emotions

Staying Calm in the Chaos: How to Fearlessly Respond to Coronavirus

Author: John Assaraf | 2020

As cases of coronavirus proliferate, I’m sure you’ve noticed the stress, fear, and anxiety snowballing out of control.

No doubt about it, we’re all feeling overwhelmed with the constant media coverage and streaming advice from the country’s leadership. So you’re not alone.

This is intense. And everything is in a state of constant flux.

Panicky people are hoarding canned food and medical supplies while other people—on the opposite side of the spectrum—are wandering around lackadaisical, shaking hands, and going to Starbucks . . . 

People of all ages are forming long lines at Trader Joe’s to stock up on frozen food, getting familiar with social distancing, feeling somewhat isolated . . . and driving around aimlessly in their cars.

Where do I go? What do I do? Stay calm or panic? What’s the truth, reality, and severity of this pandemic? Is it even real?

Truth is, human beings suffer when circumstances seem beyond our control . . .  or because we have not yet learned how to protect or effectively manage our fear, doubt, anxiety, worry, and the overwhelming stress that comes with it.

So what happens? 

Sheer panic.

coronavirus don't panic

And every day we turn to the news, it’s something new, and mostly seems bad. All of the inconclusive information immediately impacts our lives—disrupting our normal, comfortable routines that we rely on every day.

It’s completely normal and natural to be feeling the fear response right now. Panic arises during times of uncertainty when things are rapidly changing every day: businesses and institutions are shutting down, politicians are starting to get sober and somber, people are losing money left and right . . . And tens of thousands of jobs are put on hold or lost every 24 hours.

And as citizens, we have to find a united, common ground. We have to shut down the extreme behavior that's happening on either end of the spectrum. 

Ignorance is not bliss in this case . . .

There are still people showing total disregard and disrespect out there. For example, a crowd of 20-30 somethings was recently found partying on the beaches of Florida to celebrate Spring Break 2020. (The governor told the young folks to go home.) All the beaches are closed now. (SOURCE)

This is big news because we’re starting to see some fatal COVID-19 cases among younger people as well.

Sure it’s unlikely, but young, healthy people can come down with a severe case of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus if they catch it—even if they aren’t overexposed health care workers or first responders. 

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease and Prevention: "The US will likely see more young people get really sick over the next several weeks simply because the pandemic is still growing." 

Covid -19Coronaviruses owe their name to the crown-like projections, visible here under a microscope, that encircle the capsid. Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Problem is, days can pass before someone starts feeling the symptoms of COVID-19. This is why experts contribute the jump in the number of cases in the U.S. to those who have been in incubation periods. And we anticipate more reported cases in the coming weeks. (SOURCE)

Right now, since the coronavirus is highly transmissible and there is not a vaccine yet,  the importance of social distancing to buy time and flatten the epidemic curve is huge. The best-case scenario is that there is a calm and respectful collective response to prevent a sharp peak of infections and ICU overflow.

So this pandemic will affect all of us for a while? Yes.

Will we overcome the novel coronavirus? Yes, of course!

But we still must listen to the scientists, experts, and leaders.

The outbreak is enough to make even the wealthiest people in the world worrisome. And due to the global reach and instantaneous nature of modern media, fear contagion can spread just as fast as the virus.

It’s okay; our brains are wired to worry.

Luckily, we can override the fear response by implementing techniques that help us calm the fear circuits, naturally.

In times of crisis and uncertainty, most people overreact and become irrational because of the automatic fear response that happens in the brain.

Our brains are biologically and genetically programmed for survival and pain avoidance, be it real or imagined, physical, emotional, or financial.

To our brain, it doesn’t matter. The automatic fear response always works the same. And whenever the fear circuits are activated, your brain releases stress hormones— through the bloodstream— to all cells of your body.

brain life

Your brain has 4 missions in life.

  1. To survive above all else.
  2. To avoid pain or discomfort.
  3. To conserve energy.
  4. To gain pleasure.

The brain’s fear response outcomes are commonly known as freeze, flight, faint, or fight. And we share these automatic, unconscious behaviors with other animal species.

Imagine a herd of mule deer grazing in the San Juan Mountains. Suddenly, one senses a stalking cougar! The deer freezes, feels the fear, and quickly sets off an alarm call and runs in the opposite direction. In the blink of an eye, the other deer follow her lead.

Experiencing fear is part of being alive. It’s part of the reason we’ve survived as a species. Our brains want to keep us safe and conserve as much energy as possible in times of stress.

We learn early in life to be afraid of anything that causes pain and suffering. And in its healthiest form, this is a good way to ensure our survival . . . and create the conditions necessary for safety and well-being.

But at the same time, we must learn how to recognize the difference between real fear and neural dissonance . . . and stop the chaos at its source by taking the reins and focusing on our perspective, response, and process.

Perspective, Response, and Process (PRP)

Dissonance is exhausting for both you and your brain. It creates unfavorable behaviors such as lack of organization, mood swings, chaotic thinking, lack of focus, confusion, overwhelm, worry, stress, and anxiety.

And no, you cannot simply override the automatic fear triggers of millions of years of brain evolution, but you can learn how to be mindful and aware . . . so you can better harness the power of your thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

What we do now to help stop the spread of disease is paramount.

So how do we lower our stress levels?

Similar to fear, anxiety is an emotional response designed to keep us out of danger. However, while fear typically occurs in the presence of an identifiable threat, anxiety usually occurs in the absence of it.

In other words, anxiety is caused by our thoughts, worries, or concerns related to fear, not the actual existence whatever is causing the fear itself.

coronavirus notes

When it comes to eliminating stress and anxiety, or at least lessening their effects, the first step is to develop awareness.

Where is your anxiety coming from exactly?

There are three general areas of the brain where anxiety originates: The prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus (with the other areas associated with memory), and the amygdala.

It’s important to recognize which circuit of your brain triggers your anxiety so that you can pinpoint the root and effectively go about treating it.

Prefrontal Cortex - When the prefrontal cortex is in overdrive, people tend to worry and have trouble letting go of negative thoughts that contribute to anxiety. Although this area is often associated with "rational thought," it's important to realize that not all of the thoughts are truly rational.

Hippocampus –The hippocampus stores memories and emotions.. When a situation arises, your brain automatically pulls up related memories. If your past experiences in similar scenarios were very negative, that triggers the anxiety response.

Amygdala – The amygdala is responsible for the physical reaction our bodies produce in the midst of stress or panic. Muscle tension, heart palpitations, or sweaty palms are all a result of a hyperactive amygdala initiating “panic mode,” in response to a real or perceived threat.

If your anxiety comes from the thoughts and images flowing through your mind, it is your prefrontal cortex—the area just above and behind your eyes—that needs to be addressed. If strong anxiety reactions appear to be triggered for no apparent reason, your brain may be pulling up negative memories from the past.

If, however, there is a real threat, your amygdala will trigger a fear response to help you get out of harm's way.

While there are many tactics you can use to tackle your anxiety, here are 8 of the most effective ways you can calm your mind (your prefrontal cortex) and reduce the possibility of stimulating your amygdala.

And for further reading on releasing anxiety, here’s the NeuroGym guide to eliminating anxiety.

Innercise: Take 6 Breathes to Calm the Fear Circuits

Here’s a simple breathing technique I use daily, it’s a foundational Innercise called, Take 6 Calm the Circuits. Do this now!

Take six very slow, deep rhythmic breaths—in through your nose and out through your mouth—like you’re blowing out through a straw. As you breathe in and out, say:

  • I breathe in calmness; I breathe out fear.
  • I breathe in calmness; I breathe out panic.
  • I breathe in calmness; I breathe out stress.
  • I breathe in calmness; I breathe out anxiety.
  • I breathe in calmness; I breathe out overwhelm.
  • I breathe in calmness; I breathe out uncertainty.

By doing this Innercise, you’ll deactivate the fear/stress response (sympathetic nervous system) and reactivate your parasympathetic nervous system, which allows you to respond versus react.

This is so important to practice right now because with all the new information we receive during this crazy time, we need to be able to process it in a way that keeps us calm, confident, and clear.

In addition to shifting perspective and gaining knowledge about how to stay calm and clear in times of fear, information about safety is equally important.

Whatever your situation is right now and whatever you believe about all this chaos and uncertainty, one thing is certain: Coronavirus is a big deal that demands our attention right now.

Stay in the Know.

What is this virus? How dangerous is it to you and to other people as we’re going through this together?

Below, I listed a bunch of sources for you to review. The information will bring you up to speed with the most current news so you can continue to make smart decisions for you and your family.

What can we do to stop the spread of the coronavirus?

Stay calm and Wash your hands

 

social distancing graphic

 

What else do I need to know about the coronavirus right now?

Coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs small droplets—packed with the virus—into the air. These can be breathed in, or cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on, then your eyes, nose, or mouth.

And a new US study shows that COVID- 19 lives for hours in air particles and days on surfaces. So be sure to disinfect all surfaces and keep out of others’ airspace.

Face masks do not provide enough effective protection, according to medical experts. (SOURCE)

CORONA VIRUS SYMPTOMS

 

Compared to other conditions

The world has seen three significant pandemics caused by a coronavirus in the 21st century.

In 2003, SARS- 1 originated in southern China, causing a deadly pandemic that disrupted the economy as far-reaching as Canada. In 2012, coronavirus emerged out of Saudi Arabia. And today, SARS CV-2, COVID- 19 has become a global health threat.

These are all serious actors in terms of global health threats and are why we should prioritize vaccination at this time.

But this coronavirus (SARS CV-2), is not as deadly as SARS-1 was. With SARS- 1, people, no matter how old or fragile, would get sick as hell and often end up in an ICU.

So there weren’t a lot of people walking around during this pandemic, and that’s why it burned out fairly quickly.

But, according to vaccine scientist Dr. Peter Hotez, COVID- 19 is only serious to certain groups of people. So there are a lot of young, healthy people walking around with the virus but not getting sick. This is a problem because the virus continues to circulate unbeknownst to us.

It’s only certain groups of people getting the disease are people over 70, people with an underlying disability, health care workers, and first responders. These are the populations getting infected while children and healthy adults show little to no symptoms. (SOURCE)

To protect the vulnerable group, we have to take this “self-quarantine” thing seriously, says Hotez.

Unfortunately, the drawbacks of social distancing can include loneliness, reduced productivity, and the loss of other benefits associated with human interaction.

So please be sure to call your loved ones . . . and check-in regularly with people in your community. Think of the elders and people with health issues. Think of the people on the frontlines—all putting themselves at risk to save lives.

stats covid 10 520

covid 19 cases distribution country

SOURCE

FOR CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL (CDD) RESOURCES, CLICK HERE

FOR GUIDE TO THE OUTBREAK (UPDATED VIRUS MAPS & CHARTS), CLICK HERE

vaccine in the works

Here’s some good news about COVID-19. Progress is being made!

  • A 103-year-old Chinese woman, Zhang Guangfen, has made a full recovery from COVID-19 after receiving treatment for just six days at a hospital in Wuhan. (SOURCE)
  • Apple has reopened all 42 of its retail stores in China. 
  • A vaccine is in the works. An experimental vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. began the first stage of a clinical trial with testing on 45 healthy adults in Seattle. (SOURCE)
  • The biotech company, Arcturus Therapeutics, is developing a COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with Duke University and National University of Singapore. (SOURCE)

Many of us are still feeling symptoms of stress—physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially.

Current news headlines read: Coronavirus has spread to more than 180 countries and claimed more than 11,000 lives. And include facts like: There are now more than 270,000 confirmed cases, the majority outside China where the virus originated.

Eliminate Anxiety Naturally

 

You Can Choose How to Respond to What’s Happening 

As you gain new knowledge, read, and take in all the information about the pandemic, be mindful of the reality of the situation. Separate fact from fiction and remember that mental focus and emotional management is critical right now.

Mindfully Practice Awareness, Intention, and Action (AiA)

Another Innericse from my bestselling book Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power is AiA.

It’s all about being mindful of your thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations, and behaviors in a calm state of mind so you can evaluate if they are empowering or disempowering you.

Try it now. Are your current thoughts surrounding the situation constructive or destructive? Are they positive or negative?

The reason this is so critical is because when we are in a state of stress, fear or laden with anxiety- chances are that we are automatically reacting vs deliberately and intelligently responding with the best actions.

It’s important to note that we are not helpless in light of current news events. With a little practice, we can almost always deliberately choose our response with mindfulness and awareness.

Our brain’s top priorities are survival and pain avoidance, and that’s okay. I’m cool with that. But it often causes us to react in unfavorable ways. When our safety is threatened some of us will react with a strong fear response and go into panic mode.

Fear and panic often lead to unrealistic behaviors and behaviors that overlook the needs of others. In panic mode, we dismiss others and are not always decent citizens with the intention to be mindful and aware of the community.

Do you agree with the importance of staying calm so you can respond better through these challenging times of uncertainty?

Here are two more very important things you can do with awareness, intention, and action.

1. Flatten the Curve

The overarching problem isn’t just the virus itself. The major problem occurs when we all get it at the same time, and our hospitals are too full for everyone. Our health care providers and hospitals cannot take care of everyone at once.

Being aware and knowledgeable of the importance of flattening the epidemic curve is the best thing to do right now. We can do this by taking social distancing very seriously.

Flattening the curve means that all the social distancing measures now being deployed in places like Italy and South Korea, and on a smaller scale in places like Seattle and California, aren’t so much about preventing illness but rather slowing down the rate at which people get sick.

The goal of containment is to flatten the curve, which will lower the peak of the surge of demand that will hit healthcare providers. And to buy time, in hopes a drug can be developed.

“If more of us do that, we will slow the spread of the disease. That means my mom and your mom will have a hospital bed if they need it,” said Emily Landon, an infectious disease specialist, and hospital epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine.

So even if you’re young and healthy, it’s your responsibility as a global citizen to follow social distancing measures. Together we can avoid spreading it to others and keep the epidemic in slow motion.

“The more young and healthy people are sick at the same time, the more old people will be sick, and the more pressure there will be on the health care system,” Landon explained.

Hospitals filled with COVID- 19 patients won’t just strain to care for those patients—doctors may also have to prioritize them over others. “Right now there’s always a doctor available when you need one, but that may not be the case if we’re not careful,” Landon said. (SOURCE)

flatten the curve

SOURCE: CDC / IMAGE CREDIT: Christina Animashaun - Vox

A new Harvard analysis shows that many parts of the United States will have far too few hospital beds if the new coronavirus continues to spread widely and if nothing is done to expand capacity.

In 40 percent of markets around the country, hospitals would not be able to make enough room for all the patients who became ill with Covid-19, even if they could empty their beds of other patients. That statistic assumes that 40 percent of adults become infected with the virus over 12 months, a scenario described as “moderate” by the team behind the calculations. (SOURCE)

 

hospital beds 1

 

hospital beds 2

“If we don’t make substantial changes, both in spreading the disease over time and expanding capacity, we’re going to run out of hospital beds,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, which produced the estimates. “And in that instance, we will not be able to take care of critically ill people, and people will die.” (SOURCE)

Studies have found that being in the presence of a calm and confident person may help overcome fear acquired through observation of others. (SOURCE)

And according to Jacek Debiec, M.D., Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and an Assistant Research Professor in the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, at the University of Michigan, “Actions matter more than words, and words and actions must match.”

Debiec gives this example, “explaining to people that there’s no need for a healthy person to wear a protective face mask and at the same time showing images of presumably healthy COVID-19 screening personnel wearing hazmat suits is counterproductive. People will go and buy face masks because they see authority figures wearing them when confronting invisible danger.”

Words still matter and information about danger and safety must be provided clearly with straightforward instructions on what to do. When you are under significant stress, it is harder to process details and nuances. Withholding important facts or skewing reality increases uncertainty, and uncertainty augments fears and anxiety. (SOURCE)

Debiec reminds us: “Evolution hardwired human beings to share threats and fears with others. But it also equipped us with the ability to cope with these threats together.” (SOURCE)

2. Flip the Switch on Your Emotions

Here’s another Innercise I’d like to share with you. It’s called Flip the Switch: Actors Studio. We can learn to switch our emotions just like a Hollywood actor.

We can move from one emotion and focus to another on command. This is a skill we must all learn. Try it. Quickly switch from feeling fearful to courageous. Angry to calm. 

We have to be able to see both the negative and positive: the bad and the good, the danger and the opportunity.

The opposite of fear is courage; the opposite of ignorance is knowledge; the flip side of doubt is certainty, and gaining the skills necessary to manage your stress, fear, and anxiety requires a little training in mental and emotional control, which is something we don’t learn in school.

So despite the monstrous selloff in the marketplace that’s causing people to unload and unhinge . . . we must respond to what's going on in the world with awareness, intention, and action.

stock market crash

We have to activate the genius part of our brain and respond from a place of knowledge, positive imagination, and certainty.

Just like smart investors respond with knowledge, experience, and awareness, we need to respond to all areas of our life with clarity rather than ignorance. We must learn and practice the techniques that help us control our nervous system and wisely handle a bear market.

All the stress, fear, and anxiety that people are feeling right now is devastating.

My heart goes out to those battling illness while navigating this challenging time. And many people, young and old, are feeling alone and afraid. It is heartbreaking.

I have the deepest gratitude for the scientists and healthcare workers working around the clock to curb this coronavirus.

And I'm certain that if we pull it together, we’ll make it through this uncertain time in history and grow stronger, wiser, and more resilient as a result. So again, please review the facts and severity of this crisis right now and stay home to stay well.

Over a period of time, we will thrive again. We'll be able to gather, make money, have fun, and travel again. Don't worry. 

Manage what’s happening now. Take a look at what you are in control of—your thoughts, actions, and behavior. 

If you would like to dive deeper and discover how to gain more emotional and mental control in your life right now, consider watching the free on-demand training I created for you.

The training helps you recognize and release any stress and anxiety and overcome any fear that's affecting you now.  CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Knowledge and skill give you the ability to navigate your life better so that you achieve your goals and dreams faster and easier than ever before.

Register for the FREE Training and Overcome Your Fear!

 

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About The Author

John Assaraf

John Assaraf is one of the leading mindset and behavioral experts in the world, with a unique ability to help people release mental and emotional blocks that keep them from achieving their life’s biggest goals and dreams. He's written 2 New York Times Bestselling books, appeared on Larry King, and was featured in 8 movies, including "Quest For Success" with Richard Branson and the Dalai Lama. Now, he is the CEO of NeuroGym, a company dedicated to using the most advanced neuroscience-based training to help individuals and maximize their fullest potential.

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