These are unprecedented times. The COVID-19 spread has crippled the world economy and forced us all to spend the majority of our time indoors for what will likely be a much longer time than what most of us are used to. The time we spend adjusting to this “new normal” will continue to be filled with many traps that will do a number on our mental health if we let them. Below are five things to watch out for during this time which will rob you of your happiness – but only if you let them.
1. Unfounded Rumors
Even though we are physically distant from our friends and family, we are still deeply connected to one another through social media and over the phone. Since this experience is new to all of us, it is pretty much what all of us are talking about these days. But what happens when someone tells you, with confidence, that things are about to take a turn for the worst?
For a few weeks now, there have been rumors circulating that are baseless, but nevertheless get passed along through word of mouth with confidence. One example of this is the rumor of martial law being enacted to force the population into an even stricter set of rules, while temporarily sacrificing our civil rights in the name of control. Via “The Infographics Show”, we can see what martial law might look like at home:
The conclusion that the people who are spreading the martial law rumors have? Buy a gun. Why? Because soldiers will come into your home? Because we will be more lawless in our communities? Not only does the conclusion not make sense, but it plays into our worst fears, and it’s completely unfounded. Even though National Guard has been called up in many states, they are people from our own communities who are here to help with “…among other things, they’re disinfecting public places, delivering food, and helping administer drive-through tests for Covid-19…” (Vox.com)
So, before buying into anything you hear from someone telling you something you haven’t heard from official sources, simply ask them who or what their source for the information was. If they don’t give you an official source you can check out and make up your own mind about the information, just dismiss what they have to say and DON’T SPREAD IT TO ANYONE ELSE!
2. Fake News
You’re scrolling through Facebook and you see an official-looking article about COVID-19. You read the sensationalized headline and immediately get fired up about what it’s saying. You either click the link and read it, or just accept the headline as a fact in your mind and move on with your day. This is how fake news works: it presents itself as real news, and spreads through social media. Fake news either deliberately tries to mislead, or it’s based off of an agenda that falls short on providing proof. Either way, it’s a malignancy in our society and Facebook is doing little to combat it.
Older people are the most at-risk for Fake News. The reason for this is because, typically, it plays directly into the underlying biases that people have. Older people are more set in their ways, and are more willing to believe things that “sound right”, based on what they already believe. Fake News continues of the greatest tools for Russian influence in the Western world. It was heavily investigated and reported on by the FBI special council in the last few years. Fake News continues to be used today as Facebook refuses to take a stand against misleading political ads.
The main take-away here is this: The easiest way to avoid fake news is to not trust anything you find on Facebook, ever. It simply is not a credible source for information, and in a world-wise emergency like this, misinformation may be deadly.
3. Conspiracy Theories
China intentionally created and unleashed the novel Coronavirus in order to attack the Western world.
If you buy into this sentiment at all, you may be a victim of not doing enough research. Conspiracy theories are not all crazy, and certainly not everyone who has false beliefs are crazy. After all, most of us do have some false beliefs.
Not all false beliefs are bad – according to Psychology Today, …all of us hold a variety of false beliefs—such as so-called “positive illusions,” like unwarranted optimism about the future—that are extremely common and even healthy. However, there are many conspiracy theories that are not only irrefutably proven wrong, but they are extremely dangerous for the world.
The examples provided above all continue to be pushed online by trolls attacking our democracy, mostly through Twitter. These are foreign agents who want to see our society descend into madness.
You should really consider this fact when believing any conspiracy theory, and this new theory about COVID-19 being genetically being altered to be used as a weapon against us is easily disproven if you just do some research using reliable sources.
4. Too Much COVID-19 News
One could argue that reading this article is counter-intuitive to the point being made here, and to that there is no counter-argument. However, it’s important to understand what over-exposure to the news about the virus can do to your mental health.
While too much exposure to any news has been proven to be detrimental to mental health, it is extremely easy to fall victim to too much Coronavirus information. Since this pandemic has completely changed society, it seems like everywhere you turn there’s more information out there about it.
You can’t turn on the television without seeing several commercials about companies’ responses to the virus. You are probably receiving emails from about every company who has your email address telling you what they’re doing about it. Your social circles likely talk about it all the time. You see new infection and death statistics daily. Businesses are closing around town. Unemployment is skyrocketing. And then, here you are, a responsible person, sitting at home, trying to stay sane while doing your part to flatten the curve.
Here’s what you should do:
1. Stay informed, but only read news once a day, if that.
2. Create and maintain a regular, new routine at home, doing things that help fight depression.
3. Ask that close friends and family limit their amount of pandemic discussion, or take yourself out of the discussions when possible
4. Do things that make you happy daily.
5. Buckle in for the long road ahead. It will not be over soon, so you’re better off thinking this is what life is like now. That way, you won’t be upset when they extend the stay-at-home guidelines again.
It’s very easy to get mad during these times. If you were already not a fan of your government’s administration, chances are you are probably even more upset by any of the new information that comes out. But if you let these things eat away at your happiness, you are in a way letting your enemies win.
For instance, let’s say you are someone in the US who does not like President Donald Trump and his regime. Maybe it was Donald Trump allegedly calling the Coronavirus a hoax by the Democrats, or Donald Trump potentially shelving a plan to prepare for the spread, or Donald Trump lying about the availability of the tests, or Donald Trump giving false hope about a vaccine coming in the next few months, or Donald Trump claiming nobody knows what the Coronavirus even is, or maybe it was the fact that Donald Trump refuses to comply with documenting where $500 billion of the Coronavirus stimulus bill will go, that pushed you into a fiery rage, but where did that leave you, mentally?
There’s a saying that goes “resentment is like drinking a poison and expecting the other person to die from it,” and it is a good reminder that living with hate only hurts you. I am not a psychologist, so I will quote clinical psychologist Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist, Founder and Director of PsychMatters Centre in her article.
…the effects of feeling hatred over a long period of time can have devastating effects on your mind and body. Feelings of rage and hatred build up in the mind, body and soul, affecting the body’s organs and natural processes and breeding further negative emotions. Hatred is a form of neurosis, fixation and judgment that is harmful to you. If continued, it leads to conflicts in relationships and to bodily dis-ease.“How Hatred Only Hurts You” by Joanna Kleovoulou
Research shows that hatred changes the chemistry in the brain as it stimulates the premotor cortex which is responsible for planning and execution of motion. This prepares us to act aggressively when feeling hateful, either to defend or as an attack . This activation also triggers the autonomic nervous system, creating “fight or flight” responses, increasing cortisol and adrenalin. Both these hormones deplete the adrenals and contribute to weight gain, insomnia, anxiety, depression and chronic illness. And so the cycle of bodily and mental dis-ease continues. Hatred also triggers the mind to try to predict what the actions of the person being hated may do, as a way to protect you, but this leads to further anxiety, restlessness, obsessive thinking and paranoia, which also then impacts negatively in the way you engage in relationships. It’s important to note that all these reactions affect only the hater, and not the hated, breaking down your nervous – immune – and endocrine system, and your mental well-being.
So, if you are someone like the person in the example above, then do everything you can to not let the hate consume your life, as it can only hurt you. Even though it is easy to be angry at our leadership, remember that we all have a part to play in this, and you can help flatten the curve by staying home and staying healthy.