Posted on

Fear of Uncertainty – Not Knowing When COVID-19 Will End

Hashil Al Hatmi

By Hashil Al Hatmi

Hashil Al Hatmi previously worked at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital under the Behaviour Medicine Department and is now establishing psychological services at the Royal Hospital. His main interest is in Health Psychology and Behaviour Change both on a patient level and a public level. He thoroughly enjoys assisting his colleagues and other professionals in improving their resilience and emotional wellbeing.

It was said by the famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu that when you feel depressed you are living in the past, when you are anxious and worried you are living in the future and when you are at peace you are living in the present.¹ Not knowing what lies ahead can be frightening for any person. Human beings are curious creatures and have a tendency to be concerned with what the future will bring whether it be in the next five minutes to the next five hours. Will it be good or will it be bad? Nevertheless, we have the urge of wanting to find out about the future.

When it comes to unhelpful thoughts, no matter how scary they may be, we cannot resist the curiosity of wanting to know the unknown and what will occur. It is as if there is a gigantic wall, in front of us, and our job is to climb up that wall in order to get to the other side, not knowing what lies ahead. Another example is when young children first learn to ride a bicycle, they do not know whether they will fall off the bike and be laughed at or will they managed to ride without falling? Not knowing the outcome of events in our lives bring about a preoccupation with its positive or negative impact, and very often we feel the need to prepare for the very worst. All of these thoughts and emotions are perfectly normal and do not justify as someone mentally disturbed. For indeed acute stress can motivate different types of behaviour. It can be the driving force behind some people to work harder and achieve positive outcomes, or it can be an impairment to some people who might become pessimistic and perceive their future as dark and clouded with failure. The latter usually has a domino effect and leads to more feelings and thoughts of negativity and low-mood, and hence affecting lives personally, socially, and professionally as well.

ِAs the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to expand and the pandemic rises so rapidly that mankind struggles to keep up its spread and mutation all over the world, a fear of uncertainty is the top concern for humanity. When will it end? A question that is constantly asked by every individual, family, community, society, nation and continent. From people grieving over their loved ones who have died due to this crisis to the economy scattered into pieces and parents struggling to entertain their kids whilst remaining productive when working remotely. People on social media have gone to the extent of perceiving the pandemic to be some sort of Armageddon. When movies like ‘2012’ were released, it made myriad viewers terrified as to what will happen in that year and after. Other movies, like ‘The Walking Dead’ or ‘I Am Legend’ where human beings turn into zombies as an after-effect of infectious plague. Social media today and the many films about how the world was affected by disease outbreaks truly have an effect on people’s mental wellbeing with the incredible outbreak of the coronavirus today. FIlms have been found to have a significant impact on viewers in society. According to a study by Visch², immersive films have its impact on a basic dimension of emotions, sadness and fascination. Wendy Syfret³ stated in The Guardian that “My fears are built on the sandy foundation of “what if”. What if disaster strikes, my assets evaporate, the people around me disappear, or my loved ones are put in danger? But facing my apparent nightmare hasn’t triggered the nuclear meltdown I imagined.” Moreover, as cases are increasing and vaccines are being trialled, one may wonder how long will it be till COVID-19 ends and we can all come back to normal.

Below are some tips on how to manage your fear and worries over COVID-19:

Taking Necessary Precautions

  • Washing your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) with soap and water or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoiding touching your face (particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth).
  • Staying home as much as possible, even if you don’t feel sick.
  • Avoiding crowds and gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • Avoiding all non-essential shopping and travel.
  • Keeping 6 feet of distance between yourself and others when out.
  • Following all recommendations from health authorities.

Stress Management Tips

  • Preoccupying your time in productivity as much as you can.
  • Having a daily schedule.
  • Utilising your time at home to help your family.
  • Practice relaxation techniques and mindfulness exercises.
  • Balancing your time online and offline.
  • Limiting social media news about COVID-19
  • Write down the positives that this pandemic has brought to your life.
  • Connect with your family and friends virtually.
  • Donate to healthcare services.

References:

  1. Trujillo, D.M. (2016). The Art of Intentional Living: A Comprehensive Guide for Finding Inner Peace. (1 ed.). Texas, USA: Xlibris.
  2. Visch, V.T. (2009). The emotional and cognitive effect of immersion in film viewing. Cognition and Emotion, 24(8), 1439-1445.
  3. Syfret, W. (2020). Covid-19 and the already anxious: ‘I have been covertly training for this stress marathon’. Retrieved 7 April, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/apr/03/covid-19-and-the-already-anxious-i-have-been-covertly-training-for-this-stress-marathon