Fear, panic and anxiety are survival mechanisms designed to protect us from things that can kill us. These instincts help keep us safe and alive. But what if the perceived threat isn't physically present? The majority of people living in the U.S. are at no risk of Ebola, yet many worry about contracting the disease.
Media sensationalism can be blamed for the spreading panic. The over-exposure of such frightening news makes it appear as though the risk of contracting the disease is not a matter of if, but when. And to make matters even more complicated, fake news sites are spamming Facebook feeds with misleading information, further propagating the Ebola panic.
While the outbreak is mostly confined to West Africa, the Ebola panic has gone global. The reality of the situation is that death by Ebola is highly unlikely to those outside of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. In order to treat the Ebola panic, try these three remedies.
1. Learn to Tune Out the Hype
The most important and yet most difficult step to take is escaping the media and social onslaught. Until everything calms down, which it will, turn off the news. If your social media feeds are being inundated, take a break for a while. Politely let people know that you prefer not to discuss it. It's possible they might not understand why, especially if they don't know about your anxieties. If they refuse to stop then it's okay to choose not to hang around them.
Instead, focus on positive news. There are plenty of websites dedicated to removing the media hype and sensationalism such as Sunny Skyz and Gimundo.
2. Put the Risk into Perspective
The disease is incredibly difficult to contract. It requires direct physical contact of bodily fluids only after symptoms have surfaced, and even then these fluids have to enter the skin through either a cut or mucus membranes. Ebola cannot survive in plain water, and the virus is not airborne. Unless you are a nurse physically caring for a patient without proper precautions, or have been in West Africa in direct contact with people with symptoms, you will likely never come into contact with the virus.
3. Take a Deep Breath Before Self-Diagnosing
Anxiety already causes physical symptoms like chest pains, headaches, diarrhea, and sweating. Reading too much into these physical sensations can lead to the presumption that something is wrong. Because of this, people who consistently experience anxiety are usually sensitive to sensations in the body. A slight rise in temperature or a tinge of discomfort can cause physiological reactions in people with anxiety. The body tends to magnify these feelings making them even stronger—a cycle of panic and “what if" scenarios follow.
If you feel something in your body, try to detach yourself from the sensation and honestly ask yourself if it's as bad as you perceive it to be. More often than not, the pains you are feeling are barely noticeable. It's only by focusing on them and attaching these sensations to the worst-case scenario do they begin to feel particularly strong. Try distracting yourself from the symptoms through physical activity. Exercise will help the body burn off the excess adrenaline and the mind to refocus onto something less worrisome.
Date of original publication: October 24, 2014.
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