How to manage coronavirus anxiety (Part 2)

How to manage coronavirus anxiety

Anxiety about the coronavirus. Is it normal?

Are you anxious about the coronavirus? In situations of uncertainty like the one we are experiencing, it is normal to feel worried. In fact, it is a sign of connection with reality and helps to put the necessary means to safeguard one’s own health and that of the closest environment.

However, despite knowing that the risk of contracting diseases has always existed, the number of deaths resonates a lot , which contributes to activating the brain systems related to the response itself to danger and the uncertainty about it.

The fear of uncertainty.

It should be noted that this way of dealing with danger has an important relationship with anxiety systems . This is an emotion that prepares the person to face future danger and which, of course, is closely linked to the fear experienced in the face of immediate danger. In this sense, it must be emphasized that people always seek to curb uncertainty, since it generates insecurity, so they use certain mechanisms to complete this lack of information quickly.

Unfortunately, these procedures, known as heuristics , are not always one hundred percent logical or rational, because, although they give rise to interpretations about what is happening, they contain biases, especially when information is missing . In this way, the government’s inaction could have been interpreted as a sign that nothing serious was happening, suggesting that there was a much lower probability of contagion than the real one.

When the level of anxiety is excessive.

On the contrary, it could also happen that this fear of the unknown could cause a level of anxiety that the person did not know how to manage. This, together with increasingly unreasonable and increasingly strong procedures (for example, that the contagion can be lethal) can lead the person to consider the contagion as something much more probable than it really is.

The subject resorts to an omission of the real probabilities . This leads the person to take excessive and unnecessary security measures and to respond in a panic if they are not followed for fear of contagion. Thus, the only real function that these safety behaviors will have will be to reduce the level of anxiety of the person, who will fall into an illusion of control by believing that something is being prevented, although these behaviors in reality only serve to lengthen the daily routines and provoke arguments within the family by executing obsessive actions that are meaningless to the other.

On the other hand, as mentioned above, the person may suffer, in the most severe cases, episodes of panic due to emotional overflow when exposed to situations considered high risk and when experiencing somatic sensations as a result of fear, misinterpreting circumstances as unmistakable symptoms of the disease.

(1) – In severe cases, anxiety attacks due to the coronavirus may appear

How to reduce excess anxiety about the coronavirus?

How to reduce excess anxiety about the coronavirus

The fear of the unknown is such a natural reaction and adaptive, it is an automatic, rapid and effective response that prepares the body for fight or flight response to danger.

However, after this immediate fear, anxiety can appear , which is when thought intervenes and prepares for what may happen in the future. Although anxiety helps to face and solve concrete and real problems, maladaptive anxiety can develop, which does not help to flee or face the real problem.

In this sense, COVID-19 can make those with an obsessive profile (hypochondriacs, somatizers) or at-risk populations (the elderly, immunosuppressed or people with chronic diseases, especially respiratory diseases) feel that they are at risk of dying.

Exaggerated responses to anxiety.

This perception of risk can lead to exaggerating responses to the possibility of becoming ill, minimizing the risk of other diseases that can be more deadly (for example, pneumococcal disease if not vaccinated).

In the case of a person belonging to the population at risk , it is advisable to follow the Health instructions, without falling into the obsession of taking security measures “just in case” or stigmatizing the affected people. You simply have to limit yourself to following the health recommendations .

Avoid negative thoughts.

On the other hand, those with a more obsessive profile should try to identify catastrophic or negative thoughts, and correct them . They must differentiate between what is possible, what is probable and what is certain, weighing the evidence that supports or denies the hypothesis. In this sense, it is convenient to become aware that these are useless and anxiety-generating thoughts.

Faced with these negative ideas, you can use a mantra to help you remember them (for example: “Although the virus spreads easily, most cases are mild. If I had these symptoms, I would already know how to deal with them, as I have done before. to a cold and other illnesses. I’m going to take care of myself, following the prevention plan outlined ”).

In addition, in these cases, it is especially important to keep busy so as not to enhance the negative thoughts of quarantine, remembering that it is a temporary measure .

In this sense, it is important not to forget that negative emotions affect personal immunosuppression, so trying to keep your spirits up in these situations is essential.

The latter can be done through the guidelines explained in the section “Psychological recommendations to face quarantine . ” In addition, relaxation and breathing exercises can be performed , living in the present, that is, without anticipating dramatic situations that have not taken place.

Reviewing the skills that helped you cope with other adverse circumstances and negative emotions in the past can help you realize that you can control essential aspects of your well-being during quarantine and in your life in general.

(2) – It is important to follow the security measures against the coronavirus

How to explain the coronavirus to minors?

How to explain the coronavirus to minors

Given the exceptional nature of the situation, it would be useless to try to hide reality from the children. In the end, they would end up receiving the information by other means and, probably, in a biased way.

That is why you must be honest with children, providing them with the necessary information adapted to their age. In this sense, it is important to point out that minors do not have the same cognitive or emotional resources as adults, so they learn to manage their own emotions by observing the behaviors and emotions of their parents .

General information for minors about the coronavirus.

For this reason, it is recommended, first of all, to inform the minor about the most frequent symptoms and explain the reason for the guidelines , for example, stating the reason why they should wash their hands and not settle it with a concise answer of the type “because I say so ”or“ because you have them dirty

In addition, it is essential to resolve any doubts and concerns that may appear, through clear explanations, without overwhelming with too much information and without lying to the minor.

It must be taken into account that children resort to fanciful arguments to compensate for the lack of information , so it is necessary to normalize the topic and ask them directly if they have any doubts and correct the misinterpreted information.

Give confidence and security to the minor.

If you do not know the answer to the child’s question, you can tell him that you can search for the answer together. In this sense, it is essential to provide trust, security and tranquility to the minor . It can be explained to him that there are health professionals capable of curing the disease and that he can count on them if he needs them. It is necessary to avoid making references to especially sick people or to the number of deceased.

A good example is worth a thousand words.

Likewise, it must be borne in mind that children learn by example , so you must be careful in relationships with others, so, apart from following prevention guidelines, you should avoid carrying out inappropriate behaviors, as well as discriminatory or of rejection towards the other moved by the fear of contagion.

Seek an hourly routine with tasks and responsibilities.

It is also important to provide a routine for the child, differentiating the weekend schedules and habits from those of the weekdays , assigning them responsibilities and tasks appropriate to their age, as well as promoting intellectual stimulation through reading or other activities, also leaving them free time and room for boredom.

In this regard, you can and should take advantage of the situation to spend more leisure time with the family , increasing body movement as much as possible.

However, when work (or telework) prevents this increase in family leisure time, you should not only limit yourself to explaining the situation to the child, but you should try to compensate him in some way, for example, by doing some special activity with him (telling him a story at night, watching a children’s movie …) or spending more time together on the weekend.

(3) – Children must be given safety and anxiety about the coronavirus avoided.

Finally, it is important that the child can maintain contact with those family members whom he used to visit frequently before COVID-19, promoting virtual contacts and explaining that, although they cannot visit them, their relatives are healthy and know how to take care of themselves .

Information to children under seven years of age.

On the other hand, the age of the minor must be taken into account, since children under seven have not yet developed abstract thinking, so that they do not have the ability to understand panic, but they end up acting based on what they perceive in their closest environment (parents, caregivers …). One option to explain the coronavirus to the little ones is through stories (this one has been written by the Official College of Psychologists: ” Rosa against the virus “ .

Information from the age of eight.

From the age of eight , the child already begins to think for himself, so he understands the metaphors and can be based on previous examples . Therefore, it can be explained that the coronavirus looks like a cold , but that it can be stronger, so that personal care has become more important, so as not to fall ill and have to take medication rest.

This explanation can lead to the introduction of new cleaning routines, such as when it is explained that they have to brush their teeth after eating. In this sense, using drawings to explain how contagion occurs can be entertaining (for example, explaining that the coronavirus was born in China and that it likes to travel a lot, being Spain and Italy two countries that it likes a lot).

Explanations to children over ten years old.

From the age of ten , the child understands more complex concepts, so it is not necessary to adapt the information so much: it will be enough to explain the prevention guidelines well , giving an example to the minors. Finally, it is advisable to avoid browsing the internet alone in search of COVID-19 information, since much of it is often incomplete or even wrong, which can lead to fear.

Group or school activities.

With regard to the school context, the entire classroom must be integrated into these same routines , homogenizing the information and prevention behavior of minors, acting accordingly. This can become fun, involving the children through songs while washing their hands (they can also count to twenty, say a multiplication table …) or have them make the prevention posters themselves .

(4) – Involve children against the coronavirus with drawings and posters

In this sense, both parents and teachers can give younger children (four to ten years old) more imaginative guidelines, as if prevention were a “ super power ”: for example, when coughing or sneezing, they should cover their nose and throat. mouth flexing the elbow or using a handkerchief that will be thrown away, “as if it were a magic karate key that protects you against bad viruses.”

You can also consider avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as a game where you lose a point each time. In this regard, it is important to remind children that although they really want to have physical contact with another person, they should not touch anyone and that this will not last long and will be able to hug their friends again very soon.

If you have not read the first part of this article you can do it here:

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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