Dealing with our emotions

COVID-19 is causing fear among some. A local doctor gives some tips for healing with the fear in a healthy way.

Daily I hear people commenting about the effects of COVID-19. Comments range from the whole “crisis” is bogus to the other extreme, expressing fear of even leaving their own house.

As is the usual case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Certainly, denial and disregard are not useful or helpful responses. Seeing hospital Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care Unit’s filled to and beyond capacity due to people sick with the COVID-19 virus indicates the pandemic is indeed real.

The underlying emotion produced by COVID-19 is fear. Fear is a helpful emotion — to a point. It is fear that alerts us to danger and helps us develop strategies to address the fear. But with COVID-19, the enemy is invisible. So creating a plan to deal with something we can’t see can leave fear just hanging on. We have all seen and perhaps even felt the stresses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — threats to our health, jobs, finances, and even our families. And no doubt the fear is real. How we handle the fear and how we handle the strategies to deal with fear is most important.

Some unhealthy responses are:

1) To sit and worry — in other words, fret. Just keeping the emotion of fear locked up inside does nothing but perpetuate the emotion.

2) To deny the problem isn’t real and to do what seems right in our own eyes. The threat is real, and to pretend the whole pandemic is a hoax shows a disregard to the health of self and others

3) To get mad and blame — whether blaming the government, foreign nations, our leaders, or others in authority.

Healthy responses are:

1) Separate the real from the unreal. Knowing what is true in your local community is the best weapon you have to address the actual threat. What is happening in New York or Florida may reflect a regional threat there or even a future threat for us here — but not today’s threat. If you are prone to worry, limit your TV time regarding the network news. The network news tends to show the worst of whatever the situation is and doesn’t reflect what is happening in your own community.

2) Avoid a “victim” or passive response role. Be involved but limit your involvement to what is within your power to influence

3) Maintain as regular a routine as you are able. Yes, we are in a time of “new normals” — things like face masks, hand sanitizers, social distancing, and other personal limitations have become our new normal.

No one knows how long COVID-19 will continue to influence our daily lives. But until other measures like a vaccination become available, the healthiest response to the fear caused by the uncertainties of COVID-19 is to follow the recommended public health recommendations:

1. Wear a mask when in public.

2. Observe social distancing.

3. Wash hands, use hand sanitizers, and disinfect surfaces.

4. Avoid congregating in numbers greater than whatever is the current public health recommendation.

Dan Criswell, Addiction Medicine at Duncan Regional Hospital Behavioral Health

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