Coping with Covid-19

A woman holding laboratory apparatus
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

These are extraordinary times. It’s easy to feel out of control, anxious and afraid. Most of us can’t help thinking about whether we will get the dreaded Covid-19 virus. If we do, will we need to be treated? Will there be health care staff and medical equipment available? Will we survive?

Then there’s the economic uncertainty.  Will the economy and the stock market recover?  Will we have a job?  Will our employer survive?  Will it ever return to normal?  What will life look like after Covid-19? 

I don’t have the answers, but I can share what’s working for me.  Because I just finished writing my book, Ask:  How to Relate to Anyone, I’m familiar with research that might help you deal with these issues.

Avoid negativity bias

Even in good times, we’re hardwired for negativity. Neuroscientists explain that negative events have more impact on our brain than positive ones.

There’s ample research indicating negativity bias impacts the choices we make and the risks we are willing to undertake.

Now imagine the tendency of the brain to overreact in times like these, when we’re overwhelmed with negative news.  Unless you adopt some coping strategies, you may find yourself paralyzed by fear and even become depressed.

Try cognitive reframing

Instead of succumbing to negative emotions (fear, dread, anxiety,) it’s helpful to understand the control we have over our emotions. 

A process known as “cognitive reframing” can help.   The underlying premise behind it is that we are not complete victims of negative events.  We have the power to alter our emotions by thinking differently (“reframing”) those events.  When we do so, we are able to reduce anxiety and alleviate depression.

How could cognitive reframing help us dealing with Covid-19?  Here’s a suggestion from an article by Markham Heid.  Look for the silver lining.  He suggests letting others panic, while you view this as an opportunity to do some positive things, like read, touch base with friends and take up new hobbies.

I have a friend who runs an online business selling electronics.  He’s rethinking his entire business model,  like changing his product mix to accommodate increased demand for video conferencing and streaming.  While he had previously resisted having employees work from home, he told me he’s struck by how productive they are now that he has no choice.  He has decided not to renew his lease and will soon switch to a 100% virtual operation.  He told me this crisis may well turn into a long-term benefit for his company.

Here’s what I find helpful:  I have the power to control my emotions and reorient them into something positive.

We all do.