Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

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:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Physical Fitness | 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...

CSM Gragg Vaccine Statement

Video
8/24/2021
CSM Gragg speaks about COVID-19

CSM Gragg shares his personal story dealing with COVID and the loss associated with it and urges all to take precautions.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Got Your 6: August 16, 2021

Video
8/16/2021
Got Your 6: August 16, 2021

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, on days that end in ‘6.’ It includes the latest information about DOD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil Find your local military provider at tricare.mil/MTF, or go to tricare.mil/vaccineappointments and schedule yours today!

Recommended Content:

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

Lt. Gen. Place and Command Sgt. Maj. Gragg on Getting Vaccinated

Video
8/16/2021
DHA Logo with the text: Importance of Vaccinations Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place & Command Sgt. Maj. Michael L. Gragg

DHA Director Lt. Gen. Ron Place and DHA Senior Enlisted Leader Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg talk about how getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is more important than ever.

Recommended Content:

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

Preventive Health Care for You

Video
8/11/2021
Preventive Heath Care For You

Preventive health care - getting a physical exam, getting vaccines on time, and listening to your body - is key to a long and healthy life.

Recommended Content:

Total Body Preventive Health and Total Force Fitness | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | August Toolkit | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Back to School Fast Tips

Video
8/11/2021
Back to School Fast Tips

Here are some fast tips for a smooth and safe transition to getting back to school this year.

Recommended Content:

August Toolkit | Back to School | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health

Got Your 6

Video
7/27/2021
Got Your 6

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil Find your local military provider at tricare.mil/MTF, or go to tricare.mil/vaccineappointments and schedule yours today!

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

Got Your 6

Video
7/16/2021
Got your 6

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil. Find your local military provider at tricare.mil/MTF, or go to tricare.mil/vaccineappointments and schedule yours today!

Recommended Content:

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

The Battle Against the COVID-19 Delta Variant

Video
6/29/2021
COVID-19 Delta war infographic

Like our enemies in the past, the coronavirus has adapted and we're now dealing with the most transmissible variant yet, Delta. The fight can be won with vaccination. If you're not yet vaccinated against the coronavirus, go get your shot today. Otherwise you're at high risk for severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

Recommended Content:

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

The Delta Variant: A New Reason to Get Vaccinated

Video
6/25/2021
COVID-19 infographic

Are you a service member age 18 to 30? Are you unvaccinated? You may be entitled to severe disease, hospitalization, and death. To avoid these options, get vaccinated today!

Recommended Content:

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

Got Your 6: June 26, 2021

Video
6/25/2021
Got Your 6 Infographic

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability.

Recommended Content:

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

PTSD: Help is Available

Video
6/24/2021
PTSD Video Infographic

PTSD can happen to anyone. The Military Health System can help you get diagnosed and provide you with evidence-based treatment so you can get your life back. If you're struggling with PTSD, reach out to your local military hospital or clinic and make an appointment today. Learn more at health.mil/ptsd.

Recommended Content:

June Toolkit | PTSD Awareness Month | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

4 Facts About PTSD

Video
6/23/2021

Learn about PTSD symptoms, the benefits of seeking care and get connected to confidential, 24/7 resources.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Real Warriors Campaign

Avoiding Substance Misuse as a Coping Mechanism

Video
6/23/2021

Military life is rewarding, yet often stressful. Learn five options to help you find healthy ways to cope with stress.

Recommended Content:

Substance Abuse | Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

Coping with Flashbacks Between Appointments

Video
6/23/2021

Flashbacks can sometimes occur during treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. Follow these tips to help cope with flashbacks between appointments with a health care provider.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Real Warriors Campaign

Get Ready for Your First Appointment

Video
6/23/2021

When you meet with a health care provider for the first time, it’s important to be honest about your concerns to make the best treatment plan for you. Learn tips to help you get ready.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 7

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.