by Jennifer Landis: Today’s news reports are flooded with stories about the coronavirus.
This disease first surfaced in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31 and has spread to Canada, the U.S., Europe, and other countries in or near Asia. There have been over 60,062 confirmed cases so far, and more than 1363 people have died. This has thrown many into a state of panic. If you’re one of them, know that being anxious about the outbreak is normal. However, your fear shouldn’t paralyze you or stop you from living your day-to-day life.
1. Put It in Perspective
One way to manage your anxiety is to put the coronavirus in perspective. For instance, the common flu has already killed 10,000 Americans this winter, and last season, the flu infected nearly 45 million people. Meanwhile, the coronavirus has only infected 12 people in the U.S. If you’re going to catch a disease or a sickness, you’re more likely to get the flu — or a cold or cough — than you are this virus.
This isn’t meant to scare you. Rather, it should assure you that the odds of contracting the virus are incredibly low. Choosing to worry about it is like waking up in the morning and worrying about dying in a car crash or imagining being struck by lightning. Most people, though, don’t think about these things. Instead, they simply consider them a risk of living. You can apply this same method of thinking to the coronavirus.
2. Use Coping Skills
Another way to deal with your anxiety is to think back on past coping skills. What have you done before that’s helped you stay calm and relieve stress? Maybe it’s practicing yoga or talking to yourself to undo the irrational fears driving you crazy. Perhaps you like to talk things out with a trusted friend or family member instead. Regardless, if something worked for you in a past situation, try it again now.
If your normal coping skills don’t seem to alleviate your anxiety, you might consider talking with a therapist or doctor. They can help you find solutions and even recommend new coping skills. Your stress in this situation might also be linked to a deeper issue that you haven’t dealt with or let go of. Therefore, your personal life or other stressors may be exacerbating your reaction to the coronavirus. If you think this may be the case, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
3. Take Normal Precautions
Many types of viruses, including the coronavirus, are spread through everyday contact with others. If you aren’t sick, you should try to avoid people who are and maintain healthy habits to ensure your space is clean. This shouldn’t entail you running to the store for bleach, facemasks and rubber gloves. That could propel you to even deeper levels of anxiety.
Instead, focus on maintaining habits you already have like washing your hands often, coughing into your arm, keeping hand sanitizer with you and regularly disinfecting surfaces within your home. It’s also smart to eat healthy foods and get plenty of rest to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. While these aren’t extra precautions, they should do a pretty decent job of keeping you safe and healthy all winter long.
4. Give the Internet a Break
Whenever there’s a new virus, the media immediately publicizes it, sharing photos of people in hazmat suits, facemasks and hospital beds. This can lead to anxiety and hysteria, especially when these images are practically everywhere. Moreover, a lot of misinformation and dramatization can float around the internet during a new outbreak. While it is good to stay informed, it’s possible to be over informed.
Limit your media consumption for a while and avoid stories or coverage of the outbreak. Know that you’re already doing everything you can to prevent contracting any illness yourself and shift your focus to other things instead. If you really can’t stop thinking about it, try checking a trusted source once a day for updates. Otherwise, give social media and the news a break and pick up a book instead. Distract yourself, and before you know it, the hysteria will have passed and the press will find other things to cover.