What the Coronavirus Reveals About Our Fears and Mental Health
The world is coming to an end. Or is it?
Stock market trading halted. The largest companies in the world urging their employees to work from home. The National Basketball Association suspending play. No fans permitted at major sporting events or tournaments. Colleges and universities — closed for the rest of the school year. Travel bans, social distancing… it’s the season of fear and hysteria.
And yes, it may in fact just be a season. The thing is, no one really knows.
“There is still considerable uncertainty around the fatality rates of COVID-19 and it likely varies depending on the quality of local healthcare,” Francois Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology at University College London. Source: Science Alert
What we know is that COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, started in Wuhan, China and is now having a devastating impact on health, the world economy and everyone’s psyche. It’s officially been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) and with good reason, many people are very concerned about what might happen next.
The thing is — we don’t know for sure what will happen. And while many of the smartest scientists and doctors in the world have acknowledged COVID-19 as a real threat, it’s still very early to know how fast it will spread, much less how many people will die or how quickly this can be contained.
Fear and What’s Next
It’s a scary time, no doubt, but it’s also a time to be strong and not allow fear to take control of your mental health. We’re better than that. It’s a time to act smart, become educated and take the right measures to ensure your own safety and health.
Watching this mass confusion play out in real time on Twitter, cable news and in the local grocery store has been maddening. Because so many people still don’t understand or really know what’s going on, they’re acting mostly on fear and hysteria.
It’s true hysteria that is perpetuating the average person’s behavior right now.
This virus — while a very serious threat — has shown just how much fear can drive our thinking and behavior.
Whether it’s dips in the stock market, shifts in business trends or even what drives our everyday behavior, fear can play an enormous role. Fear can keep us in bed, prevent us from pursuing the life we really want and it can limit future opportunities. When we’re scared, we often act irrationally. We think differently and often negatively. This can impact everyone around us.
We are influenced by emotions which can lead us to feel a particular way, just as our physical condition can lead to a downturn in health. Ultimately, a significant part of the human experience is realizing just how much power we have over each moment to decide to live in victory — not fear.
Fear is both our friend and our enemy. When we’re weak mentally and emotionally, fear is poison. Fear will destroy us. When we’re strong mentally and emotionally, we think and act with confidence. We make rational decisions and maintain a positive outlook for the future.
History as Our Guide
During his inauguration address 87 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt encapsulated the profound moment in American history with a quote for all time. It was the peak of the Great Depression. The nation was paralyzed by fear. Roosevelt realized that in order for recovery to take place, a shift in thinking was necessary. The psychological impact of fear had gripped millions.
There he stood at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC and said some of the most famous words ever spoken:
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The same applies today. The only thing we should really fear is fear. We should continue to act in an intelligent, prudent manner and take all the precautions necessary to protect ourselves — and others — from getting sick. We should listen to the authorities and take the threat of this virus seriously.
We also bear the responsibility to be bigger — and stronger — mentally and emotionally. Don’t give in to fear. Don’t perpetuate fear that leads to hysteria.
Fear is a choice. What will you decide?