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COPING WITH WORRY AND ANXIETY ABOUT THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

There is good news and bad news about COVID-19.  In coping with worry and anxiety, a good starting point is to get the facts about the pandemic (rapid worldwide spread of COVID-19 due to the novel coronavirus).  Some pretty solid good news is that most people who are tested for the virus (usually because they have a dry cough, fever, and/or fatigue, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19) don’t seem to have it.  Also, less than 7% of confirmed cases worldwide are fatal.  So far less than 1% of the U.S. population (actually less than 5 in 1000 people) has tested positive (indicating they have the virus).  However, because less than 1% of the population has been tested, and many people may have the virus and not show it, the infected percent of the population may be higher.  Data from China suggest that for every known case of infection, there could be up to 10 people with the virus that remain unidentified.   That might raise that 1% infection figure to 11%.  That’s more than 1 in 10!  People with undetected coronavirus infections may spread up to two-thirds of COVID-19 infections.  Government control efforts and public precautions appear to have reduced the rate of COVID-19 spread.

The way we think about the pandemic can have a big impact on how we feel and act in response to it.  Denial or excessive distraction may contribute to our under-reacting.  One reason we have anxiety is to motivate us to act in the presence of real danger.  COVID-19 does represent a real danger to each of us and those we love.  Though we might feel well, we could be taking actions that will either get ourselves or our loved ones sick.  It is important that we take the precautions recommended by experts (handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, social distancing, staying at home, wearing a mask in public, and cleaning our living environments) to reduce our chances of getting COVID-19 or giving it to others.  These actions represent our power in the face of this pandemic.

It is also possible that we can exaggerate the danger, taking a bad situation and making it worse in our minds than it actually is.  For example, we might convince ourselves that we or our loved ones will definitely get the virus, and that if we do it will prove fatal.  This could result in disruptive anxiety (which could actually weaken our immune systems) and over-reaction.  In the face of worries, psychologists recommend that we estimate how likely it is that what we fear will happen.  Chances are you will not get the virus, and that if you do it will not prove fatal.  Psychologists also recommend that you identify and act on ways to prevent or reduce the chances of the bad outcome you fear.  This involves following the advice of the experts, recognizing when you’ve done all you can, and then distracting from the worries.  This distracting may become easier if you set aside 15 minutes or so each day to think through your worries, how likely bad outcomes are, what you can do to prevent them, and even what you’d do if the worst thing happens.  For example, if you develop symptoms similar to COVID-19, the first thing you want to do is contact your healthcare provider.  They will advise you of how best to proceed from there, including avoiding contact with others and getting plenty of rest. 

Helpful distraction is aided by engaging in interesting activities.  Here is a list of ideas for entertaining yourself, and a list of strategies for interacting with friends and family, while maintaining social distance.  This will help you keep your spirits up, prevent loneliness, and attend to the people and causes that are important to you.  Remember, there are still ways to exercise and relax your mind and body.  You can even take a class called “Punch Through Pandemics with Psychological Science”.  Take good care!

By |March 29th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

A New Year’s Message on Hope from Dr. Yoman

If hope were only a feeling it might be fleeting indeed.  Hope is a way of thinking about things that can be a conscious choice.  It is mentally imagining and examining possibilities and opportunities and sources of strength, even when one feels frustrated and discouraged.  Yet hope is more than thinking, too.  At its most powerful, hope is behavior.  It is behavior that physically and interpersonally explores circumstances for those possibilities, opportunities, and sources of strength.  Hopeful behavior accumulates experience in the form of awareness of self and others, wisdom, flexibility, resilience, skills, and successes.  Through such experience hopeful behavior develops confidence.  More than self-esteem, confidence is the strength that comes from seeing more clearly and deeply, and knowing through experience.

There are those in this world who are afraid to hope because hoping risks looking naïve, idealistic, or foolish.  This is the core of cynicism.  One cannot hope for the things one values in this world without risking failure.   By their nature important things are usually difficult to achieve and sustain.  Some who are afraid to hope thus fall into a pattern of withdrawal and passivity.  Others settle for short-term self-aggrandizement or material gain. Both groups overlook that these ways of living entail much greater risk, to everything that provides deeper fulfillment.

The tyrants of this world usually fall into the second group.  They seek to control and subjugate others for short term gain.  They would like nothing better than for the oppressed to give up hope, because they sense the power of hope to loosen their grip on power.  Not only are they afraid to hope, but they are afraid of hope.

In this New Year, I am recommitting myself to the practice of hope.  I write this in the hope that you may too!

 

P.S.: If you’re working on a resolution, click here.

By |January 13th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments