Covid-19 and Fear
There’s no denying it, no matter where we live in the world we are going through a confronting and challenging time. I imagine there are few places on the planet where
Covid-19 hasn’t had an impact.
Regardless of how closely it has affected you personally, this pandemic most likely has affected you in some way. Despite the anger, uncertainty, anxiety, depression and multitude of feelings that have been showing up, underneath it all is fear.
At this point in time fear can cover so many aspects of what we are collectively going through. You might be fearing for your health or that of your loved ones. Perhaps you are worried about your mental state in lockdown – spending so much time at home with family members and nowhere to go, or, being alone. Many people fear the rigidity of new laws and surveillance and are imagining a dystopian future.
Fear is the feeling that something might happen. The opposite of fear is presence, coming back to this moment - right here & right now
Fear is a hard-wired emotion in the brain, to keep us safe. The problem with fear is that when it’s not saving you from imminent danger it’s likely to shift into feelings of anxiety, stress and even depression.
How Fear impacts the body and the mind
On a physical level long-term fear can affect the immune and endocrine system and can cause changes to the nervous system. Sleep issues and eating disorders can also arise.
The potential effects of chronic fear on physical health include headaches, muscle aches, chronic pain, fatigue and difficulty breathing. Long standing fear has also been suggested to manifest in illness like fibromyalgia, migraines and auto immune disease.
The potential effects of chronic fear on emotional health include mood swings, disconnectedness, depression, outbursts of anger, unexplained sadness and anxiety.
How to deal with fear and worry (especially now)
1. Talk to a therapist
If you are experiencing fears and worries the best thing to do is speak with a Counsellor. At the moment many therapists are offering consultations online. This can be surprisingly powerful and is an incredible opportunity to get help. I have had some clients resist sessions online only to hear them tell me it felt like I was right there with them the whole time. Support is an essential way of learning tools to work through fear and anxiety.
2. Share with friends or family
If you are feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or any other discomfort make sure to stay connected with your family and friends. Everyone will have a different story however many people have felt similar feelings and it can be so freeing to hear that you are not alone in how you feel.
3. Feel your body
If you are starting to feel fearful, rather than engaging with the thoughts that are frightening you, notice where in the body you feel the fear. For example, you might find you are breathing quickly – take a moment to acknowledge the feeling “my breath is shallow”, and then notice what else you are feeling. As you notice where tension is in your body, and sit with it by simply naming it, and or placing your hand over that part of your body, you re sending a message to your nervous system that it is ok.
4. Remember to breath
In fact the exhale can be the most important part of the breath if you are feeling fear. The body can hold onto the breath as if it is expecting an attack, to exhale completely and then inhale sends a different message to the nervous system that in this moment, right here and now, it is ok. Remember fear is the feeling that something might happen, and the gift of breathing in the moment is to remind the body of its immediate surroundings, not the possibilities.
5. Start a narrative with fear
Often times the feeling of fear can also lead us to exactly what it is that we need to feel safe. Take a moment to list all of your fears and notice what each fear is pointing at. Once it is clear what you are afraid of, consider how you could meet that need.
For example, if I was afraid that I will lose my freedom, fear would be showing me that I need to find a way to exercise my freedom in the ways that I can. If I were afraid it might be a long time before I see my family again, fear is showing me how important it is for me to reach out and connect the best way I can, within the confines of my current situation.
As I’ve mentioned before, when dealing with anxiety it’s helpful to have a routine, eat well, reduce your intake of coffee and alcohol and where possible do some meditation, breathing exercises or yoga. For some people still in lockdown (or again) there is only limited outdoor exercise possible, so all the more reason to try to maintain a healthy routine at home.
Most importantly, stay in connection to your body, to your friends, to your family. Make sure you listen to how you are feeling, reach out for professional support if you feel like you need it, and look after yourselves.
* If you feel out of control or overwhelmed, please phone your GP or a crisis line in your country.