Avoid Psychosomatic Coronavirus
Are you fearful or excited about getting out of the house? States are relaxing stay-at-home orders to get the economy back on track. Like being the first to dip your toe in a swimming pool, do you dive in or wait for others to warm up the water? At least until a coronavirus vaccine is widely available, we will be wearing masks when leaving the house.
It is wise to stay informed. But be careful of extremes—either not taking any precautions or jumping to conclusions over a simple cough. Highly publicized outbreaks can lead to mass psychogenic illness, where healthy people misinterpret non-serious bodily sensations as evidence that they have become sick.
There is a tendency to become more fearful of new things (coronavirus) than familiar ones (flu). Psychosomatic means mind (psyche) and body (soma). A psychosomatic, or psychogenic, disorder is a disease which involves both mind and body. Some physical diseases are thought to be particularly prone to be made worse by mental factors such as stress and anxiety. Misdiagnosis can cause hypervigilance, increased anxiety, and extreme safety behaviors.
Thirty percent of the population believe the coronavirus was created in a lab.
Being cooped up for prolonged periods can nurture conspiracy theories. Some people doubt the coronavirus exists. Protestors, defying stay-at-home orders are parading around the streets, waving signs, and honking horns. They apparently feel that the only eminent threat is remaining indoors. On the other extreme, citizens can become paranoid at the site of anyone breathing without a mask—even in an open space like a park or unpopulated neighborhood block. Relax. Take a deep breath.
Wear PPE Properly
As masks become a part of daily life, you must educate yourself with proper donning (application) and doffing (removal) of personal protective equipment (PPE). Many who do not take the time to learn, risk contamination from their own PPE.
Wash your hands before and after donning or doffing. Consider the outside of masks like dirty toilet paper. There should be minimal touching of the outside of masks, even when new and clean—mainly to secure fit around nose and chin. Remove masks by the elastic ear straps.
Protection is only as good as the weakest link. During normal conversation, unseen spittle can spray into your eyes. Eyeglasses prevent some particles. Safety glasses or goggles offer front and side protection. You can wear some models over prescription glasses.
By practicing social distancing or protecting your eyes, nose, and mouth in populated areas, you are ready to explore the great outdoors. Some restaurants are adapting to the challenge with more thorough sanitation, tables spaced further apart, polycarbonate barriers, and personnel wearing PPE. Since communal handling of menus, some restaurants may replace permanent ones with disposable menus or elevated menu boards.
You cannot remain in the house forever. You need to get out for fresh air. It releases feel-good endorphins that helps your sanity. An isolated forest or park, surrounded by trees, is a great place for a brisk walk or hike. Pause and take a deep breath. It will keep you fit, calm your mind, and you may even feel A Bit More Healthy.
- How Coronavirus Anxiety Can Make You Feel Sick. psychologytoday.com
- Debunking COVID–19 Conspiracy Theories. medicalfuturist.com
- Speaking of Psychology: Coronavirus Anxiety. apa.org
- Psychosomatic Disorders. patient.info
- Wheaton, Michael G., Jonathan S. Abramowitz, Noah C. Berman, Laura E. Fabricant, and Bunmi O. Olatunji. 2012. “Psychological Predictors of Anxiety in Response to the H1N1 (Swine Flu) Pandemic.” Cognitive Therapy and Research 36 (3): 210–18. doi:10.1007/s10608-011-9353-3.
- As coronavirus restriction protests take place across U.S., Trump defends demonstrators. latimes.com
- Here's how to debunk coronavirus misinformation and conspiracy theories from friends and family. cnn.com
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