It’s OK to be scared
One thing I’ve really not liked since the outbreak of Coronavirus is the minimising of other people’s fears or worries around it. Images telling us how many people die of cancer, suicide or even obesity every day/year have been doing the rounds, highlighting how small the numbers are for Coronavirus deaths and how silly we are to worry. But I want to ask how is that helpful or even relevant? Cancer is not contagious. Other illnesses should not really be part of the discussion, because what we are dealing with is a unique situation related to one specific virus, which is fairly new and seems to be spreading at a steady rate.
The fear of dying is one of our base human fears and the one that tends to drive a lot of our behaviour, so if as humans, we feel our risk of dying increasing (even by a small amount), it’s quite natural to feel anxiety here.
But aside from this, I’m sure for many the fears are not always around death or dying but perhaps about the impact of Coronavirus on their small business, responsibilities around caring for others or the impact on their mental health if they are quarantined for weeks on end. These are very natural fears and you should be able to express these without the fear of an eye roll reaction from others, or worse, being labelled as a hypochondriac.
People could also be at a higher risk for reasons we may not know about – asthma or other underlying conditions, so it’s worth remembering we don’t always know the whole story of what people are going through.
There is also the constant rhetoric that it is not likely to kill you if you’re younger than 60, so young people don’t need to worry. But of course many of us have parents, grandparents, friends and other relatives in this age bracket. Of course we will worry. Again this is completely natural.
Is this me saying we should all be holed up in our homes, refreshing the Mail online site for an update on cases and frantically searching the dark web for packs of quilted Andrex? Of course not. I would encourage you to try and stay calm, take the necessary precautions but most importantly be kind to yourself and others. Acknowledge your fear and anxiety; try not to push it away or bottle it up as this can make it worse. I want to tell you, it’s ok to be scared, anxious or panicked. Use the tools you have in your tool-box to manage that anxiety, keep in touch with people, wash your hands regularly and try to remain hopeful.
Yes, we know that the press will try and create a sense of fear and panic because it gets clicks and sells papers, so we don’t need to believe everything we read (and it is probably not too wise to be constantly engaging in this if you are feeling anxious), but similarly trying to label this as ‘just flu’ or dismiss it as not really a problem is naïve and inaccurate.
So please don’t minimise someone’s fears or worries about Coronavirus. If someone is fearful about the situation, allow them the space to express their fears, rather than exclaiming that everyone is overreacting and should get a grip.
Lastly, be kind, be generous, not just with your toilet roll 😉 but also with your words.