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Healthy Level Of Denial

The Coronavirus And Mental Health

Mentally Preparing For The Coronavirus

How do we balance the delicate scale of being informed and responsible, but not panicked and irrational in our response to the COVID-19 outbreak?

We interviewed Robert Francis, PsyD, who is on staff, to gain some insight into how to have an appropriate mental response to the Coronavirus.

“It’s really about having a healthy level of denial” Francis said. He explains that this is the same motivation behind the mindset he has every time he gets in the car to drive to work. He knows, as most of us do, that there is a chance that while he is on the road, he could get in an accident and get injured or even killed. However, he also knows that the probability of this happening is small. Having a healthy level of denial means that while he does not completely deny the possibility of a car accident, he also does not dwell on the possibility, and instead focuses on what he can control (i.e. driving safely, staying alert, paying attention to other drivers on the road).

While crises like the coronavirus can be scary, our mental response can mirror the healthy level of denial we exercise in other areas of life. For instance, while we know that there is a real possibility of contracting the coronavirus, it does not benefit us to dwell on that possibility. It does benefit us to be educated and aware of what we can be doing to limit the likelihood of contracting and/or spreading the virus.

“There’s a thin line between concern and worry,” Francis said. “Be concerned, educated, and careful, but at a level that doesn’t step into the realm of what we can’t control. All we have control over is ourselves.”

Dwelling on the global, economical, political effects of the coronavirus is not likely to put us in a good headspace to deal with the pandemic simply because it places the focus on things we can’t control. Instead, we recommend that as a community and as individuals we focus on what we can control, and thus keep us in a healthy mental space while at the same time doing everything we can on our part to limit the spread of this disease.