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How to cope with the psychological impact of the Coronavirus outbreak?

The Coronavirus outbreak from the mainland China is still not under control. There are more new cases confirmed each day and the number of death cases is increasing. Since the cure of this disease is still unknown, people are facing enormous uncertainty that causing high level of anxiety and worry.

The contagion of the Coronavirus may cause preoccupation with the inflated risk of infection for many people. This makes those people to be hypervigilant about minor flu symptoms and have the tendency to link minor symptoms with the infection of Coronavirus. The disruption of normal routine, such as the suspension of schooling, may also cause stress to some people.

If the exacerbation of anxiety is severe, people may suffer from sleep disturbances, poor appetite, headache, or panic-like symptoms. Some people may persistently feel anxious, fearful, frustrated and angry. If people’s anxiety level is very high, they may be obsessed with sanitising and cleaning. People may be afraid of going out as they worry about contacting the invisible carriers. They may also frequently measure their body temperature and repeatedly shopping for face masks and sanitisers. Some people will feel very anxious when they cannot buy enough face masks or sanitisers. It is also common for people to keep searching for new information about the outbreak and check the news in the internet nonstop.

The intense anxiety and panic related to the Coronavirus outbreak may affect the rational thinking of some people causing them to have cognitive biases. This may make them to believe in false news and impulsively forwarding those false news to their family and friends. Some people may also believe in some folk prescriptions and think these can cure or prevent the disease. Other people may be cheated by some online shops when they try to find face masks or other supplies for the prevention of being infected.

How can we cope with our inevitable anxiety and worry in the face of such an uncertain outbreak? First of all, we need to keep things in perspective. This means that we need to step back from the outbreak we concern about and try to look at the outbreak in its proper relation to everything else. When we are exposed to news about the outbreak, we need to find credible sources to check the facts instead of believing in information from an unknown source. When we feel overwhelmed by news about the outbreak, we may need to reduce our media exposure and spend some time in other pleasurable activities other then internet surfing for outbreak news.

As much as we can, it is better if we can maintain a routine even when we do not have to go to school or work. Engagement in physical exercises is beyond dispute beneficial to all of us to boost our immune system. Social connection is also very important during this period. Maintaining regular contact with our social networks for support can reduce our distress and improve our mood. Chatting with our family and friends can help us to notice some of our cognitive biases and irrationality when we face the issue of this outbreak.

Last but not least, cultivating mindfulness through meditation or other informal mindfulness exercises, such as mindful eating or walking, can help us to regulate our mood and embrace the uncertainty we are facing. It is very helpful for us to manage our stress and anxiety in the face of this outbreak.

Since the Coronavirus outbreak is such an uncertain global health emergency, it is understandable that we need to be very cautious in our preventive measures. In fact, we all need to embrace our inevitable anxiety and take care of our psychological well-being as well. If people around you suffer from severe anxiety symptoms, it is advisable for them to consult professional for help.

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