How We Can Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety and Fear

From the Desk of Jolanta Szulc, PhD
Clinical Psychologist at NYCIM

Hearing feedback from you (our patients) and understanding the prevalent issues, I would like to bring more perspective into this current situation for you to consider. 

The current way of living that we are experiencing is challenging for everybody. It is so far from the normal life that we used to have that we all need to adjust to a temporary new way of being. We all agree that the amount of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty in our lives is unprecedently high at the present.  

The disturbing emotions in us are a manifestation of collective fear. This fear concentrates our attention, and therefore all the power of manifestation gets diverted to something that is not desired, something that makes us feel hopeless and panicked. And we all know well what kind of undesirable physical symptoms it causes. But, fear as emotion was, has been, and always will be present in our lives. It is a part of life. However, how we deal with it makes a difference.

We need to find ways to deal with the fear in the most beneficial way; not to allow it to destroy our life or paralyze us. When we face it, acknowledge it, and understand what this is all about, then fear loses its potency. Like all negative emotions, it can be transmuted into a positive emotion. Fear can be mindfully transmuted into faith. Things may be difficult now, but they don’t need to destroy our health. Realize that we are “bleeding” those negative emotions into our bodies, into our intestines and adrenals; this is how our bodies operate, whether we want it or not.  This has serious consequences. Most importantly it destroys our immune system, while it is paramount to support it as much as possible during this time. It leaves us with no energy because our adrenals are also compromised in this process. 

Fear can be mindfully transmuted into faith. Things may be difficult now, but they don’t need to destroy our health.

Jolanta Szulc, Ph.D.

Transmute Your Fear

Thus, the way to help ourselves is to take the best possible care of our immune system, to build it up. Stop being anxious and fearful because it only makes things worse; instead, consciously transmute it into faith, the belief that this situation will pass, that even if we were to get sick, we can overcome it. This is when and how we can exhibit some emotional control. We can control our thoughts. When you stay in fear it is impossible to be healthy. So, when the negative thoughts come to your mind, consciously and mindfully transmute them into the positive ones; count your blessings, be thankful for all the goodness in your life because you may overlook how much goodness there still is. Even when we experience a lot of uncertainty, we can find peace; for now, we need to take one day at the time and appreciate whatever good we can find in this one day.

We need to understand that the coronavirus causes an infection, and that this is not a disease.  It acts and functions like so many other viruses and bacteria or pathogens in general. The limited research shows that it is not necessarily as virulent as it was first reported, and only a small percentage of people, the majority of whom had serious and often numerous preexisting conditions and comorbidities, die (a study of the data in Italy showed 1.2% of the deaths had no comorbidities, 23.5% with a single comorbidity, 26.6% with 2, and 48.6% with 3 or more). The great majority of those that tested positive have mild symptoms and recover, like when they have a case of the flu. There are many more yearly cases of serious flu (400,000-730,000 hospitalizations during the 2019-2020 U.S. Flu Season) and deaths caused by influenza (up to 63,000) than by coronavirus (9,665 as of this writing), and it should help us put things into perspective. The very disturbing pictures that we see on TV relate mostly to those with greatly compromised health before contracting coronavirus. The majority of us are not in this category. Unfortunately, the reality of our life on Earth is that every day people die and are born; it is a constant, not something out of the ordinary.  

What we need to focus on is:

  • Take care of our mental state. Some techniques that we provide at our clinic with guidance include:
  • Do our part in keeping our immune system strong – see how
  • Do all necessary steps to keep yourself and your environment safe and clean (stay in isolation if needed), and
  • Have faith that we will be all right and the crisis will pass soon, even if one would get in contact with this virus.

If you are worried about “not getting” this virus, you are actually attracting to yourself this energy that you don’t want. So, don’t allow yourself to go down this pathway. 

Cultivating a Positive Outlook During These Times

Our positive outlook is crucial, no matter what the situation. It is like the best medication to help us feel better. Concentrate on creating the most loving and peaceful environment at home; it is extremely difficult to stay confined to the house only, especially when we feed on the negative news coming from the media that often misrepresents information or presents worst-case scenarios: it only feeds the fear to people who take it as true facts. They are often just opinions and predictions based on some statistical models, unsubstantiated facts. Don’t belong to this “club”, it is like a malicious program on a computer. Listen to news as little as possible, just to stay informed, but do not allow yourself to succumb to the bad news only.

Managing fear, anxiety and depression requires you to mind your media intake. Here’s a Psychology Today article that may help understand this:
“If It Bleeds, It Leads: Understanding Fear-Based Media”

There are some facts known, and if we compare the numbers of cases of coronavirus to cases of flu, they are much lower than the ones that relate to the flu. It is not my intention to provide you with the numbers and statistics, because I shared earlier and they are easily available for you all over the net. However, I would like to make a point that when statistics classify the causes of death, most often it is the situation that very sick (and usually older) people die battling other diseases but also had coronavirus, they are tagged as “died from coronavirus”, which is misleading to say the least.

Yes, this is a crisis situation and I don’t want to take away the seriousness of it, but we have a choice of how to react to it. Bring as much normalcy into your life as possible; use this time to show those around you how you love them and care for them because by doing this you are raising your vibrations and calming everybody around; no matter what the situation, show them you are there for them, find ways to keep yourself occupied, go to the park, pray and meditate. Here is a recommended guided meditation to let go of worry and fear and cultivate peace you may wish to use:

What To Do If You Become Overwhelmed

If your anxiety levels become unbearable, here is what I suggest to do:

  1. Sit down or lay down and consciously concentrate on your breathing.
  2. Slowly breathe in for a count of 5, hold the breath for a count of 4 and then exhale for a count to 6 – 8. Pause for a while before taking another breath. Breathe in…. 
  3. Do this for about 5 minutes and you will see how it dissolves the anxiety and brings the relief. Concentrating and observing your breath will take you away from your negative and fearful thoughts. 

You may want to read more about other breathing exercises here – “Breathwork – Beyond Just Breathing In and Out“.

How to Deal with Children

Let’s not feel like victims. For us adults, this situation that was imposed on our way of life is mostly a disruption to regular routines and patterns and can be seen as an inconvenience; for children, it is a greater challenge because they don’t understand why they are prisoners in their own home. For kids who are old enough to understand, this may affect their psychological well-being now and in the future. As far as the virus is concerned, children are the least affected age group in the population, but the psychological impact it is having on them is most likely greater than can be seen at the moment. From our love for them and our responsibility as parents, we need to help them to get through this crisis with as little impact as possible. We need to see all the factors, not just the virus and confinement. 

Keeping a child in a structured and loving environment during quarantine is essential to both theirs’ and your mental state of health. Here is an article recommendation, “How Parents Can Keep Kids Busy (and Learning) in Quarantine”

If they ask why they cannot go to school or to the playground, answer in a simple way that because of the virus that is going on, they are safest at home. Stress that with you, their parents, and other close family members they are safe. It is helpful to create a list of scheduled activities; at least it will give children some structure and they will know what is expected. They are used to following established routines all day long and during the week. All of this is gone now, and we need to replace it in the most creative way, so those learned skills will not be lost. 

Let’s be kind and supportive for each other, patient and hopeful, and life will be easier. 

We are all in this together. Wishing you staying well and in peace.

Please feel free to contact us for more information on any of our solutions as well as personalized recommendations during the coronavirus epidemic and any of your health-related issues.

The post How We Can Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety and Fear appeared first on NYCIM.

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