– By Elaine Collins (nee Corcoran) Clinical Director at Brain Training Australia, Perth
The year 2020 will go down in history as the year of the fear pandemic, but its impact will be far reaching for many years to come on peoples mental health. But it’s not the Coronavirus/ COVID-19 that concerns me, it is the epidemic of fear that will do more damage than the virus. Fear breeds fear. The fear contagion will sprout anxiety and hypochondria. We live in a world where some form of anxiety is present in one in ten people. Keeping in mind that 26.3% of Australians are suffering from anxiety disorders, it is no wonder we are experiencing a shortage of toilet paper.
The amount of fake news and sensationalised news available today is astounding. We all love a little sensationalism, but listening to misinformation and passing it on does not help. You end up doing harm to your own mental health. You can, however, control how you think, no matter what information you are being fed.
How does fear manifest?
Fear is a pattern of brain activity caused by your perception of a threat. It is designed to protect you from danger. Fear allows you to define the resources you need to cope with the situation you feel is a threat.
It is normal to fear becoming sick. This fear reminds you to wash your hand with soap and be thoughtful when you interact with others. Eat healthy foods, sleep regularly and exercise when possible. In general, maintain a healthy immune system.
Alonso de Ercilla and Zúñiga said, “Fear is natural for the wise, and knowing how to defeat it is brave.” The anxiety generated by your own thoughts is the downside of fear that is concerning. You must be brave to overcome anxiety. Stress over unrealistic fears based on scaremongering is unhealthy and unhelpful.
Anxiety begins with your thoughts and spreads throughout your body. Your imagination starts to run away with you. Your mind exaggerates what could happen. Your anxiety levels begin to rise.
You begin breathing faster, taking shallower breaths. This can lead to hyperventilation. Your heart rate increases, raising your blood pressure. Your body fills with tension as your muscles prepare you for fight or flight. At this point, your own anxieties can form a feedback loop to keep you locked in a cycle of fear.
Focusing on your feelings of anxiety overrides your ability to think clearly. Your capacity for executive functioning decreases. Your level of emotional intelligence drops.
At this point, hypochondria may stem from your anxiety. Even if you have not travelled overseas or been in contact with someone carrying the virus. Hypochondria is an excessive worry that you may contract a severe illness. The constant preoccupation of your own body includes self-examination and diagnosis.
You begin to feel hopeless and are unable to think your way out of the situation. If you are feeling paralysed by your thoughts, don’t hesitate to seek help. Companies like ours are available to help you through your emotional obstacle course.
If your fear is not paralysing, it may instead, accelerate. If this is the case, you become irrational and engage in futile behaviour. Pretty soon, your insecurities are taking over, and everything becomes fearful to you. Maybe a facemask is not enough. Perhaps you shouldn’t step out of your house unless you are wearing a biohazard suit.
The problem does not stop here. Allowing your thoughts to generate this level of fear and anxiety will create new memories in your brain. Let me say that again. Stressful, emotionally intense memories become permanently stored in your brain.
These new memories are now going to determine your actions every time you perceive a threat. You will begin to miss out on life experiences. How many events will you avoid in the future? Will music concerts and significant sporting events be a no go for you now?
Remember that fear exists only in your mind. Your perceptions create anxiety. You are the only person with the power to overcome your fear. You can learn to control your stress response.
Consider the current threat of pandemic as a fantastic learning experience. Fear can be your friend instead of your enemy. You are facing a problem, so, how do you plan on solving it? Let’s start by learning a couple of facts.
Facts about Covid-19 (Coronavirus)
- In our world, 162 peopledie each week due to influenza, not related to the Coronavirus.
- Older peoplewith weakened immune systems will be more susceptible to the disease. But the condition is treatable when you receive hospital care.
- Covid-19 spreads through droplets. This means you must come into contact with a bodily fluid that contains the virus. Included are blood, stool, urine, sweat, nasal drip and cough aerosol. Please remember, if you wear a mask, and that mask has cough aerosol on it, the cover itself is now contaminated. You will need to wash your hands with soap and water when you remove your mask.
- If you live in a house with someone who has contracted the virus, the contagion will settle on your household surfaces. The great news is there is an extensive list of cleaning productsto effectively disinfect all those surfaces.
- In a hospital, patients with the virus are treated with supplemental oxygen. The worst cases are placed on respirators until the infection has run its course. The majority of people who contract Coronavirus survive with no ill effects.
Tips to help you stem the tide of fear.
- Educate yourself and those around you. If you have no way to access scientific data yourself read blogs. Make sure they are like this one, based on scientific evidence.
- Disregard misinformation. Ask your doctor for the facts. Knowing the truth about the virus will give you the right perspective.
- Relaxation and breathing techniques can help control your anxiety levels.
- Take control of your thoughts. Remaining calm and focusedallows you to perform the necessary tasks required should you contract the virus.
- Be kind in all your actions towards others. In this way, you will help stem spread the contagion that is fear.
- Maintain a healthy immune system. Eat right, sleep enough and exercise. This will reduce the chance of you contracting the virus. It will also help you fight off any other infections this year’s flu season will bring.
If you have to amend your anxiety and still feel challenged, please seek help. At Brain Training Australia™, we offer Neurofeedback Brain Training to help our clients struggling with fear, anxiety and stress, generated by overwhelmed brains.
Photo: NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback Brain Training is considered to be the most advanced form of Neuro Technology available on the market today. It is safe, natural, non invasive and drug-free. This effective method of brain training is grounded in decades of evidence-based clinical research. At Brain Training Australia™ we help your brain to restore healthy mental processes.
Your brain function will start to stabilise with Neurofeedback Brain Training. We can help you learn that the Coronavirus is in your environment and we cannot change that for you. But you can change your view of your situation. With this new perspective, you will have the tools and methods to now live a positive, healthy, and less fearful life.