How to Deal With the Anxiety Caused by Deniers of the Coronavirus Pandemic

We live in a time of intense anxiety. More than enough to worry about your own physical and mental health and financial security. And there is another well-known stressor that many of us weren’t expecting: the anxiety that occurs when someone you know doesn’t understand the severity of a coronavirus outbreak, especially when it’s a close friend or member of your own family.

This applies to people of any age. While we recently wrote about how to talk to parents, grandparents, and older relatives about the coronavirus, some young people also ignore warnings from public health experts and go on spring break to places like Daytona Beach . (Are spring break destinations at the best of times optimal spots for germs to spread due to clogging in hotel rooms, sharing cups, etc.)? Lifehacker spoke to several mental health experts about how to deal with the stress and anxiety you might face after experiencing someone’s lax attitude about COVID-19, and why this is our concern in the first place.

Why pandemic deniers may be of concern to others

Regardless of why someone doesn’t care about an outbreak, a casual talk about public health can quickly turn into a stressful argument when you find they aren’t taking it seriously. According to Dr. W. Nate Upshaw, psychiatrist and medical director of NeuroSpa TMS , this situation can be stressful in two ways. “It could be causing general concern that people are not taking the outbreak seriously,” he told Lifehacker. “Talking to a friend or loved one who thinks so can remind you that there are others who don’t take the threat seriously, which can be stressful. Another way to cause concern is the real possibility that someone who does not follow the recommended protocols could infect you or someone you love. ”

In a similar vein, Dr. Carla Marie Manley , a clinical psychologist, tells Lifehacker that we are partly concerned that when people do not perceive the coronavirus as a serious threat, it can “seriously burden those around them, as carelessness on the part of any individual increases the likelihood of transmission and serious illness or death for that person and for anyone who comes in contact with that person. “

It can also trigger a disturbing fight-or-flight response in those who follow all public health guidelines because it encourages the person to question their own judgment, explains Linda Snell, a New Method Wellness therapist. “It could create a sense of invalidity regarding your own reaction to the severity of the coronavirus, which raises a sense of doubt. Doubt can lead to a constant need for reassurance, making the person feel anxious in the absence of confidence, ”she tells Lifehacker. “Compliance is a form of confidence.” Here are six tips from mental health professionals on how to deal with anxiety in these situations.

Practice mindfulness and live in the moment

The coronavirus outbreak has not been easy for Dr. Steven Rosenberg , a psychotherapist and behavioral therapist. “My fiance doesn’t take coronavirus seriously,” he tells Lifehacker. “In fact, she told me that she really didn’t know why there was such a fuss. It comes from a woman who is worried about everything. ” He has found that during tense conversations it helps to get back to the moment.

“I saw that I was concerned that everyone in my mind was getting the virus,” he says. “I just went back to the present and walked away from negative expectations of the future,” he says. “When I came back to that moment, I felt surprisingly better … Remember what you are doing now! Control yourself in the moment. That’s better.

Make sure they do their best to stay generally healthy.

When you are trying to talk to someone about the coronavirus and they are not worried about it, you can at least ask them about their general health. If you have a friend, family member, or coworker who you think is not taking sufficient precautions, remind them of the importance of maintaining mental and physical strength so they can be resistant to the coronavirus, Dr. Carol Lieberman , Board Certified Council tells Lifehacker psychiatrist and a public health expert. “Encourage them to eat well, take vitamins, get enough sleep and exercise, wash their hands and do something every day to reduce their stress levels,” she explains. “When you do your best to help them focus on these basics of their health, it will also reduce your anxiety.”

Try to enlighten the person

At this point, you may have already tried to talk to this person about the severity of the situation and can go beyond the point where everything you say matters. But if you haven’t, Upshaw recommends trying to educate the person. “There are many credible articles on news outlets and government websites that you can share with them,” he says. Upshaw uses a hurricane preparedness analogy to talk to people about the severity of the coronavirus outbreak:

Preparing for a hurricane is a good analogy to explain why people should prepare for the COVID-19 virus. When a hurricane warning is issued, you need to prepare in advance so that everything around you looks and seems quite normal. However, we can look at the damage done by past hurricanes to see that the need for preparation is real … We know that COVID-19 has affected older people more, especially those in frail health, so while things are not looking bad yet in this country, they must follow the advice of experts and authorities to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19. It can be difficult for people to comprehend this problem. Putting this together with a situation they are already familiar with will make it easier to understand.

Set boundaries

When people are confronted with family members or social situations when anxiety is escalating over their loved ones’ poor attitudes towards COVID-19, Manley says it’s important to have firm boundaries about what to expect of them. These may include asking those who enter your home to wash their hands, use disinfectant, or refrain from contact with you if they cough or get sick in any way. “Strict boundaries can help reduce unwanted or inappropriate behavior, as well as enhance a personal sense of security and peace of mind,” she explains. “Firm boundaries actually reduce anxiety for everyone concerned, as it is important for all of us to have structure and clarity about what is expected.”

Gently let the person know they are bothering you.

Another tactic that Manly suggests is to tell people who don’t take coronavirus seriously what worries you as best you can. “Since some people do not realize that their behavior is stressing others, it can be important to state this in a kind and honest manner,” she says. Of course, this may not be the easiest option, but some people really want to know if they are doing something that upsets others. They may not change their minds about the pandemic, but they may adjust their behavior or how they communicate with you to reduce anxiety.

Focus on self-affirmation

As we discussed above, when people do not take a threat as seriously as we do, it can create feelings of devaluation. Snell recommends focusing on your own self-worth rather than seeking support and confirmation from others. “It’s the practice of accepting your own inner experience, your thoughts and feelings without criticizing or judging yourself for those feelings,” she explains. “Self-affirmation is not about accepting your feelings as facts, but simply sitting with your emotions without reacting to them. The ability to validate your thoughts and feelings will help you reduce anxiety, help you calm down, and help you manage your emotions more effectively. ”

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