As the number of cases of Wuhan Novel Coronavirus, COVID-19,increase it is natural for you to fear the virus, but this is not the pandemic you need to be most worried about. The bigger problem right now is the contagion of anxiety spreading through communities through speculation and rumours, especially via social media.
Anxiety can be a crippling emotional challenge. As a psychologist and counsellor I work with clients dealing with their anxiety and I want to share some information about this condition and its management.
What spreads the contagion of anxiety?
- Anxiety is made worse when it is fed. Searching for more information about what was making you anxious will usually increase your anxiety.
- Rumour and mistruths exacerbate our experience of anxiety.
- Sharing rumours on social media is the equivalent of sneezing in a crowded restaurant. It spreads worry.
What cures anxiety in general and the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus?
- Challenge all sources of information. Media often include panic inciting headlines and bury calming information.
- Acknowledge your anxiety – give it a voice, but not a megaphone. Talk to your anxiety as you would a worried child. Accept that it exists, how it might perceive the situation, and offer alternative ways of looking at the issue. Be kind to yourself.
- Perspective is important. There are some benefits in this situation:. I live in Hong Kong so even for us, there are some potential upside. For example:
- With schools closed, parents get to spend more time with their children (if they choose),
- We are exploring business continuity plans and conducting probably the world’s largest “work from home experiment”. This experiment may lead to greater work flexibility in HK in the future.
- You may finally have time to sort out that spare room or messy cupboard.
- When HK experienced SARS it was very stressful. Out of that stressful time came drastically improved public hygiene practices and tools as well as massive benefits for those who bought apartments during that time.
- When we asked what is positive fans often expressed that they were enjoying aspects of life that are now less hectic –sleeping in, spending time with kids, husbands coming home earlier, commutes taking less time, nice walks with their pets.
- Be careful when you share information. Search for facts, not rumours. Do not spread the contagion of panic.
- Panic buying possibly adds to your experience of panic. Sure if you need toilet paper buy a pack. Don’t buy 10 packs “just in case”.
- Don’t judge those who leave, or those who stay in your area as the number of cases grows. People make the choices that they think are best for their family. In reality they, and you, probably will not contract the virus, and if they do they will survive.
- Do what you need to do to physically protect yourself – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
- Face down myths whenever you get the opportunity (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters)
- Practice being grateful. Gratitude allows you to stay positive
- Challenge your thinking. We often employ cognitive filters when we interpret information and this can increase our anxiety. For example, if you tend to catastrophise situations it will possibly lead to exacerbated anxiety. Take a look at the following article which might help. (https://reddoor.hk/2019/03/28/change-the-view-challenging-your-thinking-filters/)
Working actively on your anxiety can help to reduce it. Sometimes talking to a professional might help. If you’d like to tackle your anxiety with Angela, or one of our other therapists, in Hong Kong, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or SMS to 852-93785428.