Is fear normal right now? What hard conversations should we be having with our families?
To answer those questions – Yes, I’d be surprised if you weren’t at least a little fearful with all that’s been going on. We should all be concerned about COVID-19, not only for our own lives but also for keeping those around us safe.
Fear motivates us to action. It gets our blood pumping so that we can move if we need to, it causes us to focus our thinking about the threat at hand. And essentially fear is rational when there is a real threat that we are facing. Fear only becomes Anxiety when it shows up at the wrong time, for the wrong reason, and for the wrong duration.
So what is the difference between Anxiety and Fear? Fear is rational and necessary, Anxiety is not. Fear activates us in a necessary way, whilst anxiety drains our resources. They both put you into a state of fight, flight and freeze, only this isn’t needed when you’re only facing a perceived fear.
Now, you might be both worried and anxious about this virus. Worried for a good reason – but probably thinking about it too much. This virus is real, and it requires attention to how we manage our lives as a result.
In fact, there are very important conversations to be had in our families at a time like this. If you are living in a larger family system, conversations might center around the kinds of boundaries and rules you are all going to engage in. Is everyone comfortable with the social distancing that the others are doing? If your loved ones continue to expose themselves, have you let them know how their decisions affect you? Have you talked with them in an honest and vulnerable way about your fear of losing them? Sometimes thinking about your worst fear, enables you to know what needs to be said now. If your worst fear was to happen and you lost them, what do you wish you had said to them?
If you have people who are high-risk in your family, have you talked with them about safety planning? Do you have medicine on hand for them? Do you have an area in your living quarters that you will use as a sick-bay? Do you know where to find their passwords or other information in case they are unresponsive? Do you know that you might not be able to accompany them into the hospital should they have to go? These are the realities that we are facing, they are problems that have to be solved. And fear helps you to think these through and to come up an action plan. It helps you to be as ready as you can be.
Tell the anxiety that comes up that you are in control. You have taken the threat seriously, you have an action plan, and now it’s time to rest and relax so that you’re ready when you need to be.
Once you have this plan in place, then it’s time to make sure you don’t get anxious. No need to cause yourself unnecessary worry and drain your resources. If you do find yourself start to meander into anxious territory, I have a blog with an Anxiety Journal Template as well as Breathing Exercises to Help with Anxiety should you need those resources. Myself and many therapists are offering Telehealth services right now during this pandemic. I invite you to set up an appointment. Thinking of you all during this especially fearful time, please take advantage of available resources – you are not alone.