your feeling of safety and control over your body with some simple exercises:
- Improve your posture. You want your bones and joints to be in alignment to allow your muscles to function correctly. You’ll have less fatigue and more energy.
- Exercise daily. It helps you increase your body’s defense system which in turn increases your sense of security.
- Track your body changes. You’ll have a better sense of your body reactions over time.
- Practice meditation. Studies have shown multiple benefits. Here’s an article I wrote about what to expect at the beginning, click HERE.
FEAR 2 (social): Others might infect me // I could harm my loved ones
Our perception of human interactions has changed with the virus. We try to keep our distance from people, even the ones we care about, hoping that we won’t be harmed nor will we harm others. We are “social distancing”.
We are both a threat to the people we care about and feel unsafe around them. We are unable to care for these significant others and protect them as we usually do. So this makes as behave differently towards them and undermines our ability to be at their side and provide safety.
How to cope with it? — Nurture a safe bond with others
Work on your communication process with the people you care about. Develop a structure that benefits everyone with these simple activities:
- Live interactions by phone, skype, zoom or any other electronic device if the other person is not physically present. That means not leaving messages but communicating directly.
- Take time to learn about them. Their feelings, their thoughts and present motivations. People want to feel someone’s listening to them and that helps them enormously!
FEAR 3 (cognitive): I haven’t learned all there is to know about this situation // I don’t want to know
Any knowledge we can get on this pandemic is limited and that concerns us. And what we tend to do is rely on the most recent information we’ve read or listened to.
We get a false sense of understanding of the situation. And we might feel as we have some sort of control over it.
Some people feel better by learning more on the matter. Getting all the facts. Researching all the data (e.g. how many people have died in their community). Etc. Others just don’t want to know anything.
And these behaviors can coexist in a person too. At one moment we actively search for information and in the next we dismiss anything new that comes our way.
How to cope with it? — Work actively on your emotional balance
Give it an extra push even if it’s hard at the beginning. People that can adequately manage their emotions can tolerate distress and are able to modify their emotional reactions. Here are some things you can do to improve:
- Learn to observe your reactions and you’ll realize that they can come and leave. They will not stay there forever.
- Try to find an alternative explanation to the events happening to you. Is there another way to see these situations? These perspectives can feel forced at the beginning but hang on and make the effort to look at it from different sides. You’ll see soon enough changes in your view on things. And your emotions will follow.
- Don’t suppress emotions, they will come out eventually.
- Don’t blame yourself or others, focus on a solution.
FEAR 4 (behavior): Should I take action or take the back seat?
The typical case in these days is to decide whether to visit your loved ones with a high risk of infection because of your coming (e.g. parents, grandparents) or stay home.
You’re torn apart between your role as a caregiver and your responsibility to keep them safe by avoiding them.
In addition, you might feel remorse for not being more assertive and not taking action into your own hands. You might at least be able to do something about it, right?
Or you might even perceive you’re being judged by others for being too passive. So on top of your own self-hatred, you get a feeling of letting other people down too. What a nightmare.
How to cope with it? — Practice acceptance
It comes down to attitude. Studies show that people that exercise acceptance regularly tend to have a better quality of life .
These are unprecedented times so no one has been prepared to handle this situation. However, you can choose what viewpoint you’re going to adopt.
Will you focus on the negative and pull yourself down, or acknowledge that yes, there are problems but there’s also hope, acts of kindness and many other positive things surrounding us?
- Try to stay receptive and flexible towards the experiences happening in your life.
- Find a balance between your need to act and realizing that many things about the situation are beyond your control. And it’s okay to feel the way you feel.
- Try a form of meditation that suits you. Let your feelings and thoughts come and go. You’ll realize how they are impermanent, and you don’t need to keep them locked inside of you. They will pass. Here’s a list of meditation apps that might help you get going, click HERE.
Many fears arise during a pandemic and it’s important to address them. They mainly relate to fears about your body, the people you care for, your thoughts and feelings, and actions you may do or not do.
These fears are common. You’re not the only one having them. And there’s something you can do about them. There are ways to effectively deal with them.
- If you feel threatened on a physical level you may want to improve how you assess your body.
- If you feel anxiety towards others and/or for your loved ones, nurture safe relationships with the people around you.
- If you fear that you don’t know or you know “too much” about the situation, focus on maintaining a balance of your emotions with different techniques mentioned before.
- If you fear you’re not doing enough or that you’ll be judged for not taking action, practice acceptance towards the situation. Remain receptive and flexible towards your experiences. Try to see them from another light.
Let’s choose to help ourselves. We can and we’ll do, right?
 Garcia, D., Al Nima, A., & Kjell, O. N. E. (2014). The affective profiles, psychological well-being, and harmony: Environmental mastery and self-acceptance predict the sense of a harmonious life. PeerJ, 2, e259. https://doi. org/10.7717/peerj.259
Schimmenti, A., Billieux, J., & Starcevic, V. (2020). The four horsemen of fear: An integrated model of understanding fear experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 17(2), 41–45.
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