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Becoming more virus-resilient: dealing with the COVID-19 coronavirus situation - Professor Hugh Koch
  • Jul 8, 2020
  • Latest News

Many of us will have noticed some nervousness or trepidation about leaving our house or flat now that lockdown, in most places, has been eased a bit. The noise, and increasing hustle and bustle, with negotiating crossing roads, for example, makes us more cautious and vigilant. This is, I think, how most of us feel to some extent. Those with a pre-existing health condition, whether mild or severe, have the extra fear of catching the virus and significantly exacerbating symptoms we already have, either from a physical point of view or purely the psychological effects of leaving the house.

Despite the change in shielding guidance, many just do not feel safe going out until a vaccine or some effective treatment is discovered. Added to this group, there will be some who have new illnesses diagnosed during this lockdown period and they will have double anxiety – anxiety about their new diagnosis plus COVID-19 related anxieties – it’s a difficult time.

One of the therapeutic techniques often used by psychologists to help clients with fears and phobias is, what is called, “gradual desensitization” – this is a very practical and sensible approach to reduce a specific fear or anxiety and associated avoidance. This can be applied in a common sense way to our COVID-19 related re-entry anxiety:

1. Identifying a small, next Active Step in overcoming your fear e.g., leave the house and walk 100 metres and then go home.

2. Identifying the next steps (e.g., walk to the nearest park; walk for 30 minutes; drive to town; walk past a row of shops; stop for a take-out drink; and so on).

3. With each step, practicing relaxing your shoulders, other parts of your body, and taking deep breaths.

4. Practice positive thoughts about your ability to cope with each step, and tell yourself “I’m doing well”.

5. Keep practicing each step regularly, and increase the complexity of each step.

Different challenges evoke different levels of anxiety in different people – what’s small to one person, feels like a ‘mountain to climb’ to another. Set your own ‘next Active Steps’ for this week, tell your nearest and dearest what you plan and then dip your proverbial toe into the ‘re-entry’ water – it will work and you will be pleased you tried.

For those who don’t have anxieties, help someone who does – there are lots of us around.

Best of luck,

Hugh Koch

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