How To Cope With The Fear Of Death As The Pandemic Surges

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woman wearing a mask
Self

On Sunday morning, I woke up with a scratchy throat and body aches. Immediately, I was aware of palpable emotional distress: fear.

"What if it’s COVID?" I thought. 

And as my symptoms progressed to sinus pain and headache, my fear advanced to the dread of dying.

So, how do you handle the fear of death as the pandemic resurges for a second wave?

RELATED: How To Use Coronavirus Fear To Your Advantage

Fear of death is common, especially in the midst of a terrifying pandemic.

As a hypnotherapist practicing psychology and mental health for years, I know that fear has two faces.

One is biological and instinctual — our brains are wired for survival. This fear is beneficial, signaling that there are dangers and potential threats to our physical survival.

It’s meant to be a short signal, like an alarm. It rings, grabbing your attention, and then you deactivate it by taking an action.

A healthy, rational response goes like this: "I heard it. I got it. I’m on it."

Like when you step into the street to cross, and suddenly a car comes at you from nowhere. Your survival brain immediately alerts you with bursts of chemicals, such as cortisol, activating the fight-or-flight response.

So you jump back onto the sidewalk, letting the car pass, and then cross the street safely. By the time you walk into the nearest Starbucks to grab your morning Frappuccino, you’ve forgotten all about it.

Now, there's another face of fear — and this one is a learned response to the outside world — formed in childhood.

When negative experiences happen — your parents fight and get divorced, a best friend leaves for another school, a favorite pet disappears, or Grandma dies — you may feel helpless and out of control.

There’s no mental maturity present to self-soothe and self-empower. So, you counter your insecurities with positive thoughts.

"It’s OK for me to be upset, but I'm strong and capable of overcoming life’s hurdles."

"I'm not responsible for my parents’ happiness, and my sense of safety and security doesn’t depend on that."

"Life can be tough, but I'm tougher."

"I'm good enough, and can choose to focus on happy things and events in my life."

None of these positive beliefs are present in the mind of the irrational and scared child — only hurt and fear, internalized as powerlessness.

As the years go by, these childhood feelings become habitual in adulthood and you start to feel like you're a victim, held captive by life’s unwanted circumstances.

What’s truly scary is that the mindset of the victim doesn’t produce rational and positive outcomes — it only keeps you stuck in a vicious cycle of suffering.

So, how do you deal with this two-headed monster of fear? Accept your fears, talk to them, rationally, and then take action from an adult and mature perspective.

So, if you fear of death due to COVID-19's resurgence, here are 5 ways to cope.

1. Acknowledge that you’re scared.

Ask yourself, "What is it that I’m afraid of?" Most likely, the real fear is feeling out of control and doing something you don’t want to do just yet, like dying.

Talk to the part of yourself that feels this way, reminding it that you're not powerless, even in the face of a pandemic. You have options and choices, such as taking precautions like social distancing, wearing a mask, and limiting non-essential exposure.

Tell it that you are in control over how you handle this global event, and that this nasty virus doesn’t have to define your internal state of safety and security.

RELATED: 4 Simple Steps To Overcoming Fear & Anxiety During The Coronavirus Pandemic

2. Diffuse your fear.

Remind yourself that the vast majority of people do recover from this virus and that the mortality rate is relatively low.

Tell yourself that doctors and scientists are more experienced now in handling the pandemic, prescribing drugs that bring relief, and close to distributing a breakthrough vaccine.

Stay away from watching negative news. Instead, feed your mind positive and reassuring facts, because your mental conversation creates your emotional climate, directly affecting your physical health.

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3. Take part in self-care every day.

According to the new field of Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), it’s a scientific fact that prolonged mental-emotional stress — such as worry and fear — tends to dramatically diminish our immune system’s response.

Our bodies are designed to self-repair and self-heal. Unless we suppress this natural ability with a negative mindset, the body will stay in a state of homeostasis.

So, in a way, when we are worrying about dying, we are contradicting our desire to live. Instead, we can choose to trust our body’s wisdom, taking practical steps to assist in our natural well-being.

4. Take care of your health.

Being an adult implies that you are capable and in control. You have choices over your lifestyle in the midst of this pandemic. You can help your body stay well by tuning in to it and following its guidance.

Begin by taking its cues to rest, exercise, and eat right. Learn to say no to junk food and overwhelming chores. You have nothing to prove by overachieving and doing favors for others at your own expense.

Respecting your own needs first and doing what’s best for you is a sign of healthy self-esteem and aids your nervous and immune systems in functioning efficiently.

5. Keep yourself proactive in the control seat.

Invest in immune-supporting vitamins and supplements and look into alternative ways to help your body stay well.

Most grocery and natural health food stores (brick and mortar or virtual) have a large selection of tinctures, herbs (tablets, capsules, and teas), homeopathic remedies, and vitamins to choose from.

And now, in bed, I’m snuggling with my kitty at my feet, green tea with raw honey, and yogurt with propolis, next to liquid vitamin C and zinc on the nightstand next to me.

Soothed by my beloved grandma’s wool shawl over my sore throat, I’m aware more than ever of the pandemic raging in the world outside. There is nothing I can do about it, except seeking salvation in the depths of my mind.

Replace the fear of death with a desire to live and thrive — the only true control we all have over our own ives and well-being.

RELATED: Why We Need To Spread Facts, Not Misinformation And Fear, During The Pandemic

Katherine Agranovich, Ph.D., is a medical hypnotherapist, holistic consultant, and author of "Tales of My Large, Loud, Spiritual Family." As the founder of the Achieve Health Center, she helps people attain mental-emotional alignment and close the gap between where they are and where they want to be.