COVID19 – How to deal with fear
Since the Covid-19 pandemic dominates our lives, as well as world news, we all have concerns and fears. We experience instability and uncertainty. In a crisis, our innate fight-flight reaction is triggered. The energy supplies are unlocked, perception is heightened and focuses on the threat, while overall perspective is narrowed.
Even without a constant flood of bad or worrying news, we are very susceptible to distractions. In one study, 58% of employees stated that they could not regulate their attention at work. Once the mind wanders, it easily gets caught in patterns of negative thinking. In times of crisis our minds are more captivated by circling thoughts, fear and helplessness. For this reason, we read one story after another about quarantine in China or Singapore, although we have never entered China or Singapore and, especially now, we are not planning to do so.
If your mind gets stuck in this state, a vicious cycle begins. Fear narrows our field of vision. We have to do something to avoid disaster. There is very little we can do about the pandemic. Our fear increases and, with it, our helplessness. At the moment, the spread of the corona virus can arouse our worst fears while increasing our feeling of loneliness, which only increases our fear.
We are all affected by travel restrictions, falling share prices, supply bottlenecks, etc. There is little we can do about that. But our own fear of contracting the virus, worries that our loved ones will get it, worries about financial implications, and all the other dark scenarios that flood the news and social media are largely done by ourselves. It depends on how we mentally evaluate the events in our environment.
It is important to remember that our emotional and psychological response to crises is natural and very human. But the truth is that they bring us additional suffering by constricting, confusing, and preventing our minds from clearly identifying the best course of action.
Mental resilience, especially in challenging times like now, means noticing our own thoughts, detaching ourselves from self-damaging reviews, and rebalancing. You can train this ability. Here are two effective exercises:
1. Dealing with fear: look out of the window.
Despair and fear can lead to overreactions. It often feels better to do something – anything – than just sit there with uncomfortable feelings. Our mind needs space to break away from the vortex of bad news. Otherwise good planning and action will not succeed. A first step can be to look out of the window and consciously perceive what is to be seen, as if you should paint it afterwards.
2. Dealing with fear: finding peace.
When you calm down, you can pay attention to what’s really going on around you, and what’s going on inside you. You can watch, examine and capture your thoughts as they run towards the end of the world. This calm and present state reduces stress and the worries that we can easily get stuck in.
When we practice bringing ourselves back to the present moment, we deepen our ability to deal with and survive all types of crises, whether global or personal. When you are excited, nothing seems more out of reach than inner peace. And asking yourself to calm down has the opposite effect. Here the so-called 5-4-3-2-1 exercise according to Yvonne Dolan, a trauma therapist from the USA, helps.
5-4-3-2-1 Anchoring exercise
The 5-4-3-2-1 exercise being so easy, it succeeds even in the tightest of crowds. Focussing on what we perceive here and now also helps to fall asleep.
- Way out of circling thoughts and emerging fear
- Anchored in the here and now
- Get calm
- To fall asleep
- almost no:
- 15 minutes
- Do not speak
- Otherwise practicable when lying, sitting, walking, on the street, anywhere
- Look in one direction and let the view rest on a point that is slightly above your eye level.
- Let your breath flow without controlling it: fast, calm, deep, superficial – it doesn’t matter. Consciously follow your breath for a few breaths.
- Name (in your head) 5 things in your field of vision without fixing them with your eyes or „focusing“ on them. Your field of vision is wide even without eye movement. So, look relaxed ahead of you. Take your time: e.g. I see a picture … a table … a tram …
- Name 5 sounds that you are hearing in the same way: I can hear my breath … the blood rushing in my ears … a car driving past … birds chirping.
- Now list 5 body sensations (not emotions!) That you are currently feeling: e.g. I feel the mattress under me … my belt … the bag over my shoulder … the pavement under the soles of my shoes
- In the next round, do the same with four perceptions that you see, hear and feel, then three times, then twice, and one perception at the end.
- If you want, you can start over again, as often as you like.
- Miscounting is no problem.
- It doesn’t matter if you mix up the order.
- Simply name what bothers you.
- Naming the same perception several times is fine, especially if there are only a few perceptual objects or if a perception is very dominant.
- Even the reverse order, that is 1-2-3-4-5, is possible.