Coping with the Coronavirus: The Problem
We are facing an invisible enemy. It’s a threat to our wellbeing, to our freedom, to our financial resources and to our loved ones. Along with a threat like this comes anxiety, worry, a feeling of insecurity and fear.
Coronavirus anxiety is understandable. It’s easy to become fearful of our loved ones or ourselves becoming seriously ill or of losing our income and investments. We can also worry about the loss of freedom to travel, to enjoy recreation and entertainment, and to visit our friends and family.
But anxiety, worry and fear do something more than this. They undermine our ability to manage threats effectively. There are two main ways that this happens ..
Firstly, people who go into “fear mode” will do things that actually make things worse. They stay glued to the TV or the internet, watch more bad news and hear more frightening stories that merely serve to intensify the anxiety. They get a sick feeling in their stomachs, tightness in their chest, they have difficulty sleeping, become irritable or angry, and start eating or drinking too much. They stop having fun or getting exercise and they hide out and stop talking to anyone. None of this is helpful or effective.
By contrast, the other main anxiety group consists of those who go into “denial mode”. For them, anxiety does not seem to exist. The threat is so overwhelming that they don’t face it, and they continue on as if nothing has changed. They continue going to work, seeing friends and family members, don’t always maintain a physical distance from others, and may even ignore the early symptoms of fever, aches and pains or cough. They don’t do anything differently, as though the threat doesn’t affect them or is just a minor inconvenience. None of this is helpful or effective either.
Your Level of Coronavirus Anxiety
When you think about the coronavirus and its effect on health, finances, freedom and family, how high is your level of anxiety on a scale from 0 to 10, if 10 is the most worry, fear or anxiety you can imagine?
My Level of Anxiety is /10 (think of a number before reading any further).
If you rated your level of anxiety as a four or higher you have a moderate to high level of anxiety and likely a moderate to high degree of ineffectiveness in the way you are coping with the coronavirus. If you rated your level of anxiety as a zero, you are in denial mode. The ideal healthy response should be in the range of 1 to 2. Here’s why ..
Anxiety vs Emotional Strength
When you think about the coronavirus pandemic and all of negative things that come with it, how would you like to manage it? If you know that the pandemic is coming to your community, what is your ideal picture of coping well and weathering the storm? Would you like to know how to avoid becoming infected? Know how to avoid spreading it? Know what is safe to touch? Know what situations are risky? Have a plan to deal with finances or safely earn an income? Sleep well? Able to do helpful or constructive things? Stay in a good mood and be able to have some fun?
So, here’s the question .. Are you more likely to achieve your goal of coping well if you are feeling anxious, worried and afraid .. or .. feeling calm, strong and confident?
Which one will work better?
Anxious, worried, fearful Calm, strong, confident
The Benefits of Emotional Strength
If you are not in denial and not gripped by anxiety, but instead feeling strong, aren’t you more likely to read and learn the facts about the coronavirus disease and how it is spread? Wouldn’t you be more effective when planning ahead for supplies and creative about finances and income? Isn’t it more likely that you would eat properly and get exercise, talk to your friends on the phone and online, and do things that you enjoy? Wouldn’t you rather ignore the bad news stories that you don’t need to hear, pay attention to the advice of the medical authorities, and be able to stay calm, cool and collected?
The Source of Emotional Strength
There is a power that exists within us. I have seen it many times with people facing a difficulty who seem to snap out of their usual way of thinking and take on a new perspective. In fact, in my work as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist I regularly use this phenomenon to help my patients achieve the changes they want.
Actually, I think it’s a normal natural thing that frequently occurs in our day-to-day lives. Can you remember times when you were struggling with a frustrating problem for which you could just not see a solution, but later, when you were in a good mood and not thinking about the problem, the solution simply popped into your mind?
How to Start Defeating Your Coronavirus Anxiety
You can harness this power and immerse yourself in feelings of strength, personal power, confidence and general good feelings by closing your eyes and going into a past positive memory to re-experience and re-awaken those powerful good feelings.
Let me give you an example from my personal experience. I had boarded a plane in Las Vegas but there was a long line-up of planes waiting to take off. It was blistering hot outside and the temperature inside the plane started to rise because the air conditioning could not begin until the engines were fully engaged at takeoff. It felt suffocating. It felt like I was trapped in a hot tin can with no means of escape.
I started to feel a bit panicky, so I thought to myself, “When was a time when I felt happy and cool?” I remembered a time when I was skiing in the cool outdoors on the fresh snow on a sunny winter’s day. I closed my eyes and sat back imagining that I was skiing again. I could see my breath and feel the nip of cold air on my cheeks and nose. A little while later I opened my eyes only to find that it was still unbearably hot and suffocating in the cabin, so I closed my eyes and enjoyed skiing some more. Before I knew it we had taken off and the cabin was a pleasant temperature again.
The Step-by-Step Method That Turns Anxiety into Emotional Strength
Literally anything that creates a positive emotional state can help, but the key is to then blend that positive feeling into the scene as you mentally rehearse dealing with an anxiety-producing situation in your life.
Using strategies from Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Success Psychology, Hypnosis and other therapies I developed a step-by-step method to help my patients tap into their hidden power, mentally rehearse and transform their anxiety into emotional strength. It’s been a joy to see them so quickly start coping better in their lives.
I then put the same step-by-step process into a self-help app called ShrinkinaBox and made it available for FREE for everyone to handle anxieties in their lives, including coronavirus anxiety.
If you are interested in experiencing this process for yourself, I invite you to download it for FREE (not just a free trial) to your iPhone from the Apple App Store ..
About the App: The ShrinkinaBox app helps you target your challenge, measure your anxiety level and identify your goal. Next, with my voice guiding you, you immerse yourself in a good memory and start mentally blending it into your anxiety-triggering scenario. After several mental rehearsals we re-measure and identify the next problem scenario to take care of (breaking the larger challenge into bite-size chunks). We continue until all of the scenarios have been resolved and you are feeling strong and confident about the issue that was previously stressing you. Finally, dealing with the situation more successfully in the real world becomes a natural, almost automatic, result.
Dr Mark Lauderdale MD FRCPC is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist in private practice in Victoria BC, Canada, registered with the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons. He was a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry in Calgary, Alberta and a Past President of the Canadian Society of Clinical Hypnosis – Alberta Division. He is an innovator in success-oriented personal change methods and creator of the guided therapy process called The Wellspring Method.