19 March 2020
What is so scary about the Covid-19?
It’s spreading fast, there is not (yet) a vaccine or a preventative treatment, and we don’t know how deadly it actually is. We are human and when we are uncertain we react with fear.
Under uncertainty, we become very bad at spotting misinformation, in part because we don’t take the time to properly check the facts. But it’s also because our memories play tricks on us, encouraging us to believe things we read/hear repeatedly and to look for information that validates our preexisting beliefs.
The non-stop news enhances our hyper-vigilant state so that we notice more, and hear more, and read more, and interpret that in a threatening way. Human beings are hard-wired to respond to threats, to protect ourselves from real or perceived danger. But it’s really difficult to keep safe when the threat is so uncertain and potentially far-reaching. That’s where you start to see people take on more unusual behaviors (e.g. panic-buying, excessive avoidance, etc) which are not compatible with survival.
We know from research and clinical experience that it is important that we do what we can to reassert a sense of control over our fears. There are very basic things that people can do to take back the power and control. Those include self-isolating and monitoring your temperature if you get sick; washing your hands regularly with soap and water; and staying away from gatherings.
Social support networks are crucial. It is very important that people who tend to be more anxious connect in a safe way with people in their lives who they trust and who they can turn to for support. This might be via social media or by singing from the balconies (like in Italy) when social isolation is a way to contain the spreading of he virus. I really like the Italian ‘#unitedbutdistant’ and ‘#wewillgothroughthis’ as they highlight the importance of staying connected when we are required to stay apart for protective measure.
Photo by cottonbro, Pexels