Mental Health & Wellness

Controlling coronavirus fear and apprehension

Are you feeling afraid, nervous, or anxious about the coronavirus? You are not alone. Threats such as the coronavirus may only happen once in a lifetime, and we may not feel prepared to deal with it and its associated emotional impacts. The most common of these emotional impacts are related to feelings of anxiety and fear.

These fears are likely caused by some distorted thoughts that impact our ability to stay calm and rational. These thoughts happen automatically. Some of the most common distorted thoughts include:

  1. All-or-Nothing Thinking. You might think in extremes, or that things are black or white.
  2. Over Generalization. You might assume that if one negative event happened, then something else is bound to go wrong.
  3. Mental Filter. You dwell on one negative point, making the entire situation feel negative.
  4. Jumping to Conclusions. You make negative assumptions even though the facts may not support them.
  5. Magnification or Catastrophizing. You blow a situation out of proportion or make more of it than may be merited at the moment.
  6. Emotional Reasoning. You take the negative emotions you feel as evidence of the truth, allowing the emotions to do the reasoning for you, instead of logic.

Can you see a connection between thinking this way and feeling more anxious or fearful?

Unfortunately, we cannot control if these thoughts come into our minds. However, we can learn to manage them when they come. That is where we gain control over the thoughts and their associated impacts. How do we do this?

  1. Identify the Negative Automatic Thought. The most helpful thing you can do to stop negative automatic thoughts is to recognize them when they occur. This helps you objectively see that it is the thought or the “what if” that is making you anxious or fearful.
  2. Examine the Evidence. Instead of assuming that your negative automatic thought is true, examine the actual evidence for it. Find evidence to support the more positive alternative and focus on that evidence.  
  3. The Double-Standard Method. Imagine a close friend asked you for help with a problem like the one you are facing. What advice would you give them? That advice can help you.
  4. The Survey Method. Ask other people questions so they can help you see the situation more objectively and logically.
  5. Re-attribution. Instead of focusing entirely on the problem, focus on managing the problem and finding solutions instead of using up all your energy focusing on the fear and anxiety.
  6. Cost-Benefit Analysis. List the advantages and disadvantages of thinking the negative thoughts.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to never have negative automatic thoughts. Everyone does. I have been teaching these principles for fifteen years and I still catch myself in my tendency to jump to conclusions and reason with my emotions. However, when I remind myself that it is the distorted thoughts that are talking, I can slow the negative emotions that tend to follow. 

Also published in the Richfield Reaper.

If you have questions you would like me to confidentially address here, please email me at jonathan.swinton@usu.edu

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