Do you have #coronophobia?

By Mel Sim

If the thought of being outside scares you, read this.

As we are slowly moving towards single-digit cases and with the MCO lifted, many of us feel a sigh of relief that life may be back to normal. But will it really? While some people can’t wait to go to their favourite coffee places or catch up with friends after not seeing them for such a long time, there are also others who feel anxious about going outside for fear of the virus.

For some, this fear may be temporary as they get back into the routine. For others, it can be a serious thing being outside exposed to who knows what. Seems safer to stay in, avoid doing anything outside and just wait for zero cases or a vaccine.

But let’s be real – zero cases are almost impossible to achieve and who knows when a vaccine may even come through. Plus, with offices opening up, you’d be required to go back to work.

If that thought is keeping you up at night and you’re finding ways to make your WFH stint as long as possible, head’s up – you may have #coronophonia. Simply put, you’re terrified of what’s currently happening and it is causing you serious anxiety.

Take my friend Sharon for example. Whenever she coughed, she was certain she caught the virus, which led to other “symptoms” like feeling sick and tightening of the chest (which coincidentally are also signs of anxiety). She’s loaded up on hand sanitizer, masks and even face shields, which she plans to wear at work even though she’s not customer facing. Since MCO, she’s been working from home but last week, she was required to attend a meeting back in her office. She couldn’t sleep the night before, dreading the event.

She decided to give it all a chance by visiting her favourite shopping mall over the weekend to get some groceries. It was packed with people so Sharon immediately left and went to a quieter mall instead. When asked how she felt about the whole situation, she said: “There are so many people out there who think everything is back to normal and that life has to go on. I am just going to stay at home until a vaccine is found. I’m not taking any chances.”

Except that unless Sharon decides to quit her job or work out some special arrangement with her company, it’s not entirely possible to stay at home 24-7. Are her fears out of control? Are you a Sharon too? Here are some signs if #coronophobia may be controlling your life:

#1 You can’t stop thinking about the fear and anxiety you have about the virus #2 The thought of being out in public or going back to work worries you, a lot #3 You are constantly monitoring your body for signs and symptoms, or searching the internet about the virus #4 Your house is filled with hand sanitizers and masks. In fact, it’s become like a mission to buy it all the time (ditto Sharon!)

Now, being careful about the virus is a good thing. But if this is negatively impacting the quality of your life and causing you a lot of anxiety, you really need to do something about the fear.

Here are some tips:

Limit your media exposure and stick to reliable sources only
If you are constantly scouring the news and internet about coronavirus, you need to check yourself. All that information will overwhelm you and make you feel like things are really bad when in fact, it’s half as horrible as you envision it. Being informed is good but too much information can also be unhelpful. Also, get your news from reliable sources. Fakes news are designed to create fear, which is the last thing you want. Keep yourself informed from the few trusted sources like the Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia website or Facebook page (@kementeriankesihatanmalaysia) or for a more global aspect, visit reliable news portals and World Health Organisation’s website and Facebook page (@WHO).

Think logically
If you really sit down and think about it, a lot of your fear are unfounded. In situations like these, it pays to be logical. Yes, coronavirus has infected many people but keep in mind that many of those infected have already recovered. The number of cases are slowly going down and thanks to efforts by the Ministry of Health as well as other relevant authorities, Malaysians are pretty much compliant in doing what’s necessary to stop the spread. It’s when your logic goes out of the window that anxiety creeps in, causing worry and fear.

Do things to take your mind off the situation
You may be hypersensitive now, which is why you are paying too much attention to your bodies and how every little cough or sniffle becomes a thing of extreme worry. Being in lockdown for some people equals to a lot of time of hand. And with coronavirus being centre of attention, it’s easy to spend all that extra time just focused on it. Do yourself a favour and shift your focus to other more positive and enjoyable activities. This will help you take your mind off your fear.

Go slow and steady
So you’re not ready to get back out there yet. No problem – slowly ease back into doing things you used to do. But don’t deny yourself either. Take a step-by-step approach until you feel safe and confident to get back to what life used to be for you.

How do you feel about going back out into public now? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @Graduan !

Photo by Jeff Hendricks on Unsplash

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