In unsettled and uncertain times like these, we are well advised to be cautious. We maintain “social distance,” avoid unnecessary exposures in public places and wash our hands repeatedly as needed.
But how about our caution around our experiences of anxiety and fear? There is much to feed this, like the widely available varieties of malicious social media chatter from questionable sources. Even reliable and authoritative news sources can sometimes sound off inner alarms and reinforce anxiety.
Now, especially, we need to channel our emotional responses to the pandemic we confront, and avoid the physical and emotional consequences of hyper-stress that would otherwise result. It’s worth reminding ourselves that we need to be aware and concerned. We need to do what we are advised and encouraged to do by the people who we trust to know what they’re talking about. We need to act in ways that keep ourselves and each other safe.
But concern is not the same as worry or anxiety. Worry or anxiety has a ruminative quality to it that reinforces passivity and despair. We run a negative scenario over and over again in our mind as fear hijacks our better judgment and capacity to reason. The care, attention and plan-full responses generated by our experience of concern become chewed up by worry.
Let’s stay alert and psychologically resilient during this difficult time. Let’s stay in touch with each other and support helpful social support as we do so. Let’s check in with the reliable sources of news from Minnesota Department of Health, CDC and W.H.O. as needed and without undue attention to each detail. Let’s get outside and into nature as well and often as we can. Let’s watch and read beautiful books and films, and find beautiful interactions with others as best we can.
When we release worry, our genuine concern helps us locate the inner strength and outer resources we need at this time.
Bruce McBeath is a clinical psychologist.