How to keep coronavirus fears from affecting your mental health! Coronavirus! Yes, it's a serious situation, and yes, it deserves your vigilance and attention. But the constant spring of information, precautions and warnings, whether it's straight from the CDC or some recirculated, dubiously-sourced post on Facebook, can take a real toll on your mental health. When does caution become overreaction? When does staying informed cross the line into, well, too much information?
The good news is, there is a happy medium between willfully ignoring the biggest story in the world right now, and going into a full-on panic. Here are some tips. Think of it like hand-washing and social distancing, but for your brain.
"There is a ton of information out there. The challenge is trying to determine which information is accurate." says Lynn Bufka, Associate Executive Director for Research and Policy at the American Psychological Association. She suggests taking control of your intake through the following steps: Find a few sources you trust and stick with them. Choose one national or international source like the CDC, and another local nor national source so you can know what's going on in your community.
A pandemic is a rather abstract villain, so it may help to sit down and really consider what specific threats worry you. Do you think you will catch the coronavirus and die? "The fear of death taps into one of our core existential fears," says Bufka. "But you have to think about what your fear is, and how realistic it is." Consider your personal risk and how likely it is that you will actually come in contact with the virus.
People are going to talk. But if you want to run to a friend to discuss the latest outbreak cluster or your family's contingency plans, try not to create an echo chamber. "If you are overwhelmed, don't necessarily go to someone who has a similar level of fear," Bufka says. "Seek out someone who is handling it differently, who can check you on your anxiety and provide some advice."
If you can't seem to get a handle on your thoughts, professional help can be an option. "It doesn't need to be a long-term thing," Bufka says. "It means you can get some guidance for this specific situation."
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