Coping With Worries About the Coronavirus
How to manage your fear and uncertainty about COVID-19
by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD

The headlines are scary. The uncertainty is worse. We know the coronavirus is going to be very, very bad, but even experts aren’t sure exactly what will happen or when we’ll get through this crisis.

You’ve probably heard the CDC recommendations about washing hands, staying home if you’re sick, having a supply of essential medicines, and avoiding crowds. But how do you handle the fear and worry that we’re all feeling about what’s to come with COVID-19?

If you have kids, they’ll be looking to you to figure out, how scared should I be? Here are some possible strategies for managing your own anxiety:

- Recognize that worrying doesn’t help
Worrying takes a lot of effort, so it feels productive, but it isn’t. It’s a bit like clutching the arm rests to prevent a plane from going down. That definitely won’t have any effect on whether a plane stays in the air, but it’s guaranteed to make you feel miserable. If you find yourself constantly worrying, try doing something distracting to break out of that trap.

- Pace yourself with news
It’s important to stay informed, but constantly checking and rechecking the news will ramp up anxiety. Decide on what’s a tolerable dosage of news for you and stick to that. If there isn’t some action you need to take, then you certainly don’t need minute-by-minute updates. Also, be sure to stick to credible sources such as major newspapers with fact-checking journalists or the CDC. There’s a lot of misinformation circulating on social media which could get you unnecessarily riled.

- Tell yourself, “Well, at least…”
We can’t control the random worries that pop into our heads, but we have a lot of control over the thought that follows that first “What if…?” Focusing on how things could be worse can help you keep current circumstances in perspective. Well, at least the survival rates of COVID-19 are pretty good. Well, at least children don't usually get serious cases. Well, at least…

- Focus on doing your part
Looking outward, understanding that we are a community, and we have to get through this together. If your kids are sent home from school, explain that it’s important to keep elderly and immunosuppressed people safe. You might also want to contact your elected officials about taking actions that benefit everyone, such as supporting universal paid sick leave.

- Embrace courage and faith
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen to us or our loved ones? Unfortunately, we don’t get any guarantees in life. So, we have no choice but to tolerate uncertainty. Even in more ordinary times, getting out of bed in the morning is an act of courage and faith. Courage because we don’t know what we’ll have to face. Faith because we trust that there’s more good than bad in the world, and we’ll get through the bad with the help of people who love us.

About the Author
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, based in Princeton, NJ, and author of many books, including Kid Confidence (for parents) and Growing Friendships (for children).