Overcoming fear during a pandemic
What fear does to us and techniques to minimize its impact
We are in the middle of a pandemic. The psychological impact of all the adjustments we are making to our lives in this challenging phase is tremendous. We are keeping away from people and places we like to visit, But social distancing need not mean social isolation.
It is not a physical adjustment that we are struggling with, and it is a mind shift adjustment that is so difficult.
With fear, uncertainty, and adversity all around, and being confined to our homes, the same familiar place which provided us such warmth and comfort may now feel like the four walls of a prison.
The physical surroundings of our homes have not changed. Everything is as before; in fact, the pantry may be better stocked than ever before.
It is the mind that finds it hard to remain in one place. Fueled by the constant influx of news, mostly of a negative kind, the mind is covered in a dense layer of fear.
What happens when there is fear?
It triggers the flight response. We seek to immediately get as far away as we can from the source of anxiety.
When we are free to move about and go anywhere, we wish to, and this fear response takes flight in the form of various distractions.
For example, when we are by ourselves and experience fear, we seek the company of others. Mingling in a crowd distracts the senses, and the mind is not focused on one thought, that is fear.
But these days, that is not an option. Of course, we can speak to as many people as we wish to or can via a video call, facetime, Zoom, etc. But that is not the same. Whoever we speak to is reflecting the same sentiment of fear and uncertainty.
When one person is fearful, others around that person who may not share the same fears can help diffuse the intensity of that emotion.
When everyone shares similar fears, where do we turn to for strength?
Panic on the inside is pushing us outside, people on the outside act as mirrors reflecting that same fear to us with added force.
Something has to give. The mind is not strong enough unless we train it to handle fear. And importantly, during a crisis of such severity and seriousness as the COVID 19 situation, it may not be the best venue to start training the mind. It is like an athlete beginning to prepare for the Olympics while the games are in progress.
What we need now is a quick fix for our fears. If we let these anxieties percolate down into the depths of the mind, there is every possibility that they will linger long after the world has won the battle with the coronavirus. Recovery from that mental toll may be prolonged and difficult.
So how can we deal with our fears here and now, put them to bed and set ourselves on the path towards positivity as the world limps towards full recovery?
Everything in the mind is energy. Fear is no exception. It is an immense cloud of energy that follows us wherever we go. Dark clouds in the sky form as a result of water evaporating from the ground. They appear out of nowhere. Once rain clouds form, they pour their water content back to the earth as rain.
Every thought related to fear that we entertain and identify as real, it evaporates into the growing cloud of the energy of fear. One single drop cannot form a rain cloud. Countless drops of water have to evaporate even to have a chance of developing those clouds. Likewise, a few thoughts here and there linked to our fears cannot create a foreboding shadow of fear.
When most of our thoughts are tinged with fear, then that energy begins to stagnate and accumulate in the form of an immense cloud of fear.
When this cloud of fear gets unmanageable, the body begins to soak up the excess in the form of a stress response. Adrenaline starts to gush and flow throughout the body, and we know that stress can blunt the immune response.
The fear that we entertain disarms the body’s immune system that is so vital in these times. Fear is like a trojan horse that the virus sends within us to disable the immunity guards that are protecting the body.
There are a few immediate measures we can take to reduce the production of the cloud of fear within us.
- If you belong to any social media groups as most of us do, please ask people not to post negative news. Not all that we read on the news is reliable information.
- Why not focus on the positives?
- Instead of locking our attention on the death toll, why not look at numbers of people who have fully recovered? On the television, they list the number of infections and the number of deaths. It is natural for the mind to assume that most infections translate to death, as death is the greatest fear for most people.
- Why highlight that fear constantly? Of course, we need information, but why not make it so that people would have to take an additional step to uncover that information. Instead, they could post the number of infections and the number of people who have recovered. This will give hope and courage to people.
The fear we harbor will dissipate in time, and that energy will have to go somewhere. Instead of transferring that energy to other dormant worries, we can sow seeds of a few positive thoughts, and those thoughts will be able to use that energy.
If a gardener is watering plants while in the middle of an angry outburst, plants don’t reject that water, the nourishing quality of the water does not change on account of the gardener’s anger. Similarly, the energy stored in thoughts related to our fear is like water. Other thoughts can use that energy to produce entirely different fruit.
It is up to us to tend to the fragile seeds of positive thoughts and protect them.
We can do this by surrounding ourselves with positive people, tuning out from negativity on the airwaves, trusting that the scientific experts know what they are doing, and not magnifying our fears by second-guessing their recommendations.
We help ourselves and others by not giving in to the impulse of spreading negative news via social media platforms. It takes one tap of our finger to forward bad news. But we don’t think of the impact it may have on those receiving it.
Think of one good transformation you would like in the world. By taking energy from the low hanging clouds of fear, work on creating that transformation within yourselves. The fruits of such positive change will last life long.