Anxiety management is critical
In just a few short months, “coronavirus” and “COVID-19” have become household terms and lives around the world have changed dramatically.
Naturally, many individuals are experiencing anxiety about ways the virus will impact their families and communities, and while little is known regarding the impacts of the pandemic, licensed Psychologist Dr. Lauren Welter of Monticello, Iowa, says there are ways to manage these anxieties.
Anxiety surrounding the virus
“Anxiety is an innate, evolutionary important human response to threats in the environment,” explains Welter in her blog, Country Couch. “Feelings of unease and uncertainty motivate us to take action in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”
She continues, “However the amount of anxiety we have should be related to the degree of the threat. Unfortunately, our communal anxiety regarding COVID-19 is high, in part, because given its novelty, we do not know how to judge the severity of this threat.”
Welter notes there are things people can do to manage their anxiety.
“We can focus on the facts and shift our focus onto other areas of our lives where we do have some control,” she says. “To be blunt, it seems many people unconsciously, or even consciously, fear exposure to COVID-19 means imminent death.”
Luckily, for most, Welter says this is an irrational fear, which can and should be challenged in order to manage anxiety.
However, she also notes there is a desire to protect those who are most at risk from the virus, including older adults and those with underlying health issues, which is why national, state and local governments have limited commerce and human interactions.
“This response has been swift and extreme, inciting fear and anxiety while intending to protect us,” Welter states. “It is, however, important to remember these steps are designed not to prevent the spread of this virus, but to slow its spread in order to protect our most vulnerable citizens. This distinction is critical.”
Similar to the flu, medical experts note they expect many Americans will contract COVID-19 and the majority of them will have mild cases and recover fairly quickly, according to Welter.
“Unfortunately, this virus is quite severe and has been deadly for some people. The primary goal of social distancing and shelter-in-place policies is to maximize our medical system’s ability to respond to the severe cases of the illness,” Welter explains.
“Because many people, especially children, will be carriers of the illness, without showing symptoms, by limiting social contact, we can slow the spread of the virus,” she says. “This allows those who need specialized and intensive medical care, to have access to it, significantly improving health outcomes and limiting mortality rates.”
Anxiety can be helpful
While anxiety surrounding the virus has created a lot of fear, Welter says it has also been helpful.
“Our communal anxiety around COVID-19 has been helpful in encouraging us all to take important steps to reduce risk, including handwashing, deep and frequent cleaning in public spaces and universal social distancing,” she states. “Beyond these steps, we unfortunately have little control over the spread of the virus.”
Despite this, she points out there are many steps individuals can take to reduce fear and improve their own wellbeing as well as that of their communities.
“Consider limiting exposure to news media and utilizing only fact-based news sources, such as scientifically-based websites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization,” she says.
Hannah Bugas is the assistant editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.