Fear Spreads Faster Than Coronavirus

4. Avoid fear-mongers (or at least don’t let their fears become your own)

Fear fuels fear. If you’re continually engaging in conversations with anxious people who are absorbed in fear-casting and catastrophizing, you’ll find it hard not to let their anxieties become your own. While it’s important to avoid negative energy-draining people at the best of times, when fear is running amok, it’s even more critical. So just as you try to minimize exposure to viruses, you also need to minimize exposure to people who fuel stress. And if you’re in an online chat group with dooms-dayers and panic merchants, do yourself a favor and get out of it.

5. Educate yourself (find the facts beyond the headlines)

We’re all wired with a negativity bias. It’s why we sometimes have to do a “self-intervention” and actively look for information that balances out all the negativity we’re being fed. For instance, while coronavirus is highly infectious, outside of China it has a mortality rate of 0.2% (compared to SARS which was about 10%.) Every year 60,000 people die of ordinary influenza and very few people outside of Wuhan province who have contracted coronavirus have died outside of the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. Of the 45 people who’ve contracted coronavirus in Singapore, seven have already been discharged from hospital (with more headed home soon.) So yes, be careful, wash your hands, up your hygiene, and stay home if you’re feeling unwell but you don’t have to cancel your life.

Speaking of which…

6. Get on with your life (as it encourages others to get on with theirs)

I flew to Texas last week to speak at a conference. Tomorrow I fly from Singapore to Australia to speak at another one. Someone told me yesterday they thought I was crazy doing all this travel given the coronavirus. (Then again, some think I’m crazy traveling this much anytime!) Of course, I’m mindful that travels may be disrupted or plans derailed, but I’m also very committed to not letting my fear of what could go wrong keep me from getting on with my work and my life. I simply don’t want to give fear any more power than it warrants.

I want no less for you. To take sensible precautions, and then get on with your life.

It’s by taking a few deep long breaths, then taking calm decisive action in the presence of our fear that we dilute its power, and amplify your own. Hence, it is times like these that each of us is called upon to reel in our fears and start leading the change we’d like to see in those around us. Because just as fear is contagious, so too is courage.


This piece originally appeared at MargieWarrell.com on March 2, 2020. Since it was first published, COVID-19 has been declared a worldwide pandemic. Margie is safe in Singapore on lockdown in her home while her husband fights coronavirus in quarantine. Read more about their COVID-19 experience here.

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