Dealing with the fear of COVID-19

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Aldina Braganza

The pandemic is sweeping over Goa, making it ever more real for all of us. The cases are jumping steadily and we may be heading towards a longer lockdown in a bid to flatten the curve. While this could help, it is important you do your bit. I am reiterating the norms that are laid down for protecting us against the virus. The simple steps as my friend Deepa Correia Afonso keeps reminding me are sanitize, wear a mask and maintain social distance. Avoid going out except only for essentials.

Lockdown or not, the onus is on us to survive. The only way we are going to fight this virus is if we all pitch in and do our bit. Adaptability to change is the key to endurance. It is crucial for us now than ever before to stay focused and calm.

In such times it can be very easy to spiral into a state of anxiety and feel overwhelmed. So while I ask you to stay calm, I thought it would be best to tell you a little bit about the benefits of conquering your fears and the need for a paradigm shift in thinking about the pandemic.

By confronting fear, you feel a sense of accomplishment and gain control over what you might consider a hopeless situation.

Overcoming fear begins with awareness about what you are up against. Ask yourself, ‘what is it about the pandemic that is making me so anxious?’ This will clarify some of the things you have to do in order to keep safe.

When you question, you are shifting your brain functioning to its rather evolved stage of reasoning. This allows you to maintain a sense of well-being without feeling overwhelmed.

 Here are some tips you can use to deal with the fear of COVID-19 without letting it consume you:

 Create a sense of curiosity when you read and hear anything related to the pandemic. Social media floods us with so many stories and testimonials about COVID that it’s impossible to state what genuine news is and what is fake news. So the important thing to do now is ask the question. Is this piece of news real or fake? Being curious

and asking a question shifts our brain from primal fear to reason. This gives you the opportunity and time to think and behave rationally.

 Seek things you can control rather than what you have no control over. We have no control over the virus per se, but we have control over what we can do to protect ourselves. We have control over our immunity. So include routines that will boost your immunity like eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep.

 The new normal: We are in survival mode and remember it may take a while before we have our normalcy back, until then consider this way of life as the new normal. The faster you accept this the better it will be for your adaptability.

 Your new normal requires a routine. Structure and routine are very calming and gives us a sense of normalcy. Include a few activities where you give yourself some care. Engage in a hobby like gardening or stitching, listening to music, etc. This kind of self-love will keep you motivated and positive.

 Confront your fear about mortality: Every time you hear any news that makes you panic, ask yourself why am I feeling this. When you go down to the most logical and simplest answer you will begin to realise that it is the fear of mortality. Immortality is an illusion. The best way to deal with mortality is make the most of your life. Enjoy yourself. Do the things that make you happy. Stop judging yourself or others, relax, and connect with people that matter to you. 

 Limit Stress: Don’t take on more than you can handle. Learn to say no. You don’t have to please all the people all the time.

 Invest in relationships that are fulfilling. One of the most rewarding relationships that you could invest in is with yourself. This is the ideal time to get to know yourself. Spend more time and energy doing things that make you feel great and reduce the time doing things which make you feel bad. This rule applies with every other relationship you have.

 Laugh more often. Introduce humour in your life. Don’t be so serious, nothing lasts forever. This is the rule of thumb rule in life. This too shall pass.

The positive side of COVID-19 is that it is forcing the human race to understand what matters most to us. It’s reminding us that in the end no matter what race, caste, creed, gender or fame, popularity or money we might have, nothing is permanent. We are mortal. Move away from these boundaries because in the end what matters the most is how well we live, not how we die.

(Writer is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and officiating principal at Carmel College for Women)