Back to Top Skip to main content

Addressing emotional responses to threat of Coronavirus

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kathleen A. Myhre, 446th Airman and Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer in charge, meditates outside the 446th Airlift Wing Headquarters building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Feb. 12, 2020. Myhre traveled to India in 2016 to study to become an internationally-certified yoga instructor. She now shares her holistic training with Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 446th AW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mary A. Andom) U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kathleen A. Myhre, 446th Airman and Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer in charge, meditates outside the 446th Airlift Wing Headquarters building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Feb. 12, 2020. Myhre traveled to India in 2016 to study to become an internationally-certified yoga instructor. She now shares her holistic training with Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 446th AW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mary A. Andom)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Mental Wellness | Physical Activity | Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

While in graduate school, I was involved with some interesting research that examined students’ reactions to media coverage on the potential threat of a disease pandemic such as coronavirus. The study showed several interesting findings, including high rates of worry that family members would contract the disease or that treatment might not be available. We also found that negative emotions associated with an outbreak (such as worry, fear, or hostility) might result in ignoring precautions rather than taking positive actions to decrease risk of infection.

With mounting worry and fear about the current outbreak of coronavirus, it’s worth taking a pause to look at how to mitigate some of the emotional and behavioral effects that might come from media coverage and the threat of coronavirus.

Stay home if you’re sick – and even if you’re not. If you’re feeling sick, be responsible and isolate yourself at home. This will be a great opportunity to binge watch your favorite series. We all want to preserve our paid time off, but a few unproductive hours being sick at work likely won’t be worth potentially sharing a virus with your coworkers. Even if you’re feeling healthy, medical professionals recommend staying home and limiting social contact as much as possible since avoiding those who are sick is the best way to decrease transmission of viruses.

Coping with Isolation. In most of the country, school has been cancelled, religious services have been curtailed, and recreational venues have been closed. The result for many has been a sense of isolation and feeling cut off from friends, family, and coworkers. The most important way to cope with this type of isolation is to re-establish and stick to a regular routine. Even if you are “stuck” at home, you can establish a regular schedule for activities, such as routine chores, reading a book, or exercise. Kids in particular benefit from a consistent schedule, to include time set aside for learning activities and a regular bedtime.

Limit media exposure. During events such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and pandemics, the 24-hour news cycle can create significant anxiety and pull attention away from consistent day-to-day tasks. The best option for news updates is to find a reliable source, and check it on a limited schedule.

Control what you can. Consistently practicing good habits is one of the best ways to deal with worry and anxiety. The most effective ways to decrease coronavirus risk are the things you learned as a child: 1) Wash your hands regularly with hot water and soap (if you sing the “happy birthday” song while you do it, then you are washing long enough); 2) Prevent spreading viruses by coughing into the crook of your elbow; 3) Decrease likelihood of contracting a virus by not touching your face. Focusing on these basics will give you a better sense of control over your risk of infection.

Decreasing anxiety in others. During the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, I had small children who had risk of infection. Rather than anxiously chasing them around with a bottle of hand sanitizer, my wife and I made a game of making pig noises with the kids while practicing good hand washing. This ensured that we were creating good habits without focusing on the anxiety of our kids getting sick.

What’s with the facemask? One of the interesting effects of anxiety about coronavirus has been buying and wearing surgical masks. Although these might seem like a tangible and visible step to decrease risk, these masks won’t actually prevent you from catching the disease. The intent of a surgical mask is to keep the person wearing the mask (such as your surgeon or dentist) from infecting other people. The only time you should wear a mask is if you are already sick and you want to decrease the likelihood that you will get other people sick. You also can increase your risk of infection if you are frequently touching your face to adjust an ill-fitting mask.

Get your info from reputable sources. Seeking information is a common way to cope with fearful situations. However, anxiety about the coronavirus has led to a lot of absurd myths being perpetuated from less-reputable sources. Any promises of a miracle cure for coronavirus involving essential oils, household chemicals, or herbal concoctions are inaccurate and frequently harmful. If you are worried about coronavirus and need more information, stick to these reputable sources with a scientific basis:

Manage your anxiety symptoms. If after taking the steps above anxiety is still interfering with your daily activities, practice these tips from the Real Warriors Campaign to help manage symptoms:

  • Prioritize sleep and aim to get seven to eight hours each night.
  • Get active to boost your mood, reduce stress, and help improve your quality of sleep.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol which can reduce feelings of anxiety in the moment but increase fatigue and anxiety the next day.
  • Reflect and relax by practicing breathing and relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga, or writing down your thoughts in a journal.

Dr. Hoyt is a former Army psychologist who is chief of Psychological Health Promotion and supervisor of the Combat and Operational Stress Control mission at the Psychological Health Center of Excellence.

You also may be interested in...

Partnerships, COVID-19 are catalysts for enterprise virtual health

Article
1/14/2021
Image of Mr. Adler with text: "Partnerships, COVID-19 are catalysts for enterprise virtual health."

Jamie Adler, the lead for the DHA’s Virtual Health Clinical Integration Office, discusses the future of virtual health (VH).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Connected Health

COVID-19 hinders blood donations during National Blood Donor Month

Article
1/14/2021
Navy Capt. R. Wade Blizzard, commanding officer of U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, donates blood for the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Units Diego Garcia walking blood bank on Dec. 17, 2020. The walking blood bank is a list of eligible donors who can provide blood in case of emergency. (U.S. Navy photo by Navy Seaman Apprentice Stevin Atkins)

Life-saving blood is in high-demand by the Armed Services Blood Program, as the COVID-19 has negatively impacted donations.

Recommended Content:

Armed Services Blood Program | Public Health | Coronavirus | Holiday Observances

COVID presents new set of challenges for DOD environmental health

Article
1/12/2021
Group of Marines, snowshoeing through the snow

One of the most important factors to take into account when maintaining one’s overall fitness is physical environment.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness in a Pandemic | Reintroducing Total Force Fitness | January Toolkit | Coronavirus | Total Force Fitness

DOD Launches “My MilLife Guide” Text Message Program to Boost Wellness

Article
1/11/2021
The new My MilLife Guide program supports the wellness of the military community.

DoD has launched My MilLife Guide, a new program that sends text messages designed to help the military community boost overall wellness while navigating stresses related to COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health | Operation Live Well | Health Readiness

Navy corpsman provides multitude of support to hospital

Article
1/8/2021
Two military personnel, wearing masks, in a supply room looking at the shelves

“Thinking outside the box is what makes a great person, let alone a Sailor," Tie said.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

DMRTI_EWSC Student Criteria

Fact Sheet
1/8/2021

A reference for potential EWSC students.

Recommended Content:

Emergency War Surgery Course (EWSC) | Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute | Combat Support

MTF facilities, markets set to resume transition heading into 2021

Article
1/6/2021
A military nurse, wearing a mask, prepares a needle for a vaccination

Butler says transition on track.

Recommended Content:

MHS Transformation | Coronavirus

BACH healthcare workers and first responders vaccinated for COVID-19

Article
1/6/2021
Soldier gives a nurse a vaccine in her left arm

BACH now joins other Defense Health Agency military treatment facilities that have received the vaccine, marking the start of a phased-in vaccination program to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Toolkit

Countering seasonal depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

Article
1/5/2021
Man with his head in his hands, sitting in front of a Christmas tree

SAD, or sometimes called seasonal depression, is a subtype of a major depressive disorder.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Wellness | Mental Health Care | Depression | Suicide Prevention

MHS operational innovations continue in battle against COVID-19

Article
1/5/2021
Two medical personnel, wearing full PPE, in an operating room

MHS innovations in 2020 include a new registry for real-time COVID-19 data and a system to free up hospital beds and protect patients from the disease.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Research and Innovation | Innovation | Technology

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Publication
1/5/2021

This toolkit provides communicators across the Military Health System (MHS) with important information about the COVID-19 prevention and vaccination from the CDC to share with patients and health care professionals.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

COVID-19 Social Media Toolkit

Publication
1/5/2021

These messages are provided for you to use on your platforms with any of the images from the COVID-19 Toolkit.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Remote monitoring program enables COVID-19 patients to recover at home

Article
1/4/2021
Two medical personnel, wearing masks, looking at the contents of a home-based COVID treatment kit

The program equips COVID-19 patients needing additional monitoring with a home healthcare kit and 24/7 oversight from registered nurses to ensure a higher level of post-hospital care.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus | Innovation

DHA’s IT innovation continues during COVID-19 pandemic

Article
12/31/2020
Three military personnel, wearing masks, in front of a computer screen

IT innovations keep pace despite COVID-19 road blocks.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Research and Innovation | Technology | MHS GENESIS

DHA-IPM 20-004: Department of Defense (DoD) Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Vaccination Program Implementation

Policy

This Defense Health Agency (DHA) Interim Procedures Memorandum (IPM), based on the authority of References (a) through (d), and in accordance with the guidance cited in References (e) through (aa), establishes the DHA’s procedures to implement instructions, assign responsibilities, and prescribe procedures for the COVID-19 Vaccination Program. This DHA-IPM applies to DHA, DHA Components (activities under the authority direction, and control of the DHA), Military Departments (MILDEP), and the United States Coast Guard (CG). This DHA-IPM cancels and replaces DHA-IPM 20-004, “Department of Defense (DoD) Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Vaccination Program Implementation,” December 13, 2020.

<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 55

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.