COVID-19 has many people concerned and even panicking over what they believe is an uncertain future. We feel insecure about our place in the world and fearful for the lives of our loved ones. Concern is a natural response to the unknown. Panicking, on the other hand, is more extreme and can demand specialized attention. Our perspectives have shifted and our reaction to our new world can cause intense anxiety. Intense anxiety leads to panic attacks that can immobilize our lives. A shift in perspective is essential to move forward. 

It is completely normal to feel anxious about the coronavirus. This isn’t the worst pandemic we’ve experienced, by far, but with the twenty-four-hour news cycle focusing on the worst cases, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed. Those of us who already suffer from anxiety and depression can start to spiral and get lost. We must have a plan to get through that time. 

How Can You Tell If You Are Moving From Concern Into Panic-Mode?

The Washington Post describes the response to the coronavirus as a “line dividing a cautious and responsible reaction from a panicked, entirely self-protective and competitive response can be thin and not entirely rational”. Concern involves careful handwashing, social distancing, and sneezing into your elbow. Someone who is panicking may be hoarding, having anxiety attacks, and isolating themselves even from the telephone. 

If you, or someone you know, are teetering towards the more severe side of the line, help may be warranted. Panic behaviors are symptoms of an underlying anxiety disorder and you, or your loved one, deserve relief from some of the most immobilizing indicators of the disease: 

  • restlessness and inability to relax
  • excessive worry
  • irritability
  • feelings of impending doom
  • irrational fears
  • avoidance of triggering situations
  • panic attacks

Every single person is experiencing this virus in their way, through their own eyes, experiences, and expectations. When we hear that stopping the spread of this disease is up to us and “flattening the curve,” our worries become all-consuming. Our paranoia increases as our routines fluctuate unexpectedly and our depression rises. We find ourselves restless with all of this extra time that we would usually spend doing other things. Concern yourself with what you can control and not what you can’t.

The Circle Of Concern And Of Influence

A circle of concern and influence is a diagram the looks a little like a bullseye. A smaller circle lays inside a larger circle. The smaller circle is called the circle of influence and the larger circle is called the circle of concern. The larger circle includes issues that you may be concerned about but that you cannot control, such as the actions of other people, what’s on the news, and the coronavirus. The smaller circle of influence contains issues that you do have control over, such as your attitude, your actions, and your reactions to the issues in the circle of concern. 

The entire premise is that you shouldn’t panic about what you don’t have control over. Save your worries for the things that you can control. The circles can shrink or get bigger based on where our attentions are. If we are too focused on the existential properties of the virus then we don’t have time to think about our behaviors. Some parts of our lives can then be neglected. The goal is to increase the size of the inner circle, the sphere of what we can control, to make our lives and the lives of our loved ones more positive. In turn, we feel more positive and in control of our lives and our futures. 

How Can I Stay Calm During A Crisis?

Remember what you can control and what you can’t. There are many ways to alleviate your stress, anxiety, and feelings of panic during the pandemic. Schools are closing, businesses are shut down, and more and more people are being sent home to work. It is hard to deal with the stress that this virus has given us and we need to take measures to lessen the tension. Applied relaxation, meditation, and yoga can all be done at home and there are many videos online that can lead you through the exercises.  

  • limit your intake of the news and even reevaluate your media sources if you need
  • take all necessary precautions but don’t overdo it and don’t make up your own 
  • try to maintain a steady routine and do your best to stick with it
  • don’t isolate yourself completely
  • limit your time on computers, cell phones, and social media
  • always tell someone when you are feeling anxious and scared

You should be getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining your perspective. Talking to someone helps but becomes more complex while social distancing. Calling someone every day, just to chat and check in with them can make a world of difference. There are professionals ready to help you as well, and they can do so over the phone, from your own home.