When we are faced with crisis situations of this magnitude, we get anxious and excessively worry that our sense of safety and security is threatened. We become fearful for ourselves and for our loved ones. For many of us this anxiety and worry is manageable, but for others it can become debilitating.
Here are some tips to help manage these fears:
Limit exposure to news about Ebola. We all know that staying informed is a good thing to do in these crisis situations, but too much exposure can heighten fears and cause your anxiety to escalate. Also, try to limit media exposure about the outbreak to your kids too. If they ask about it, help your age-appropriate children understand what's going on in a calm and honest way. Give them general and unspecific information. Don't lie to them in hopes of sparing them because they will learn about it anyway from somewhere else. Reassure them that they are safe with you.
Avoid "emotional reasoning." Don't think with your emotions. Don't catastrophize. Your worry over the outbreak is natural. But just because it's really bothering you and you are obsessing about it a lot does not mean you are in immediate danger. This is a common misnomer for people with excessive worry. Fearful thoughts and emotions are NOT facts.
Focus on things you DO have control over. One of the hardest things to bear in a crisis scare of this nature is that we have NO CONTROL over it. Anxious minds don't like that. So keep a healthy perspective and try to focus on what you DO have control over, like your job, taking care of your kids, keeping your home safe, caring for others, etc. This will help you feel less out of control.
Accept that you are frightened. A great mindfulness tool is radically accepting that right now, due to the unusual circumstances, you are scared. And that's okay. Allow yourself to acknowledge the anxiety as a natural component of your fight/flight/freeze response system which is there to help protect the body from harm. God or evolution did not put it there to harm you. It is there to protect you. Make peace with your anxiety. Nothing is wrong with feeling that way.
Be more "reflective than reactive." A good motto is: "Don't believe everything you think." Before you react to your fears, get all the facts you need from a reputable source, then take five minutes to step back and reflect. Then, replace that thought with a more realistic one. The exercise of learning to separate irrational thoughts from rational thoughts is a handy tool and a good way to de-escalate anxiety.
Don't isolate. Stay connected. Fears are fleeting, but human contact is solid and reliable. Connect with others and talk about your fears and concerns. Maintaining social contacts and engaging in activities can help maintain a sense of healthy consistency and provide meaningful opportunities for sharing feelings and relieving tension.
Maintain a sense of normalcy. Structure, structure, structure. Don't change the composition of your day-to-day living. Do not make any drastic changes in your life due to the crisis. Keep routines active for you and your family. Keep engaging in hobbies, meeting with your friends, going to the movies, to dinner, etc. A sense of normalcy and daily structure also helps to keep your perspective healthy and leaves less opportunity for the mind to wander off and over-magnify your fears.
And lastly, if your symptoms of anxiety begin to overwhelm you and it impairs your ability to function on a day to day basis, seek professional help. Reach out to a trained counselor or a mental health clinician for guidance and support. Remember, anxiety and phobias are treatable conditions that should never be underestimated.