It is without a doubt, a time of uncertainty. Not only is COVID-19 restructuring long-existing systems, it is also rewiring people, and specifically, the human brain. Although we do not yet know the impact COVID-19 will have on the human psyche, we can make a fairly reasonable guess. With the rise of global panic and emotional upheaval, the negative mental effects of this virus are simmering underneath the surface. The shortage of toilet paper and shelf-stable goods is a manifestation of this, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. The fear goes deeper.
We can not underestimate the traumatic effects fear can create. The greatest enemy is often within – not without – and it originates in the mind. “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is fear” – Ghandi. My concern is that the effects of this global panic are not transient, nor will they dissipate if COVID-19 is conquered. I’m concerned its effects will reverberate and perhaps affect multiple generations to come. The magnitude of COVID-19’s impact is large, so large that the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, stated the pandemic is the worst crisis the world has seen since World War II (1). The children of this generation, watching the news, observing their parents panic-purchase toilet paper, are learning that in disaster, you should operate from fear. I cannot begin to fathom the trauma that this is creating in them, nor the fertile ground this is creating for future mental health disease. What a faulty coping mechanism to teach!
We are already beginning to study the negative mental health effects of COVID-19. The JAMA network recently published this study showing worse mental health outcomes among frontline healthcare workers fighting COVID-19. I would not be surprised at all if we see a rise in anxiety, depression, suicide, and PTSD among healthcare workers over the next few months. And I do not believe the general population is spared, either. This is why, I firmly believe, now more than ever – we must, must – consciously, consistently, determinedly dispel fear.
Fear and stress are synonymous. The physiological, biochemical reaction is called “fight-or-flight”. In this state, the body is flooded with hormonal and neurochemical substances that drench it in fear. And for a good reason. For our ancestors, this was a needed survival mechanism meant to help them escape from a saber-toothed tiger. In our age, thankfully, there are less actual physical threats to run from when we are sitting in the comfort of our homes and offices. Yet, we are constantly subjected to intangible disasters – by the disturbing images, stories, news we see, watch, and hear regularly. Both, the tangible and the intangible threat, affect us. However, one is transient; the other exists in our every day life.
Now is time to ask ourselves – with every choice, every word, and with every minute of every day – is this stemming from a place of fear? Am I choosing to live in fear? And by examining ourselves, by becoming aware of the Thinker behind the thoughts and the Feeler behind the feelings, we begin to awaken….
About the Author & Disclaimer: I am a Board-certified Pediatrician, Health & Wellness Coach currently undergoing the American Council on Exercise (ACE Fitness) certification process, certified Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioner, amateur Yogini, and Wellness Blogger. I have no financial compensation or conflicts of interest to disclose. The opinions contained in my account, posts, and content are for informational purposes only. The opinions presented in my content are my opinions and not the opinion of my employer. Moreover, they are not meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified medical health professional with any questions regarding your medical condition. Don’t ignore medical advice because of something you may read, hear, and/or see here. Please take charge of your own health and wellness.”