Survival Tips for Avoiding Panic Over the Coronavirus # 7
It is my belief that you should take the situation seriously and follow medical recommendations to limit the transmission of disease. However, I do not see any benefit from slipping into a state of panic. When we have intense anxiety or fear, the portion of our brain (the prefrontal cortex), that is capable of rational thought and of making wise decisions shuts down, and our body goes into the fight-flight-freeze reaction. Cortisol, a stress hormone is released making us hypervigilant. We are on guard, more irritable and have more difficulty sleeping.
Let’s look at some simple things you might do to avoid needless panic. First, I will discuss some bottom up techniques which focus on relaxing the body and turning off the fight-flight-freeze reaction. The simplest thing we can do to quiet our body and mind is to take slow, deep breaths. One needs to take deep, belly breaths. Either stand erect or sit up straight and slowly inhale through your nose for a count of six seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of six seconds. Repeat this fifteen times and you will have completed slow, deep breathing for three minutes. Do this at least three times a day.
A second bottom up activity is getting some physical exercise. Going for long walks, swimming, biking or doing some aerobic exercise for 150 minutes a week will lower your stress and your cortisol levels. Any exercise is better than no exercise. If you have a medical condition that would be of concern to you, please talk with your doctor first.
A third activity which is a combination of a bottom up and top down exercise is what I call Three Mindful Breaths. When you start to worry or become frustrated, simply take three slow, deep breaths. On the first breath think of patience, on the second breath think of peace, and on the third breath slightly smile as you think of happiness. Practice Three Mindful Breaths over and over until they become a habit.
Top down techniques focus on training the mind to think and respond in a more rational or wise manner. One of the most important top down techniques is called Radical Acceptance. With radical acceptance one would simply accept that Coronavirus is happening and refuse to get caught up in fighting reality. It does us no good to think “this shouldn’t be happening here,” “the government should have planned for this,’’ “it is absolutely stupid to shut down sporting events,” or “I know I’m going to get it and die.” This type of thinking tends to increase our negative emotions.
Practicing radical acceptance would sound more like this. Coronavirus is having a profound impact on how we live. I will take realistic precautions, but I refuse to be consumed by it. I will limit my following the news about it to a reasonable amount of time to keep current. I will not allow it to completely flood my mind. I will go for more walks, do more things outside, and spend time doing activities I enjoy. I will keep in touch with family and friends in practical way.
I hope that maybe one or two of these ideas will prove helpful to you, as we all are trying to adapt to the changes in our life in response to the Coronavirus. I would love to know what your think.
Photo by Kat Jayne