My name is: Katia Herman.
I’m known for being: A holistic wellness coach, fitness instructor and founder of JoySpace by Katia.
My expertise is in: Through one-on-one coaching and in group settings, I help women shift their lifestyles and mindsets from surviving to thriving. We work through the five pillars of health—nutrition, movement, mindset, sleep and stress—to create new habits in the mind and body that are meaningful and lasting.
Today, I'm talking about: The collective stress and anxiety the world is experiencing due to the spread of coronavirus, and the way it’s tapping into many of our deepest fears.
Right now, a lot of us are feeling: Fear and anxiety. These are important feelings. Our bodies shift into fight-or-flight to alert us to be careful and use caution in situations of real danger, such as when we are standing too close to a ledge, when we come across a bear in the forest and, yes, in the face of a worldwide virus epidemic.
In these times, fear is not only normal, but useful, so that we remember to take precautions and protect ourselves as best we can: We move our child away from the ledge, we quietly turn around and move away from the bear, we wash our hands and avoid flying to Italy or Korea right now.
However, we all know that too much fear and anxiety can take ahold of our minds and get away from us, which is what’s happening very quickly as the coronavirus spreads. We all know the feeling of our brains getting on a loop, as we envision worst-case scenarios, imagining terrible things about what’s to come, our body full of adrenaline and cortisol. This kind of irrational fear and anxiety is not helpful. No matter how much we scare ourselves or even convince ourselves that we, or our loved ones, might get sick and even die (ostensibly preparing ourselves for the worst), this does not actually change the likelihood of getting the disease or getting sick from it. All it does is control us, trigger chronic anxiety and cause us to behave in irrational ways, like stocking up on a year’s worth of hand-sanitizer or soap.
Fear turns from useful to harmful when, instead of inspiring us to use caution, it causes us to spiral into chronic stress, which leads to irrational actions and thoughts, and actually weakens our immune systems!
A few ways to mitigate your fear are:
- Stop reading/watching so much news. Too much is not a good thing! Find a reliable source of news and stick with it. Check in once a day and that’s it.
- If you find yourself around people who are totally freaked out, politely remove yourself. Fear begets fear. It’s okay to excuse yourself and escape.
- The antidote to anxiety is action. Take measured, rational, intelligent precautions that make you feel comfortable, so you know you are doing what you can to protect yourself and your family.
When you feel panic rise despite your best efforts, you can:
Practice a simple mindfulness technique of being in the now. When you feel your brain start to go off the deep end with fear, and you start to go down the rabbit hole of what-ifs, try this:
STOP. Notice all of your senses. What do you smell? What do you see? What do you feel? What are you experiencing right now in the moment? It might be something like: “My feet are on the ground; I feel the chair beneath my legs. I see out the window—the sun is shining, the air is cool. I hear people talking; my kids are laughing. I smell the coffee from the pot; I feel the inhales and exhales of my breath.”
When you take stock in the now, you turn your mind away from experiencing life elsewhere, in fantasy or stories or imaginings of what once was or what might come. Often, when you look around and take stock, you’ll notice that you are just fine. You are ok and this is where your life is happening: in the present moment. I encourage you to try to catch yourself before you loop into too much anxiety and fear about what might happen and bring yourself back to your now. It can be an extremely powerful tool not just in that moment, but also to help train your brain!
In the meantime, if you want to boost your immunity, you can also:
- Move your body! Not only does exercise support your immune system, it also helps to decrease stress, so it’s a two-for-one.
- Eat whole foods and say no to processed foods. Focus on green leafy veggies and berries packed with antioxidants.
- Try integrating chaga and reishi mushroom tea, zinc and curcumin supplements and echinacea drops into your diet.
- Get proper sleep, which is the best way to restore and fight off illness and stress.
Most of all, remember: Don’t let the stress produced from worrying about the virus do more damage to your health than the potential virus itself! Come back to now, breathe and remember: today you are alive and well. In this moment, you’re just fine.
Learn more about private, group and online programs to boost your physical and emotional wellness and root out personal obstacles in the long-term with JoySpace by Katia here.
Cover image via Alexis Christodoulou