Why do we fear the Corona virus so much?
Prof. Mooli Lahad of Tel-Hai College, President of the Community Stress Prevention Center and an international expert in dealing with stress and anxiety inducing situations believes that our hatred of uncertainty is key to explaining this fear.
“Let’s start with the name of the virus. The meaning of the name is crown or diadem and of course this derives from the similarity between the shape of the virus and the image of a crown. Therefore, our goal needs to be to decrease the control of this king or queen over our lives.
Why does the novel corona virus scare us?
Human beings are creatures who hate uncertainty and even more so lack of control. Uncertainty and lack of control bring on a sense of helplessness. But in truth the human being is an expert at coping with uncertainty. There is no other creature that takes risks in the face of uncertainty in life like the human being.
So what is so frightening about COVID-19?
- The invisibility of the frightening entity. Despite the fact that we have received explanations of how it spreads, it is still invisible.
- The huge media buzz.
- Historical associations with “plagues” that wiped out entire populations, such as in Europe.
- Quarantine – denial of freedom of movement.
- Uncertainty about when a vaccine will be found.
- And of course the fact that COVID-19 can cause death.
What happens to us in a situation of threat and uncertainty?
A health event like the novel corona virus or a crisis disrupts our sense of continuity. We are simultaneously faced with uncertainty and a feeling that yesterday cannot predict tomorrow.
The disruption of realistic-cognitive continuity is expressed in a feeling that I don’t understand what is happening. I feel confused, that the world has been disrupted, the natural order has been challenged and my routine has been broken.
When social continuity is disrupted, we feel isolated and disconnected. Home quarantine due to fears of COVID-19 increases social disconnection. There is also fear that if people discover that I am identified as someone who may have the COVID-19 virus, people will avoid contact with me.
People who are taken to hospital find themselves in a new and different social situation whose rules they do not understand, and of course they experience a loss of role. They are now “patients” and not managers, administrators etc. Someone who is in home quarantine doesn’t go to work, doesn’t fill certain regular roles. Loss of role continuity often causes feelings of helplessness and lack of functioning.
Historical continuity is also disrupted when people feel that they “don’t know themselves,” that they are going crazy, that the feelings they feel right now are strange to them. They don’t know themselves as frightened, crying, tired, with aches or pains.
What can we do?
*First, we can learn the facts and not let rumors and unreliable interpretations run our lives. In situations like this it is very important to be attentive to official entities like the Ministry of Health and your own medical professionals, to get assistance from the Magen David Adom information center and the Ministry of Health. It is important to build a routine even if the regular daily schedule is disrupted. Even if you are in home quarantine, set a daily schedule. At first it seems strange but if you are consistent you will see that this in itself organizes you. Set times for getting up, for meals, for light exercise, for watching the internet/computer/news, and bedtime.
*In homes with children, a set schedule helps children and also parents. Two weeks is a long time to be at home. You can add game time to the schedule (games of all kinds), times for tidying and organizing the house or all kinds of other activities that you have been putting off. In every home there are more than enough items to sort or get rid of. Here’s your opportunity.
*Find time to rest. People who know how to do meditation and relaxation, this is wonderful. There are many examples on YouTube for relaxation including soothing music.
*Stay connected with family and friends. Through smartphones, social networks, email, WhatsApp and more.
*Organize online food shopping through apps or other services you can order on the internet and of course the delivery can be left outside your door if you are in quarantine. Make a group in Skype, Zoom or FaceTime or any group in which you can see your friends and family and make that part of your daily schedule. Remember that people who aren’t in quarantine aren’t always free to be in touch. Don’t be insulted, schedule the time with them.
*It is very important that we try to organize roles within the routine imposed upon us. If you are not in quarantine, try to preserve routine roles and if you need information in order to feel in control, define the times when you will receive updates so that it doesn’t disturb your regular functions. Being busy and active is very effective.
*If you are in quarantine, try to define roles, both for adults and children. For children it is even more important that they have roles and responsibilities, even small ones. A role takes us from passivity to activity and this creates a sense of control. Therefore you can also decide on sports activities at home [if you aren’t suffering from symptoms of illness] and invent roles and jobs [such as the child who waters the plants once every two days, feeds the fish, etc.]. Involve family members in planning menus and as much as possible in food preparation. This will give them a role.
*It is important to remind ourselves about what hasn’t changed. What can we identify that isn’t impacted despite the situation? Are there habits that I do usually that give me a good feeling and I can do them now. I can remind myself how I coped in previous situations, what helped me and how I can use that [perhaps with changes] today. I can take care to do something every day that makes me feel good, something I can do in the framework of the limitations. I can distract myself with movies/reading/games.
*I can reassure myself and my family that the situation will end, that every situation, even the worst, eventually ends. We can, right now, plan what we want to do when all this is over, something fun to mark the end of this period.
*For those for whom it is appropriate, pray and compose prayers or read Psalms.
*Remember that the more we succeed in preserving part of our continuity of role, our sense of control over our lives will increase.
Corona Anxiety – Professor Mooli Lahad
In situations of threat and fear, we tend to fill the gaps in information with rumors. They can appear through word of mouth and through social media. It is clear that in most cases the intention is not to arouse panic or to scare people. The authors feel a need to share unchecked information out of a desire to feel control of a situation in which we do not have control. The illusory information gives them a sense of control. But the damage caused as a result of misinformation harms all of us. First of all the person about whom the rumor is spread, but afterwards also wider circles. For example, if there is a rumor that at a particular workplace a particular employee has been quarantined or has been found to be ill with the novel corona virus, the entire place immediately suffers economically, without the facts having been checked. In situations of panic we tend to follow rumors because we are looking for confirmation of our fears.
*Each of us is responsible, just as we are responsible for washing our hands, for following the instructions of the Ministry of Health, and for avoiding crowded places. Our responsibility tells us stop! Do not spread rumors. If someone is in quarantine that does not mean they are ill!! It means that the person was in an area where there’s a concern that they may have be infected. There is no need to turn the person into a leper. On the contrary, call, take an interest in the person. Clarify why they are in quarantine. Check if you can bring something they need, even if you cannot go into their home. The virus cannot pass through doors. You can leave whatever they or their family need by the door and let them know.
*If there are children in quarantine, encourage your children, their friends, to reach out on social media, play interactive games with them and so forth.
*Let’s remember. The novel corona virus will pass – but our friendships and connections will remain. Let’s remember, after COVID-19 we will still want to go shopping. It’s our responsibility to ensure that businesses don’t close because of rumors that keep customers away.
COVID-19 is a new, frightening and challenging event. Let’s not turn it into a disaster. Let’s show responsibility, caring and sensitivity to others. Remember, tomorrow it could be any one of us.
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