Last Friday, I made a quick stop at the grocery store. While I entered the store with no intention of stocking up on hand sanitizer, bottled water, soap, or toilet paper, I could have easily gotten sucked into the frenzy in the cleaning supplies aisle. The signs reading, “Limit of 1 per customer,” made my heart leap as I began to question my lack of fear. Why aren't I stocking up on enough toilet paper to last a lifetime? What's wrong with me?
As a life coach and a self-professed neuroscience junky, I'm fortunate to have an understanding of how the brain works, as well as the tools to redirect my fearful, anxious thoughts. I knew that I was falling into the bandwagon effect of fear-based cognitive bias that's spreading at an alarmingly faster rate than the virus itself.
I'm not saying that we have no reason for concern. For some, it's challenging to avoid cognitive bias (the very normal and common tendency to overemphasize things that are recent and very vivid) because they are not slowing down to look at the real facts surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Anyone's imagination can run wild in situations like these.
Hey, it's no one's fault; this is how the brain functions. My point here is that we can shift our perspective and lower the stress that's related to catastrophic thinking. Remember, excessive stress weakens the immune system, so it's crucial that you take the time to address your anxious thoughts and feelings.
One way to do this is to slow down and recognize the whole truth, rather than focusing on only the negative aspects. Again, the brain quickly jumps on the train to spread negativity far and wide, and it takes a bit of work to direct that train to higher ground.
Examples of fear-based thinking and how to manage it:
If you hear, say, or think something like,
“They're saying that Coronavirus is going infect nearly all us; the world is changing, and it's scary.” (Feel your fear and anxiety mounting.)
Add more facts to your statement like,
“We know that a great majority of those infected are recovering. Many are experiencing few if any, symptoms.”
“I'm afraid that if I don't stock up on things, the stores will run out. What if I can't get my x,y,z?”
Add more facts:
The essential businesses, like grocery stores, will not shut down. Supplies will continue to come in. People who purchased 26 jumbo packs of mega roll toilet paper and a deep freezer's worth of frozen meats and vegetables won't go through it for a long time, so purchasing will slow down.
And then there's this:
“There aren't enough tests. Everyone needs to be tested; that's the only thing that will stop the spread.”
Add this thought:
Confirming that someone has the virus changes nothing; the treatment for unfavorable lung conditions remains the same. Anyone who is ill, whether or not it's Covid-19, needs to stay home or receive medical attention if (and that's a big if) their conditions worsen. All of us don't need to be tested. (This is not only my opinion; doctors and researchers say the same thing.)
If your thoughts are telling you this:
“My investments are dwindling. I fear that, soon, there won't be anything left! What am I going to do?”
The stock market historically rebounds. Your investments are long-term. Today your stocks are down, and soon they will rally.
When your brain jumps on the negative-thinking bandwagon, imagine a stop sign and divert your attention by doing something physical. Jump up and down, dance, turn on an exercise video, and follow along. Breaking the cycle of negativity is imperative to healing the mind. In the moment, it may feel difficult, but it's so incredibly easy once you change tracks. If you have to do it 50 times a day, it's worth it. Soon, your brain will catch on and slow down the negative soundtracks.
Have you ever used or heard of the Emotional Freedom Techniques, aka EFT and Tapping? I call this tool my Secret Weapon because it's just that powerful. While EFT is considered a self-help tool, working with a skilled practitioner is far more effective, especially with your more significant stressors. Contact me to talk about how I can help!