Emotional Contagion and the COVID-19

emotional contagion covid-19 coronavirusIf you’re concerned about your health and safety, you should be. It’s human. But be cautious that your anxiety isn’t playing into a psychological phenomena.

At this point, many of us could probably be employed as reporters to give detailed updates on the coronavirus. The informal running commentary, coupled with witnessing the headlines that stimulate emotions and related behaviors from others, can directly trigger similar emotions and behaviors in us. This is known as ‘EMOTIONAL CONTAGION’. Just like the spread of a virus, we can ‘catch feelings’. Emotions, both positive and negative, actually spread like viruses, whether or not we intend for them to.

When you’re surrounded by people who are scared, frightened, and desperate there is a tendency to be negatively affected with those same thoughts and feelings. The phenomenon surrounding the reactions to the news headlines illustrates the importance of being aware of and managing our emotions. While it’s normal to be cautious, not burying your head in the sand…”I stressed out, and that solved the problem!”…said no one ever. You can exercise emotional intelligence at this time by:

Recognizing your risks:

Are you immunocompromised? Have you been around people who are symptomatic? If you can answer, “No” to both of those questions, why not shift the energy to doing your normal due diligence (ex. washing your hands, cleaning your phone, traveling smart) consistently.

Relinquishing control:

Part of the stress is always the unknown. But since we can’t predict the future, we have to be okay with planning/forecasting the best we can, and leaving room to adapt with the changes that could come. We prepare by not going overboard, but by doing things like making sure we have a little extra, getting the travel insurance, being flexible with our objectives, and staying open to cancellations and rescheduling. Again, blowing your top is not an effective coping mechanism.

Knowing your triggers:

If it’s people, limit your time. If it’s media, take what you need without ruminating, speculating, and expecting the worst. Remember that the media is all about a sensational cycle…don’t get stuck in the loop.

Being smart:

As humans, we’re wired for survival. If someone around you is sick, coughing, or spreading germs in an obvious way, while you don’t have to be rude, this is not the time to ‘be nice’ because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Give yourself permission to step away and let your fight or flight mechanism kick in, as kindly as possible, to protect yourself from unwanted exposure.

Sticking to the facts:

Rely on science, not opinions, stereotypes, and assumptions. My good friend who is a medical school librarian sent me this up-to-the minute resource, for clients with questions: Home – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

We’ve been here before, and we got through it. This too shall pass. Don’t forget to employ the strengths you used in the past to peacefully navigate this storm. Be intentional about ‘infecting’ others in a constructive way.

About the Author

Dr. Barbara Ford Shabazz Dr. Barbara Ford Shabazz is currently the Psychology Program Director at South University, author of Intentional Balance, and the owner of Intentional Activities. For over 20 years, she has served students, clients, and the larger community as an instructor, advisor, speaker, consultant, therapist, and coach. Her clinical training commenced during an undergraduate practicum, where she initiated a collaborative partnership among the community elementary school teachers, parents, students, and university practicum enrollees. She has worked primarily in the Hampton Roads Virginia area with the community services board, various high schools, therapeutic foster care agencies, a pediatric medical practice, and a non-profit organization. Dr. Shabazz had the opportunity to hone her expertise in the mental health field through participating in her doctoral internship with Kern County Mental Health and practicing as a Resident in Psychology with a local psychotherapy practice, which provides services to a broad spectrum of clients. Close relationships with community organizations have helped to inform this educator's roles and responsibilities in academia. Dr. Shabazz not only facilitated a myriad of psychology courses for her alma mater's undergraduate and graduate programs, participated in student advising, and created a student-led colloquium series for the senior citizen neighbors, but she also had the honor of being recognized as favorite faculty. Additional classroom experience has offered invaluable lessons for practical application. Her position as an online professor helped to ensure competence with current trends and best practices in the field. More recently, Dr. Barbara has been drawn to the study of positive psychology, which was the impetus for seeking certification with the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute. As a practicing certified personal and executive coach, her goal with Intentional Activities is to tap into the inherent strengths of each client, equipping them with the tools necessary to live a more action-oriented and authentic life. Dr. Shabazz earned her B.A. in psychology from Norfolk State University. She subsequently attended Regent University where she completed the requirements for her M.A. in Community and School Counseling , and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She is in a unique position to effect change from the classroom to the community, as she adeptly bridges theory and practice in her work with diverse populations. BARBARA FORD SHABAZZ PSY.D. , CPEC CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, CERTIFIED PERSONAL AND EXECUTIVE COACH 757.305.7656 [email protected] www.intentionalactivities.com

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One Comment

Susan Floyd

Being a writer you probably don’t have not and will not suffer financially. Those of us you are in a mild panic are concerned about being able toupee our bills and wondering when our income will resume. And for those a bus with children have not only ourselves to safeguard from the virus we must be establish an implement daily restrictions upon our children to with no allowance for them to make an error risking their health. I think most of us are able to recognize when our fears grow out of proportion but loosing your ability to pay this months bills and forcing your family into isolation all for an undetermined amount of time who is to say when ones fears are excessive.

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