Coronavirus and Fear: How Therapy Can Help
By Drake Delaplane, MA, PPS, LMFT
If you are like my family and I, we are riveted to all things related to coronavirus (COVID - 19), as of late. Concern can quickly morph into fear which can lead to anxiety after seeing empty grocery shelves of basic staples in life, while hearing government officials closing our nation's largest school districts, and ordering businesses and sporting events closed. This can lead to panic and irrational fear. How to maintain composure and a sensible response to fear and anxiety is now at the forefront of our minds for many today. The following is provided to do just that.
Firstly, know the importance of knowing the source of your anxiety, and know yourself so you can respond appropriately. Sun Tzu, in The Art of War perhaps said it best…
"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."
What We Do Know
Through counseling you have the opportunity to know what you need to know to keep anxiety at bay. Counseling provides awareness through rational thinking through an issue such as fear and anxiety and what can be done to stop painful behavior. Defining the terms and answering a few questions are the first steps to solving an issue.
What anxiety feels like: It presents itself a little differently in everyone. But there are general characteristics such as one or more of the following:
· Muscle tension
· Easily fatigued
· Sleeping disturbance (getting to sleep, staying asleep, or restlessness)
· Overly sensitive
· Feeling keyed up
· Difficulty focusing (or mind going blank)
· Like you want to jump out of your skin!
· Difficulty looking at a computer screen without feeling overwhelming tension or energy surge
What is fear? It is a rational or irrational sense that we are about to lose control of something or someone.
What is anxiety? It is an irrational sense that we require control to give us peace.
We may believe we must control a person or situation in terms that are not reasonable, ones that may not be properly thought through. This is when it is important to have a source of wisdom, particularly when an issue as troubling as anxiety, can be best addressed through a trusted professional who can guide you through reasoning.
Through a trained therapist cognitive distortions can be properly addressed which can commonly lead to proper behavior. This can reduce, if not eliminate, incessant worrying, obsessions, yelling, fighting, alcohol or drug abuse, and developing addictions.
The question of what causes anxiety: Irrational fear
Irrational fear is fear-based behavior that does not make sense. An example of this is if you were to think: "Everyone is panicking, so I must panic too!" or "My boss or mate is angry, so it must be about me." This reasoning can lead to undue turmoil. They are cognitive distortions, which can lead to an over-reaction or a sense of impending doom that is not based on scientific fact.
The answer to what soothes anxiety: Rational fear.
Healthy thinking, based upon logical thought processes helps to relieve anxiety. Proper thinking such as, "Everyone is panicking, so I must look to the scientific community to obtain facts" may provide a sense of relief. Scientific facts may lead you to a further sense of relief.
Strategic Steps to Overcome Anxiety
1. Weigh the threat. Is it an immediate concern? What is the probability that it will hurt or seriously effect me? Has it occurred before? What were the consequences, are they catastrophic? Who or what is in control of the matter? Write out the pros and cons of my beliefs. Run those thoughts by wise counsel.
2. Self soothing, exercises. Listen to soothing music, journal positive and encouraging thoughts and write about matters you have overcome, meditate by dwelling on positive things you have accomplish, asking for a higher power to take control of the issue or your anxiety, try not thinking about anything. Get alone and focus on deep breathing and tensing up every muscle, then relaxing them one after the other until you are completely relaxed. Breathe in (welcome into yourself) while imagining letting go of tension with your breath, then exhale while imagining all your anxiety leaving your lungs and body.
3. Use imagery: imagine holding as tightly as possible your issue, then suddenly (or finger by finger) let go of the matter(s). Embrace (even grasp) at nothing but air while thinking to yourself, "I have nothing to hold onto, and that's just fine!"
4. Embrace fear. Accept the fact that it is normal to fear, that fear has bothered you in the past, but eventually it leaves, if you let it.
5. Mentally listen to yourself ask "What do I gain by holding onto this fear and anxiety knowing that it makes me lose my peace in life?" "Do I use this anxiety to convince myself that my life is overwhelming or out of control? "What am I committed to make happen by feeling and acting anxious and fearful?" "Why am I allowing negativity to control my life?" "What would happen if I no longer listened to the voice of anxiety, and that I called out the irrational thoughts as lies?"
6. Act courageously! Dare to look anxiety or fear in the face and confront it boldly. This is called en vivo exposure. By confronting the fear, then lingering in it, you can notice it is not destroying you, even if it is a nuisance. Repeated exposure to the fear or anxiety can show you that you are fully capable of surviving and thriving through the problem. Of course, having a professional therapist walk you through the anxiety, noting step-by-step how to skillfully confront the fear can help quickly and effectively resolve the matter in an enjoyable fashion.
So, besides following the rational leadership of those governing health officials, it is important to retain rational perspective because the greatest enemy of anxiety is fear itself.
While in the throngs of a world war when it appeared certain that the existence of civilization was about to end as we knew it, our nation heard the rational, reassuring words of our late great president Franklin D. Roosevelt. To a very frightened world, he confidently stated, "The greatest fear we have, is fear itself!" It was through his wise and confident counsel that our military forces destroyed the source of fear. Through rational perspectives, and reasonable interventions, you may eliminate fear that feeds anxiety. Keep in mind that "fear is the darkroom where negatives develop."
If fear is consuming you to the point that anxiety is eating away at your peace of mind and quality of life, we at Delaplane Wellness Counseling are here to help at a moment's notice. All of our licensed therapists use Cognitive Therapy, which is proven to be an effective treatment for resolving issues surrounding anxiety. We welcome the honor to serve you soon, because you are worth it! We have two convenient locations to serve you. Give us a call at: 916-642-6145.