Coronavirus continues to spread around the world and the USA. This spread of the virus is causing people to suffer from anxiety and even panic. Fearing they will be affected by the coronavirus, people are changing their lifestyles, even avoiding social situations. How can we realistically emotionally cope with the coronavirus? Follow the PATH.
Coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization, is part of “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases … Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.”
The idea of a virus, invisible to the naked eye, which can span the globe, is the subject of many a horror movie. Yet this isn’t a fictional movie, and people are getting ill and dying. Thus, the reality of the coronavirus gives us a reason to be anxious and scared. Our fear response keeps us safe and alive. So however you’re feeling about the coronavirus is healthy for you.
I’m not a medical professional, so I’m not writing this article on how to avoid getting the coronavirus. My reason for writing this is to guide us in finding ways to reduce anxiety about the existence of the coronavirus.
Using PATH, the program I developed, is what we’ll apply in this situation. PATH is made up of 4 interconnected strategies to help us focus our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to best respond to the world healthily. In this discussion, I’m in no way minimizing the potential threat or the turmoil the coronavirus has already placed on too many people worldwide.
The first step in practicing PATH is to practice mindfulness. Take a moment throughout the day to recognize how you are feeling in the present moment. Regardless of what you’re feeling, acknowledge it without judging it. If you wish to feel differently, then ask yourself what you can do differently. If there is nothing at the moment you can change, then accept it and find something else you can change.
In light of this mindful meditation, we’ll now start upon our PATH:
Regarding the coronavirus, examine how you feel about it and what you think you know about it. Now, change your perspective by looking at it from a different viewpoint. For instance, spend time studying the virus to gain knowledge instead of false news or hype. Or you could ask yourself how this virus compares to other outbreaks we’ve experienced in the past. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, as of February 28, 2020, there are 2,871 deaths reported worldwide, while the common flu, as of this writing, finds 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the U.S. alone every year. According to those numbers, more people die, in the U.S., from the flu than those who have been killed worldwide from the coronavirus.
Acceptance does not mean agreement or settling. It's about viewing reality, and acknowledging what is happening, ask yourself how you will be or are impacted. In the case of the coronavirus, the acceptance is in the reality that it exists, is spreading, and potentially can kill a person. Now, in this reality, what can and can’t you control? What you can’t control, you need to dismiss from your mind since those thoughts are creating much of your anxiety. Instead, focus on the things you can control. In this situation, you can control where you travel, your personal hygiene, and keeping up to date (non-obsessively) with the latest news on the virus in your location.
Now that we’ve changed our perspective and accepted reality, we’re prepared to take action. Based on the above two steps, what can you realistically do for yourself, your family, or your community to make a difference? In this situation, where the majority of the U.S. is not affected by the virus, can you help others to stay calm or educate them on how to respond to the threat?
Mindfulness and finding inner peace is not about selfishness, but an outpouring of the peace we have experienced. This last step on our PATH focuses on what we can do, as a result of the above steps, to guide others to feel the peace you are now feeling. Then they too will do the same with others. Think of how different our communities would be if everyone was helping another to find peace and reduced anxiety over the coronavirus!
I know too many people have died, and many more people have been negatively affected by the coronavirus. But I also know that by keeping this virus in perspective and helping others to do the same, will benefit us in the long term.
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