CORONAVIRUS ANXIETY, VALIDATE IT AND MINIMIZE IT
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
The stress of coronavirus is real. There are so many factors to take into consideration as a result of this disruption (including and not limited to):
access to food and water
home school your children
access to resources to educate your children from home
having to do so for the unforeseeable future
risk of losing your job
isolating at home
if you live in a small apartment – feeling confined to a small space
feeling alone and lonely
fear of the future etc
The list goes on and on. You don’t have to have me spell it out as you are all well aware of the risks and the ripple effect of issue this virus creates.
What you might me to tell you though, is how to manage your thinking so that you control your emotional state during this trying time. No matter what life throws as us, we are in control of how we respond to it.
Our thinking has almost everything to do with that. The story we tell ourselves creates an emotional experience, and that dictates what our behavior will be and look like.
We spiral into anxiety when we think the worst, assume the worst, and focus only on the negative. On the flip side, we control our anxiety when we both acknowledge the real issues and risks, but we also set limits in our thinking about how much we are going to spiral or indulge in the negativity.
There are 3 negative thoughts to watch out for and challenge:
1. All or nothing thoughts: The unreasonable rule that any outcomes less than 100% equate to zero. In the instance of coronavirus, these kinds of thoughts are out black or white assumptions:
EX: “if I enjoy my time at home that makes me a bad person who does not care about the virus or others,” OR, “in order to take this seriously I have to be worried about it all the time” OR “If they cant control the virus now they never will etc… “
2. Focusing on the negative: You hone in on the one or few negative aspects of a situation and you ignore all the positives. As this relates to the coronavirus, you might be focusing on all the negative news and ignoring or dismissing whatever positive news or occurrences have come as a result of this time. Acknowledging the positive does not dismiss the negative – instead it just balances out our thoughts so that we are not so stuck in the negative which leads to anxiety.
EX: You stay focused on the risks and the panic and ignore all the blessings and resources you have access to (shelter, ability to work from home if you can, online classes and tutorials etc). Another example might be focusing on what the government is not doing and ignoring what your local or federal officials have done.
3. Fortune telling: predicting the future when there is no way of knowing what will happen, causing you to respond to these assumptions as though they were true. Your thinking is focused on catastrophizing the worse case scenario outcome and believing it to be true. One can plan for, and think about, various worst case scenario’s but be careful not to buy into assuming they will happen. Doing so will increase your anxiety.
EX: thinking about the timeline you will have to self-quarantine and freaking out about being inside for a set amount of time and then spiraling into what “will” happen when that happens. We do not know how long this will last. So put plans in place and mobilize your resources to ensure you are in control of your time and space, but be careful not to assume the worst case outcome is inevitable.
To conclude, times are tough. By catching your negative thoughts, you are not invalidating the severity of the issues we are facing. Instead, you are gaining more control over the situation by controlling how you think, and thus how you feel. Please use the handout that you can download for free, as a resource to accompany you in catching, and challenging these thoughts. The handout includes direct questions you can ask yourself to challenge your assumptions and negative thoughts in order to balance them out into more of a grey area.