Coping with the fear of the Coronavirus…

The word Coronavirus is enough to strike anxiety into the hearts of most of us. We’ve seen the rapidly ascending worldwide case statistics and our immediate thoughts are for our loved ones and the fear that we may catch it and pass it on to others.

If you’ve been reading my posts over the past couple of weeks you will know that my husband and I went to Florence in February. When we arrived at Pisa airport we had our temperatures taken by Italian red cross workers even though at the time there had only been a couple of cases and none in Pisa or Florence. But apart from seeing one of the workers in the Duomo wearing a mask, and a few handwashing notices, there was nothing to suggest that there should be any alarm.

Now, less than a month later, at the time of writing this there are just over 9000 cases in Italy and there have been 463 deaths.

I live in Spain and today there are 1073 cases which is an increase of over 399 on yesterday’s figures and the numbers are rapidly rising.

I’ve been shocked by the images on TV and the impact that the virus has had on people’s daily lives.

To me, the world suddenly seems very small and very vulnerable.

I think the worst thing is that we are facing something which we cannot control which is why people are rushing out to buy supplies. Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos: expert in consumer and behavioural science at the University College London confirms this “… in public health issues we have no idea about the time or intensity and we get messages on a daily basis that we should go into panic mode that we buy into more than we need to. It’s our only tool of control.”

This explains the reports of people panic buying in the supermarkets around the world. Here, in Spain, the shops have been selling out of masks and hand sanitiser. Many of the masks have apparently been bought by the local Chinese community who are sending them back to relatives in China. To date, the toilet roll aisles are still fully stocked, although for how much longer I don’t know.

There are moments when my mind starts to run away with me and all the what if scenarios come flooding in. What if travel is limited to and from certain countries and I cannot access my family in the UK? What if my son, who has asthma, catches it and becomes seriously ill? What if I catch it and inadvertently pass it on to my elderly mother? I know that these concerns are shared by many of you and that for some of you these concerns may even have become a reality.

So how can we cope when we feel anxious, when our hearts contract with fear, when we feel vulnerable and out of control, afraid of what might happen?

First, we can take a deep breath. Our breath can anchor us in the present moment, keep our minds from racing ahead and painting bleak scenarios. All we can control is the present moment so we need to focus on what we can we do each moment to help ourselves and those around us, even if that is just one simple gesture of washing our hands.

Secondly, we should be careful with our information sources. I’ve started limiting myself to reading the news from reliable sources. This seems obvious, but if we mindlessly trawl the internet we are susceptible to misinformation and this can raise our anxiety levels. I’m also keeping away from sensationalist newspapers as tempting as it is to read them.

Reliable sources include the World Health Organization and the NHS. On their websites we can find the relevant statistics and advice on how to protect ourselves.

We also have to trust in the experts, the health professionals and trust that we will receive the advice and help we need as this crisis unfolds.

My heart goes out to all the families who have been affected by the virus.

Whereabouts in the world are you and how are you coping?

Jacqueline xx

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