While doing my shopping today, I saw a large notice in my local supermarket stating that they had no hand sanitiser or antiseptic wipes. There has also been reports of people bulk-buying cold medications, and stockpiling prescription medications.

One reason for this activity may be the coronavirus first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan City, China. In recent weeks, the media has been reporting that the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is spreading to new countries, and also reports of fresh cases emerging in areas where the virus has already infected some people.

Some Chinese cities have been quarantined, and Australia and other countries have introduced travel restrictions.

It is normal to become anxious in these circumstances.

Coronavirus HAS been shown to be a deadly disease for some people, but we also know many have experienced it as simply mild cold-like symptoms.

Here are some tips for giving this situation the attention that it deserves, but also avoiding unnecessary anxiety.

1. Our brains are programmed to over-react

This is part of our survival mechanism. In the days when humans were living in the wild, if we heard an unexpected sound in the bushes, it was safer to assume that it was an animal that might eat us (or injure us).

If we ran away and subsequently found that the noise was from a small non-threatening animal, it didn’t matter. We lived to ‘fight another day’. If however we under-estimated a real threat, then it could affect our survival.

We also pay more attention to something that is unfamiliar or unusual such as the coronavirus – we misjudge the risk of it affecting us. Thus, we downplay the chance of injury in our daily activities (such as car accidents while driving, or cutting ourselves while using knives to prepare our food). We also downplay the threat of common diseases such as the ‘flu’ which have a low death rate (see the statistics below), and inflate the threat of a rare disease with a higher death rate such as 2019-nCoV.

According to Dr. John Grohol, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central (1), the ‘flu’ is so far responsible for 15 million infections, 140,000 hospitalizations, and 8,200 deaths in the United States just this season. In comparison, as of January 31, 2020, the coronavirus has infected approximately 8,000 people around the world (the vast majority of them in China) with less than 200 deaths.

In Australia, as of 2 March 2020, we have 29 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19). (10 of these are associated with the Diamond Princess cruise-ship repatriation flight). 15 people are reported to have recovered. 1 person has died. The remaining cases are in a stable condition (2).

The seasonal flu typically has a death rate of 0.05%, whereas it is believed the coronavirus’s death rate may be around 2%, according to Reuters (3).

2. Take sensible precautions

The Australian Department of Health (5) advises that there is evidence that the virus spreads from person-to-person.

The virus is most likely spread through:

  • close contact with an infectious person
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face

In general, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Australian Department of Health recommends the following to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, which include both coronaviruses and flu viruses (4, 5):-

  1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (one website suggests timing this by singing ‘Happy Birthday’ song – in your head – twice)
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  4. Stay home when you are sick
  5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Other methods of helping yourself stay healthy is to look after your immune system.

  1. Eat a balanced diet
  2. Get the amount of sleep 
  3. Get regular exercise.
  4. Minimise anxiety

3. Choose the media that you read and watch

Some media outlets attract viewers and readers by using a sensational style. (If you ponder for a few moments you can probably think of a few examples).

So instead of turning to these media outlets for your information, choose reputable sources. Some of these could be:-

4. Use your coping skills

If the coronavirus situation is making you feel anxious, you can first investigate facts from reputable information sources (see above), as incorrect or sensationalised information can fuel anxiety.

If you are still feeling anxious, then use strategies that have worked for you in the past – maybe talking to a level-headed friend or family member, meditation, mindfulness, or taking some exercise.

I have also written about ways to combat anxiety in other blogposts, and you may wish to view these –

Remember that the Australian Government (and many other governments worldwide), plus the World Health Organisation and research scientists in many countries are responding to the coronavirus situation with monitoring and research into how to resolve the situation.

In Australia as of 3 March 2020 (3), the government is:-

  • providing information in English and Chinese based on the latest medical advice, including through FacebookTwitter, Weibo, WeChat and Chinese newspapers
  • applying a 14-day isolation period to people at risk of getting coronavirus
  • applying travel restrictions to reduce the number of travellers from mainland China and Iran
  • tracing coronavirus cases
  • continuing to screen travellers who arrive in Australia
  • continuing with border surveillance
  • applying enhanced border measures at international air and sea ports, including announcements and signs
  • testing anyone who shows symptoms of the virus
  • monitoring close contacts of confirmed cases every day

If you are have issues with resolving anxiety, please feel free to contact Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy on 0403 932311 for a no-obligation discussion about ways to help you feel better.


References

(1) Grohol, J. (2020). Coronavirus Anxiety: 4 Ways to Cope with Fear. Psych Central. Retrieved on 29 February 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/coronavirus-anxiety-4-ways-to-cope-with-fear/

(2) Cyran, R. (2020). Breakingviews – Breakdown: Coronavirus goes global. Retrieved on 3 March 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health-breakingviews/breakingviews-breakdown-coronavirus-goes-global-idUSKCN20L3DR

(3) Australian Government Department of Health (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert. Retrieved on 3 March 2020, from
https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert

(4) Rettner, R. (2020). How does the new coronavirus compare with the flu? Retrieved on 3 March 2020, from https://www.livescience.com/new-coronavirus-compare-with-flu.html

(5) Australian Government Department of Health (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19). Retrieved on 3 March 2020, from https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov

(6) Ropeik, D. (2020). How our brains make coronavirus seem scarier than it is. Retrieved on 3 March 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/01/31/how-our-brains-make-coronavirus-seem-scarier-than-it-is/

(7) Fisher, M. (2020). Coronavirus ‘Hits All the Hot Buttons’ for How We Misjudge Risk. Retrieved on 3 March 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/13/world/asia/coronavirus-risk-interpreter.html

© 2020 Lisa Billingham
Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy
Perth, Western Australia

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