Concerns and Fears: Coping Tips and Advice by Psychologists

Consciously recognizing your feelings can help cope with fears and concerns.

As people, we have an intrinsic fundamental need to understand and influence our surroundings as well as the things that happen to us. At the moment, however, we are limited in what we can do and control. The Coronavirus is an external stress factor – something completely new. It is previously unknown, unpredictable, and was unforeseen. Right now, everyone in general and students, of course, feel bombarded as we are faced with many questions and uncertainties. "How fast does the Coronavirus spread? Will our healthcare system be able to handle it? How will government measures impact the economy? How can I finish classes this semester? How can I afford to study in the future? What challenges - and perhaps even losses - will my own family have to endure?"

Just how well each and every one of us can cope with these questions and uncertainties depends on many individual factors and personal resources. This 3-part series will try and help you cope with - and partially control - your concerns and fears. Part 1 will focus on emotions and feelings. Part 2 talks about how to manage what you are thinking, and part 3 will focus on influencing options on a behavioral level.

1. Consciously feeling your feelings creates organizational possibilities

The COVID-19 pandemic triggers all kinds of feelings. Some people are afraid of getting ill and/or worry about their future. Others are angry, confused or feel stressed out, bored, curious, relieved, shame, or despair. Sometimes we feel all of these things at once. As normal and as understandable as these feelings are, they also seem very threatening when they uncontrollably overwhelm us.

Our Tip: Allow yourself to be consciously aware of your feelings and use your words to describe how you feel!

"What am I feeling right now? How strong is this feeling at the moment? Where in my body is the feeling strongest (the fear, the anger, etc.)? When do my emotions feel stronger and when do they feel weaker? How often do I feel like I can be in control of my feelings?" Sometimes it is helpful to apply a personal 0-10 rating system to describe the intensity of your feelings. 0, for example, would be "I haven’t a care in the world and I feel great" and 10 would be "I am as anxious as can be, I can hardly breathe and I am literally shaking". Observe then for yourself how this rating changes based on the things you do (watching the news, talking on the phone with friends, studying, taking a walk, etc.).

2. Recognizing your needs behind your feelings gives you leeway

There is a need behind every feeling or sensation. Depending on your life experiences thus far, these needs are very individual and different.                                                                                                                           

Our Tip: Ask yourself: "What is the inherent need behind what I am feeling?"

If you feel scared, would you rather have someone who listens to you and provides a sense of security or would you prefer a little distance and a distraction? If you are angry, do you feel like lashing out emotionally or yelling on the phone, or do you feel the need to get out and be physically active, or be with someone who counteracts your heightened emotional state with a sense of calm? If you are sad, do you want to hear consoling words or would you rather curl up with your pet, or write in your diary? By being aware of your needs, you can take the first steps toward not to feeling completely overwhelmed by your emotions.

3. Talk about feelings to let it go and feel connected

People deal with their feelings in different ways. Some people write, some paint and draw, some play a musical instrument, and others engage in various creative activities. Do what works for you personally in order to be aware of your feelings and process them. Some people find it helpful to talk about their feelings with those who are close and familiar as this provides a sense of comfort, understanding, and support.

Our Tip: Talk about your feelings with those who are close to you

Some people find it helpful to admit their feelings of weakness to themselves as well as to others. Those around you most likely have similar feelings. Talking about it can feel like a weight being lifted and things that feel threatening can be better put into perspective. Research on stress shows that social contacts are a decisive factor when it comes to handling stress well. In this regard, we recommend "spatial distancing" instead of "social distancing". Continue to be social by, for example, calling people or video chatting, and allow yourself speak positively, including a bit of "normal life" by talking about, for example, television series, recipes, or your newfound interests and hobbies.

If you feel anxious and scared and there is little or no support in your immediate social environment, contact the Student Psychological Counseling Service as well as the Crisis Assistance, the Telephone Counseling Service or the helpline for the Professional Association Austrian Psychologists for professional support services.

Call 0732-2468-7930 for appointments for counseling sessions by phone or online via with psychologists and psychotherapists at the Student Psychological Counseling Service Linz.

We are available Monday to Thursday from 7.30 am - 3.30 pm and Friday from 7.30 am - 1.30 pm.