I remember watching the movie Jaws when I was in my teens and being genuinely afraid to go swimming in the sea for weeks afterward. It was quite a while before I was happy to pull on my bathing costume and go running into the ocean. Some of my friends at the time thought I was being ridiculous but when I shared my experience with a group of people years later I was surprised to find how many of them had the exact same reaction.
It’s perfectly normal after a frightening or traumatic event that we should experience some lingering doubts about our safety and it can take some time for us to get our confidence back.
Coronaphobia has been used to describe the severe anxiety that many people have about leaving lockdown while the threat of Coronavirus still exists.
The government, the media, the internet and just about everyone around us has spent the last ten weeks telling us that it’s not safe to go outside. We’ve been bombarded with information about the deadly effects of the Coronavirus and subjected to daily reports about the rising number of deaths and the spread of the disease.
At times it felt like we were under siege from an invisible enemy and the only place we could feel safe was in our homes.
Now the message is changing. The regional governments of the UK are easing some of the restrictions on movement and social interaction. Depending on what part of the UK we live in, we are being advised that it is okay to go outside as much as we want to exercise, to meet with other people, to take car journeys and to visit certain places – provided we take precautions.
But for some of us it’s not going to be that easy. After weeks of being told it’s not safe to go outside it’s going to take a bit of time before we feel comfortable enough to even begin making the transition back to our normal lives.
The reality is that a little bit of Coronaphobia is perfectly natural and certainly not a bad thing. Feeling concerned for our safety and being aware of the ongoing threat of the virus will help us to “stay alert” and avoid taking unnecessary risks and unsafe steps.
However too much fear and anxiety is not a good thing, it can be debilitating and stop us from doing the things that are safe and that will enable us to begin enjoying normal life once again.
For some people overcoming their Coronaphobia might be just as challenging as living with the measures that were put in place to deal with the virus.
Here are some things you can do to take control and begin challenging your anxieties.
You don’t have to throw yourself in at the deep end. It’s okay to ease yourself in. The most effective way to overcome a phobia is by gradually and repeatedly exposing yourself to what you fear in a safe and controlled way. Do some little things every day that will enable you to build up your confidence. This will help you to reduce your anxiety and develop coping skills.
Do What Feels Right
Only do the things you feel comfortable doing when you feel it’s the right time. Don’t feel pressured or that you need to rush into meeting up with friends and family or going to places like parks and garden centres just because that’s what others are doing. It’s okay to go at your own pace.
Follow the Safety Guidance
Life is full of risks, from crossing the road to travelling by car, all manner of everyday activities carry an element of danger but we know that by following the safety guidance we can reduce the risk to the point where we can feel safe. It’s the same with Coronavirus. By following the official safety guidelines we can reduce our risk of infection and thereby control our anxiety.
If taking additional measures like wearing a face covering or gloves when away from your home helps you to feel safer then by all means do it. But take a minute to read our guidelines on how to use masks and gloves effectively.
While it’s important to take small steps it’s also very important to challenge yourself. Otherwise there is a danger you could get trapped by your anxieties. Keep challenging yourself to face the things you are concerned about doing especially if it is something you used to do with ease.
Use Coping Strategies
There are lots of simple things you can do to help you cope with stressful situations. One of the most common coping strategies is controlled breathing. When we get stressed our heartrate increases and our breathing tends to get more rapid and shallow. By taking long deep breaths, holding it for a moment and then exhaling deeply we can slow our heart rate and relieve the stress. You can find more information about Coping Strategies here.
If, after trying all of the above, you are still finding it difficult to cope with your fears about Coronavirus and about making the transition out of isolation and back to normal life there are lots of places you can turn to get support starting with your GP who can direct you to the appropriate services.
It’s Going to Be A Long Road
The truth is that we are only at the very beginning of our journey out of the Coronavirus pandemic. It could be several months, even years before the virus can be brought under control and there are bound to be set-backs along the way. In order to move forward we must take small, measured and careful steps to protect our own heath and the safety of others. But we must move forward. For some the journey will be longer and harder than for others, but it is not the journey but the destination that really matters. Together we can all get there.