Understanding the Nature of Fear and Anxiety in the Age of COVID-19

Apr 23, 2020 | COVID, Mental Health

These are uncertain times. Many people are fearful and worried about the future. The stress of dealing with this ongoing crisis is beginning to take an emotional toll on many people within our communities. In many ways, this crisis is similar to what those of us on the Gulf Coast experience during a hurricane. As a storm approaches, we are all too familiar with the fear of the unknown and the dread of the devastation that the storm could bring. During a storm, we know how to find shelter, brace for the storm and its aftermath, and prepare for the rebuilding that comes at the end. A significant difference between a hurricane and COVID-19 is that the coronavirus is a storm that doesn’t seem to have an end. As a result, many people have begun to live in a constant state of fear with no relief in sight.

Now more than ever, it is important to learn to manage your fears and control your anxieties. If you don’t, you are more likely to become overwhelmed, exhausted, and depressed. To help, we have listed some things you can do to better manage your fears and anxiety.

  • Learn to Recognize the Difference Between Fear and Anxiety –
    • Fear is a survival emotion. The purpose of fear is to help us survive life and death danger. For example, if you are attacked by a pack of wild dogs, you will experience fear. In the moment of the attack, your body will tense, your heart rate will increase, and your senses will become heightened. All of this occurs automatically without you having to think about it. Your body is preparing you to respond to the attack in order to help you survive. Once the danger has passed, your fear will naturally begin to recede. Fear is thus a reaction to danger that is occurring in the moment.
    • Anxiety, on the other hand, is more about the future than the present. In fact, one way to think about anxiety is that it is fear of something in the future based on something in the past. While fear helps you deal with danger in the present, anxiety only makes you worry about something in the future. Unfortunately, the more that you worry about the future, the more anxious you tend to feel, which in turn makes you worry even more. So, the more you worry, the more anxious that you feel, and the more anxious that you feel, the more that you worry. While fear helps you deal with danger in the moment, anxiety keeps you from enjoying the moment.
  • Learn to Turn Off Your Worries – Remember that your worries are the fuel for your anxiety. The more you think about things that you have no control over, the more miserable you will be. Instead, direct your thoughts away from the worries and engage your mind in things that bring you enjoyment or peace.
  • Get Your Body Engaged – A lot of times it is easier to change the direction of your thoughts by getting your mind and body engaged in some activity. Do something that you enjoy, and you will discover that you will be less anxious.
  • Learn to Get Back in the Moment – Remember that you can’t be anxious if you are in the moment. Spontaneous laughter, on the other hand, only occurs when we are fully engaged in the moment. Learn to be fully present. You will be happier if you do.
  • Exercise – Remember that exercise has enormous mental and physical benefits and it is a great stress reducer.
  • Quit “Awfulizing” – The more that we focus on the negative, the worse that we tend to feel. Look for the good things around you and you will feel better.
  • Limit Your Exposure to the News – It is good to stay informed but remember that much of the news is designed to captivate your attention. Don’t let others take away your serenity, instead put your energy into things that decrease your stress and anxiety.
  • Learn to Pace Yourself – Remember that the coronavirus has brought a storm that doesn’t have a clear end in sight. As a result, it is important to pace yourself while dealing with the stressors around you. Create a routine and get more purposeful about your actions.
New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.