Posted on March 16, 2020 by janice
IS IT THE VIRUS, OR IS IT ANXIETY?
So, let me start with a question…how much toilet paper do you have in your house right now?
Silly question, right? Yet, last Saturday I saw two women literally push each other out of the way to get to the toilet paper in my local Walmart.
Did you know panic, anxiety, stress can create very similar symptoms to a virus such as headache, dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain, cough, fatigue, sore throat. No wonder people are in such a state! They think they’re sick because they’re anxious and they’re anxious because they’re sick.
Those who have been diagnosed with the corona virus did not, obviously, contract it because they were anxious. My point is, the more anxious you allow yourself to become the more likely you’ll feel sick!
Why be part of the panicking crowd? Do you really need all that toilet paper?
Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million Americans every year. Unfortunately, only about 37% receive treatment. (National Institutes of Health) Some have a physiological based anxiety, others become stressed and anxious due to a trigger or critical event such as this COVID-19 epidemic.
When there is a traumatic or critical event, such as the COVID-19 epidemic, people experience higher levels of anxiety. Those who work hard to manage their physiological anxiety may find it extremely difficult to cope with the level of stress that’s being foisted on us by the media.
So, here’s the premise: you’re making yourself sick in order to help the news media make money. Is that logical?
The news media makes money on exacerbating your anxiety, physiological or otherwise. Like a “broken record” (or scratched DVD) you hear over and over, “there’s not enough testing…” those in charge “…don’t know what they’re doing…” “there’s shortages of everyday products we need…” “…there’s going to be a recession…” and on and on. Its like scratching your fingernails on a blackboard. You can’t stand it! And, by the way, you can’t control it either. The only thing you can control is yourself.
It’s time to change the tune! TURN THE TV OFF! Yes, turn it off, change the channel. Remove the notifications on your phone for “alerts” such as updates of how many people have the corona virus. Do you really need to know how many people in Oregon have the virus (unless of course you live in Oregon)?
Do you really need to know that the shelves in your local supermarket are cleaned out (as they generally can be at the end of a busy day or even holiday)? You don’t hear the media telling you, “…oh, by the way, Shoprite has restocked their shelves…” do you? Why? It doesn’t sell! The news media, whether electronic, print or otherwise, makes its money based upon how many people listen to it, see it or read it. TURN THE TV OFF! The more people who actively listen, see or read, the more time they can sell advertising to those who produce goods or sell services (such as bug exterminator or a car dealership).
So, not only are you torturing your poor tired, already stressed-out mind, with these nonsensical talking heads, but you’re helping them to make a great deal of money on your pain! TURN THE TV OFF!
Stop being reactive and be proactive!
Post 9/11 I worked at in outpatient mental health facility associated with a local hospital. A few other colleagues and I had just been trained in “critical incident stress debriefing.” We were asked to conduct group therapy using this debriefing method with people who had been at the World Trade Center. I found one of the best things these poor traumatized people could do for themselves…you guessed it, TURN THE TV OFF!
You see, each time they would watch that jet plane crash into the tower, they were retraumatizing themselves. Reliving that awful day, again, and again.
What are you doing now? The fear and stress you may be feeling as a result of this epidemic are being fed until it’s big and fat! Why, because the tv is on! TURN THE TV OFF!
We are being advised to engage in “social distance.” Don’t stand too close to others, work from home, don’t send your kids to school. Indeed, many schools have closed. How about you engage in “electronic distancing” TURN THE TV OFF!
The irony here is, according to the CDC, about SEVEN MILLION (7,000,000) people were reported to have contracted the flu in 2019. Not the coronavirus, but the flu. As of March 12, again, according to the CDC, about 1700 people in the USA had contracted the coronavirus. Is the coronavirus serious? Yes. Is the elderly especially at risk? Yes. Are those with a compromised immune system at risk? Yes. But they are at risk every flu season. Your 85-year-old grandmother with asthma isn’t going to visit her cousin Sadie who has a severe head cold!
Let me make myself very clear, you must consider the advice of the CDC and/or your doctor. I am not saying you don’t need to concern yourself with this epidemic, that would be dangerous. But exacerbate anxiety, induce panic? Fight another person over toilet paper or paper towel? Absurd. Reduce your “intake” of the obsessed news media to maybe once each day just to keep up to date, then TURN THE TV OFF!
You know what you need to do. Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, throw your used tissues in the trash, not on the floor or street. Common sense. Do you really need the TV to tell you this? I think no. TURN THE TV OFF!
Working with a therapist may offer you some relief of the stress you may feel as a result of this pandemic. Many, such as I, will work with you via a video service such as “What’s App” “Zoom” etc. If you’re worried about going to someone’s office during this stressful time, inquire as to whether you can meet via video! You’re not a technical person? No worries, using these services are intuitive, take it from someone who is especially tech challenged!
“Contain” the anxiety and panic by distancing yourself from the news media. Anxiety is no joke. Panic attacks are frightening. Anxiety due to a critical event is awful. Take care of yourself, take care of your family. Then worry about what everyone else is doing. Reduce your attention to the news media to perhaps one time each day for 10 minutes. Listen to the weather reports or traffic, but all else, DISTANCE yourself! Worried if you may be sick? Call you doctor!
If you’re not sick or don’t believe you’re sick, but stuck at home, nevertheless, play a game, take a walk on a sunny day in the fresh air. Read a book, take care of those home projects you’ve been meaning to get to. You’ll be pleased with how levelheaded you were (and are) when this virus finally blows through as it will do sooner than you may think!
But remember, TURN THE TV OFF!
JANICE DELLA BADIA, LCSW
Life/Transformational Coach and Psychotherapist
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