It’s quite easy to spread fear. Just ask Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.
Panic is good business. And they’ll keep feeding viewers heaping spoonfuls of it every hour on the hour because ratings and advertising revenue show that tube-heads will watch it.
A lot of it.
Physical exposure to the coronavirus is bad for your health. Duh. But what you may not realize is too much “virus porn” running 24 hours a day on cable “news” networks can pack a significant punch too.
So how can we cope with coronavirus hysteria and neutralize the noise swirling around it? Consider these tips courtesy of author Joe McCormack:
Understand how overconsumption of bad news affects you: When something becomes the only thing, it becomes everything, says McCormack. The temptation to sit in front of the TV and consume all day long is huge. You hear all sorts of things that aren’t relevant, timely, or accurate. You start believing the world is coming to an end. And when all your waking hours are spent anxious, nervous, and anticipating the worst, you start to miss all the other stuff in your life.
Don’t confuse predictions with certainty: You’ve probably heard the adage that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. That’s important to remember at times like these. People tend to make dire predictions with such certainty that you start to believe them, but really, they simply do not know. Remember all the past flus and viruses that were supposed to decimate humanity—but didn’t.
Temper your consumption: Thanks to the 24/7 news cycle, you’re likely to see the same story reported 17 times and said 17 slightly different ways. It’s not healthy to dedicate all your bandwidth to one fear-producing story. But if you’re tempted to blame the media, don’t. It’s their job. It’s your job to manage your consumption: to decide when to watch, what to watch, and when to turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and walk away.
“Create filters for what’s information and what’s useless noise and live by them,” McCormack advised. “It’s not all useful.”
Focus on the facts: Find one good source you trust and stay abreast of the situation. Pay attention to what you can control: regular handwashing, reasonably stocking up on bottled water and other supplies, postponing flights to coronavirus “hot spots,” and so forth. If you can’t impact it, don’t focus on it.
“Just don’t give your attention to ‘domino effect’ fears like worldwide pandemics or economic collapse,” McCormack said. “There’s nothing you can do about what ‘might’ happen and it only spreads fear.”
When others are talking, change the subject: Don’t pile on. Be the voice of calm and reason. If they won’t drop the subject, have a few reassuring talking points in reserve to help put things in perspective and defuse fear. The CDC website is a good source for this. For example: “The risk of getting the coronavirus in the U.S. is currently low,” and “There are simple things you can do to help keep yourself and others healthy.”
Above all, know we need to be at our best in challenging times. That means it’s crucial not to allow ourselves to get caught up in fear or—worse—to spread that fear to others.
“Noise drowns out clarity, and clarity is critical during times of crisis,” McCormack said. “When we lose clarity, we start doing impulsive things and making bad decisions. It’s bad for our mental and emotional health, and it’s bad for our relationships. We need to spread facts, not fear. Rather than adding to the noise, we need to be part of the solution.”
McCormack is the author of the new book, “NOISE: Living and Leading When Nobody Can Focus.”