Coping with Coronavirus: 20 ways to minimize fear
Chronic fear impacts our physical health, memory, brain processing and mental health.
We feel the emotion of fear when we are threatened. The perceived threat can be either physical, psychological or emotional. It can also be real or imagined. As we live through the COVID-19 pandemic, the fear is very real.
We often think of emotions like fear or anger as bad, but every emotion serves a purpose. Fear can help to keep us safe by motivating us to take action that will prevent us from harm. Some of us even enjoy being afraid, and we purposely watch scary movies or engage in high-risk adventures such as skydiving.
The impact of fear
In my last article, Being compassionate in a time of crisis, I wrote that if we continue to experience an emotion for hours or days, it will become a mood. Over time, if we stay in that mood, it will become a temperament and eventually a personality trait. Additionally, when we live in constant fear, our bodies, brains and memories can suffer:
Physical Health: Chronic fear weakens our immune system, which makes us more susceptible to viruses and bacterial infections. It can also affect our cardiovascular health and create gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and even irritable bowel syndrome. Living in fear for an extended time can lead to premature aging and early death.
Mental Health: Feeling constant perceived threat can lead to fatigue and serious diagnoses such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Brain Function: The ability to regulate emotions, read non-verbal clues, reflect before responding and act ethically are all processes in the brain that can be disrupted. Chronic fear leads to poor decision making, intense emotions and inappropriate reactions.
Memory: The hippocampus (memory recall) can be damaged, which impairs the formation of long-term memories. Regulating fear becomes more difficult.
Ways to minimize fear
Thankfully, there are many easy actions we can take to minimize the effects of fear in our lives. It is impossible to live in fear and, at the same time, experience the good in the present moment. Below is a partial list of specific actions we can take to minimize the intensity. Trust your heart and pick a couple of practices that appeal to you.
- Be aware of your emotions for a few minutes. We can’t run from them, but when we face them, they lose their intensity.
- Address fear by talking about it, writing about it or merely thinking about it with curiosity. When we pay attention, we can ask ourselves questions like, “How is this emotion serving me?” or “What action can I take to create good at this moment?” or “What can this teach me?”
- Move your body. Dance, Run, Walk, engage in a physical exertion that pushes you beyond your perceived limits.
- Turn off the news. Today’s news is designed to keep you watching. Pay attention to how you feel when you are listening to the press. If it elicits fear, limit the amount of time you watch each day.
- Limit social media. Pay attention to sensations in your body as you scroll and read posts. Block or hide posts that cause you to feel fearful.
- Take slow, deep breaths. These breaths signal to the brain that we are safe, and the intensity of the emotion diminishes.
- Reach out to friends or loved ones.
- Write down what you are thankful for in your life. Keep the list out so that you can add to it when things come to mind. Review the list when you are in an uncomfortable place.
- Allow yourself to reflect on what you are thankful for and notice when the feeling of gratitude shifts you from fear.
- Laugh. The brain does not know the difference between fake laughter and real laughter. Watch a laughter yoga video on YouTube if you need help stimulating laughter. Watch a favorite comedy. Remember and share funny stories of things that happened in your past.
- Reflect on times when you have felt strong, secure and courageous.
- Change your body posture. Stand up and assume a powerful pose and hold it for three minutes.
- Be kind to yourself. Engage in favorite activities that make you feel alive. What do you do that makes you completely lose track of time?
- Question your thoughts. Just because you think them, doesn’t mean they are true.
- Reread a favorite book.
- Eat a healthy diet. Avoid sugar.
- Help others – get creative in this time of isolation.
- Pray for guidance and peace.
- Seek out a mentor or a coach.
- Trust your inner wisdom.
By engaging in the activities listed above, we can regulate our emotions, manage our energy and reduce stress. Fear is external but can become internal, which becomes anxiety.
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About the Author
Stacey Bevill is the founder of Ask and Receive Coaching (a division of Ask and Receive, Inc.) which offers coaching, consulting, custom workshops and presentations that help companies increase their bottom lines by creating an environment that promotes innovation, cooperation, communication and quality by motivating and inspiring employees. Stacey received her certification from the internationally acclaimed Newfield Network Coaching Institute. She is a board certified coach (BCC) and is credentialed by the International Coach Federation (ICF), the International Association of Trauma Professionals (CTP), and is a Certified HeartMath® Certified Trainer and Coach. Stacey holds many credentials, including a master’s level certification in Marketing Strategy from Cornell, a master’s level certification in Entrepreneurship from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, and a bachelor’s degree from Lander University in Greenwood, SC. She and her husband, Bobby, reside in Spartanburg.