“Anxiety is contagious.” ~Brené Brown

If someone told me last year that across the world we would have deserted city streets, people hoarding, skyrocketing death tolls, people wearing protective gear, I would have definitively declared this as the start of the zombie apocalypse. I won’t lie – I’m worried the apocalypse is coming and I don’t have everything I need to survive.  Is this rational? No. Am I still thinking of how to prepare for it? Absolutely. The thought of not being prepared makes my anxiety go through the roof. While you may not be able to relate to zombies, chances are you’re worried about a lot, and understandably so.  

Now, more than ever, it’s easy to relate to any reason for feeling anxious because of so many uncertainties and unknowns. I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review that tackled this topic before Covid-19 and is more relevant than ever now. How Anxiety Traps Us, and How We Can Break Free by Sabina Nawaz offers some helpful tips for avoiding these rabbit holes. Here are some of the traps you might be experiencing or hearing others verbalize:   

  • Overgeneralizing: This is never or always thinking…”Nothing will ever be the same again!”
  • Mind reading: These are stories/assumptions we create to make sense of what others think…”She probably doesn’t care whether or not I’m stressed out.”
  • Fortune telling: Predicting the future without facts…”The zombie apocalypse is right around the corner!”
  • Catastrophizing: Envisioning the worst possible scenario…”Covid will shut down all of our research initiatives!”
  • Black and white thinking: This trap only imagines two possibilities…”Unless a vaccine is developed immediately, the University will close!”

There are several tips for getting out of these traps; for this blog, I’ll focus on one that I found most helpful: separating facts from your “fears, uncertainties and doubts,” or “FUD” as Nawaz calls it. This involves making a two-column list where your fears appear on one side, the actual facts on the other side. I found this really helpful to physically see on paper that I didn’t have any facts to support my fear of a zombie apocalypse. I also kept the list around so I could regularly remind myself of the facts, which lowered my anxiety. Here’s what I came up with:

F.U.D (Fears, Uncertainties, Doubts)FACTS
Covid will wipe out my family  Our science & technology are on this
People will mutate into zombiesWe are taking sensible precautions to mitigate this
The world will look like The Walking DeadZombies do not exist

Regardless of your fears, uncertainties or doubts, this could be a good tool for lowering your anxiety.

Be safe out there! 

By: Lisa Neale, Associate Director, University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Ombuds Office