Why Coronavirus Anxiety is Hard to Control – a Neuroendocrine Cancer patient perspective

. I guess many people are feeling pretty scared right now.  Add age, a chronic disease, cancer, a lung illness or any condition that has a level of immunosuppression, and it seems to become even more scarier when you read the news.  I think the ‘not knowing’ how this crisis is going to pan out has made the situation quite surreal.  We seem to have gone from a fairly routine day to day living, thinking coronavirus is something that happens in another faraway country and then BANG, it’s on our doorstep.  I don’t know about you but I would hate to have survived metastatic Cancer for the last 10 years only be taken out by a stupid tiny virus because I forgot to wash my hands. Thus why I intend to take precautions.  As my wife Chris said to me, “I feel like I’m watching a disaster movie on TV except we’re in it”

It’s OK to be worried because that just might keep you safer than being dismissive – getting that balance right can be difficult though.  However, when you read the headlines, you can see that some people are going crazy; and in some areas, the mob is taking over leaving less crazy people (and in many cases, more vulnerable) more exposed to the risks than they need to be.  I won’t go into the details of that except to say that some human behaviour is less than human. 

As a full time blogger and patient advocate, I deal with many many sources of information but in the last 2 weeks, the entire social media and sources I use are totally dominated by coronavirus. There is an ‘information tsunami’ out there that will definitely drown you or at best sweep you off your feet – and if you let it, it will just increase the stress and worry.  I noticed this early on and spurred on by a barrage of private messages from other cancer patients, I tried to fend off further effort by writing what is now my stock answer and incudes general cancer and Neuroendocrine Cancer sources – Coronavirus (COVID-19): what are the risks for cancer patients – click here to read.  Some things are just not known yet but follow your government’s disease control guidance please. 

A big worry for some might be about how they will continue to get their normal tests and appointments, and their treatments.  No-one has any real answer to this, there is bound to be some disruption of service at peak COVID-19 period.  Read my article on COVID-19 and treatment here.

When I saw this article I’ve pasted below, I instantly recognised the advice because Chris and I are already doing some of this, we are not stockpiling, we are getting into the washing hands thing, we are focussing in on one or two sources of information and we have already started to practice social distancing, including taking walks in isolated outdoor locations (as long as we are allowed to under government imposed restrictions). 

This crisis will end and things will get back to normal but it will take a while.  

You may also like this similar article from one of my own subscription channels and where I got the idea for the title of this post – read here

The article I referred to above was passed to me by messenger from one of my relatives, I’ve also seen it shared a few times on my personal social media.  I think it’s worth a read and I’ve side-barred the content below in blue:  Apparently it was written by an Epidemiologist (a person who studies or is an expert in the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases.) 

Today feels like a good time to post about dealing with mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even that word is scary. Right now, it’s normal to feel worried, frightened, uncertain and at a heightened level of awareness (otherwise known as, my friend and yours, anxiety). You’re no doubt in full throttle information overload… which over time leads to information fatigue. And with things changing on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis. It’s exhausting.

You may feel confused because you can’t make sense of all the information – which can make you feel self-conscious or embarrassed. You may fear you’re overreacting – you are questioning your own judgement. This is why everyone’s asking each other what they’re doing “Are you cancelling your trip?” “Are you pulling your kid out of school?” “Are you self-isolating?” It’s often the blind leading the blind, but people seek validation from others to help manage the uncertainty.

There are a lot of ways stress is manifesting. Some people are trying to prepare – but for what exactly? Nobody knows. It is all unknown – so how do you know whether you’re really, truly prepared or not? This is why people are buying ALL the toilet paper, it helps them FEEL prepared and in control 🧻 (but also it is short-sighted and irresponsible STOP DOING THAT) This is a coping mechanism.

Or you may decide this whole debacle is ridiculous, you’re being bamboozled by the media and maybe just let fate decide. When you’re fighting an invisible enemy, it can feel futile. Counter-measures you take, you’ll probably never truly know if they made a difference. So it can feel silly to wash your hands for the 749593th time that day. Dismissing is also a coping mechanism for feeling out of control.

Nowadays, we are good at reacting to news and taking a side: you decide you are either a person who cares about Covid-19 or you are a person who does not. There are two extremes: you’re either terrified or dismissive.

What we are NOT so good at is balancing these two emotions in our mind at the same time. You can take this seriously and also stay calm. We can do our very best to avoid it but also accept that there are many factors out of our control.

Some things you can do for self-care right now:

  • Don’t tell people to calm down. That isn’t helpful to anyone and it’s confusing. Listen, give reassurance, share useful information and be supportive.
  • Try to get into a routine of hand washing & keeping distances away from others if possible so that it’s part of your normal day.
  • Limit time watching media coverage on Covid-19. Pick a couple key info sources that don’t make you feel anxious & ignore the rest. Try to follow public health guidance as best you can, not the talking heads on TV who only speculate and fuel hysteria.
  • Talk to friends and family on the phone or video chat. Social connections are super vital for mental health so do stay in touch with your loved ones.
  • Go outside. This is the safest place to be! Do exercise, go for a walk, or to the park. Isolation doesn’t mean staying indoors!!! It means if you run into a neighbour outside just stand awkwardly far (1-2 meters) away to chat and don’t hug/shake hands etc.
  • If stressed, do some mindfulness or meditation exercises. Just 15 minutes can help reset your mind. Try yoga 🧘🏻‍♀️ or apps like Headspace.
  • Expect lockdown measures that will last about a month. During this time you’ll still be allowed to go to the shops for food/necessities. I’ll say it again for people in the BACK. You’ll still be allowed out! If you want to be proactive get some food for the freezer: batch cook meals, buy frozen fruit/veg or freeze your own (nowadays frozen has same nutritional value as fresh), make sure you have enough basics (I’m talking 1 roll of 🧻 per day unless you plan to eat it!) If you have kids maybe borrow some DVDs or books from the library or buy a couple magazines to stave off boredom. Schoolwork will be sent home if schools close.

In summary, use your common sense. Err on the side of safety but don’t be extreme. The truth is some people will get sick and die, but the VAST majority will be unaffected or if infected, make a full recovery. Let’s do our best to be community-minded and know all our little actions can add up to something big & together we can #flattenthecurve

Wash your hands!

One thought on “Why Coronavirus Anxiety is Hard to Control – a Neuroendocrine Cancer patient perspective

  • Wendie woehler

    Thank You! It was great to read common sense ideas to make it through these difficult times.

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