Back to Top Skip to main content

Addressing emotional responses to threat of Coronavirus

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kathleen A. Myhre, 446th Airman and Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer in charge, meditates outside the 446th Airlift Wing Headquarters building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Feb. 12, 2020. Myhre traveled to India in 2016 to study to become an internationally-certified yoga instructor. She now shares her holistic training with Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 446th AW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mary A. Andom) U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kathleen A. Myhre, 446th Airman and Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer in charge, meditates outside the 446th Airlift Wing Headquarters building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Feb. 12, 2020. Myhre traveled to India in 2016 to study to become an internationally-certified yoga instructor. She now shares her holistic training with Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 446th AW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mary A. Andom)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Mental Wellness | Physical Activity | Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

While in graduate school, I was involved with some interesting research that examined students’ reactions to media coverage on the potential threat of a disease pandemic such as coronavirus. The study showed several interesting findings, including high rates of worry that family members would contract the disease or that treatment might not be available. We also found that negative emotions associated with an outbreak (such as worry, fear, or hostility) might result in ignoring precautions rather than taking positive actions to decrease risk of infection.

With mounting worry and fear about the current outbreak of coronavirus, it’s worth taking a pause to look at how to mitigate some of the emotional and behavioral effects that might come from media coverage and the threat of coronavirus.

Stay home if you’re sick – and even if you’re not. If you’re feeling sick, be responsible and isolate yourself at home. This will be a great opportunity to binge watch your favorite series. We all want to preserve our paid time off, but a few unproductive hours being sick at work likely won’t be worth potentially sharing a virus with your coworkers. Even if you’re feeling healthy, medical professionals recommend staying home and limiting social contact as much as possible since avoiding those who are sick is the best way to decrease transmission of viruses.

Coping with Isolation. In most of the country, school has been cancelled, religious services have been curtailed, and recreational venues have been closed. The result for many has been a sense of isolation and feeling cut off from friends, family, and coworkers. The most important way to cope with this type of isolation is to re-establish and stick to a regular routine. Even if you are “stuck” at home, you can establish a regular schedule for activities, such as routine chores, reading a book, or exercise. Kids in particular benefit from a consistent schedule, to include time set aside for learning activities and a regular bedtime.

Limit media exposure. During events such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and pandemics, the 24-hour news cycle can create significant anxiety and pull attention away from consistent day-to-day tasks. The best option for news updates is to find a reliable source, and check it on a limited schedule.

Control what you can. Consistently practicing good habits is one of the best ways to deal with worry and anxiety. The most effective ways to decrease coronavirus risk are the things you learned as a child: 1) Wash your hands regularly with hot water and soap (if you sing the “happy birthday” song while you do it, then you are washing long enough); 2) Prevent spreading viruses by coughing into the crook of your elbow; 3) Decrease likelihood of contracting a virus by not touching your face. Focusing on these basics will give you a better sense of control over your risk of infection.

Decreasing anxiety in others. During the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, I had small children who had risk of infection. Rather than anxiously chasing them around with a bottle of hand sanitizer, my wife and I made a game of making pig noises with the kids while practicing good hand washing. This ensured that we were creating good habits without focusing on the anxiety of our kids getting sick.

What’s with the facemask? One of the interesting effects of anxiety about coronavirus has been buying and wearing surgical masks. Although these might seem like a tangible and visible step to decrease risk, these masks won’t actually prevent you from catching the disease. The intent of a surgical mask is to keep the person wearing the mask (such as your surgeon or dentist) from infecting other people. The only time you should wear a mask is if you are already sick and you want to decrease the likelihood that you will get other people sick. You also can increase your risk of infection if you are frequently touching your face to adjust an ill-fitting mask.

Get your info from reputable sources. Seeking information is a common way to cope with fearful situations. However, anxiety about the coronavirus has led to a lot of absurd myths being perpetuated from less-reputable sources. Any promises of a miracle cure for coronavirus involving essential oils, household chemicals, or herbal concoctions are inaccurate and frequently harmful. If you are worried about coronavirus and need more information, stick to these reputable sources with a scientific basis:

Manage your anxiety symptoms. If after taking the steps above anxiety is still interfering with your daily activities, practice these tips from the Real Warriors Campaign to help manage symptoms:

  • Prioritize sleep and aim to get seven to eight hours each night.
  • Get active to boost your mood, reduce stress, and help improve your quality of sleep.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol which can reduce feelings of anxiety in the moment but increase fatigue and anxiety the next day.
  • Reflect and relax by practicing breathing and relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga, or writing down your thoughts in a journal.

Dr. Hoyt is a former Army psychologist who is chief of Psychological Health Promotion and supervisor of the Combat and Operational Stress Control mission at the Psychological Health Center of Excellence.

You also may be interested in...

Back-to-school vaccinations in the age of coronavirus

Article
8/12/2020
Medical technician wearing a mask, filling an immunization needle

DHA experts answer questions about back-to-school vaccines

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Public Health | Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | August Toolkit

Camp Pendleton Marines and civilians donate blood to save others

Article
8/12/2020
Two people in masks giving blood

Marines line up to donate blood

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

Army general donates COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma at Tripler

Article
8/11/2020
Man wearing mask in hospital chair giving blood

COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate against who it infects – even general officers are susceptible.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

DoD reiterates FDA warning on using some hand sanitizers

Article
8/11/2020
Three men in PPE examining bottles of hand sanitzer

Gel hand sanitizers are flammable and consumers must be aware of their surroundings when using them.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

COVID-19 patient treated at Evans

Article
8/10/2020
Woman in wheelchair wearing a mask, being wheeled out of hospital surrounded by crowd applauding

During her stay, [Joyce Woffenden ] was also the first patient to receive convalescent plasma at EACH.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

New Navy units join in the fight against COVID-19

Article
8/7/2020
Military nurse putting on PPE

This deployment marked the first use of the newly established Acute Care Team and Rapid Rural Response Team medical platforms.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Air Force updates medical courses with COVID-19 content, procedures

Article
8/7/2020
Two lab technicians wearing full PPE handling vials for testing

COVID-19 has pushed instructors and trainers to be more innovative.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness | Combat Support

BAMC nurses: “It’s us against COVID”

Article
8/6/2020
Group of nurses at a hospital

With safety on the line, mistakes aren’t an option when it comes to PPE.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Madigan collects CCP in fight against COVID-19

Article
8/6/2020
Four people in a hospital room wearing masks

Convalescent plasma has been used for nearly a century to transfer antibodies from a recovered person to help protect another from an infection.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

Force Health Protection Guidance (Supplement 12) -Department of Defense Guidance for Personnel Traveling During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

Publication
8/6/2020

This memorandum supplements requirements in references (a), (b), and (c) with respect to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and replaces reference (d). It provides pre- and post­travel guidance for purposes of force health protection (FHP) of Service members, DoD family members, DoD civilian employees, and DoD contractor personnel.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

DHA to recognize COVID-19 front-line innovators and leaders

Article
8/5/2020
Hospital Corpsman administers a COVID-19 test to service member aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex.

Who are the COVID-19 change makers?

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Patient Safety | Patient Safety Champion Recognition Program

Indiana National Guard continues to train in the COVID-19 environment

Article
8/5/2020
Soldiers in the field, wearing masks and testing equipment

Training in a time of COVID-19

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness

One Airman’s Life of Service – in and out of uniform

Article
8/5/2020
Man wearing mask checking inventory on shelves

Serving the nation is a way of life for one Airman

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Medical Examiner System | Combat Support | Total Force Fitness

MHS asks COVID-19 recovered to donate plasma for seriously ill

Article
8/4/2020
Woman wearing mask and PPE holding a bag of plasma

Plasma donations needed in the fight against COVID-19

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

MTFs plan and prepare to face any emergency or disaster

Article
8/4/2020
Hospital personnel surrounding a patient

Military hospitals make emergency plans and conduct practice drills long before a natural disaster strikes.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Emergency Preparedness and Response
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 45

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.