Viral videos of people fighting over toilet paper in grocery stores, eBay scalpers selling toilet paper for ludicrous sums and a person tasered over a toilet paper incident in Australia this week shows we’re suffering a virtual “Pandemic of Fear” just as much as a major outbreak of a serious illness.

This sort of behaviour in a 21st-century society over toilet paper could be seen as a little funny if it wasn’t such a serious insight into how we, as a collective, are really feeling. We are scared. Many of us are so scared we hope a stockpile of toilet paper and canned goods might protect us from an invisible attacker.

We Need Not be a Victim to Circumstances – We Can Choose How We Approach This

While everyone is doing what they can on the outside to protect themselves from COVID-19 – from careful travel management through to hand sanitisation – there is important work we can be doing on the inside to manage how we are feeling about COVID-19.

We need to be managing our internal fear response – because more fear is not good for us.

Yes, this is a new disease that we don’t know alot about, but embroiling ourselves in the latest updates 24/7 is not going to help us deal any better with a potential infection. In fact it might do the opposite – because fear and anxiety can cause illness in the body.

According to the University of Minnesota, fear can weaken the immune system and chronic fear has serious health consequences. Harvard Medical School states that “anxiety has been implicated in several chronic physical illnesses, including heart disease, chronic respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions.”

Our fears can make us sick – and with social media giving us instantaneous updates on all things related to COVID-19 we can be easily overwhelmed by it all.

Despite my best intentions, I went down the rabbit hole myself on this last week. My over-exposure to COVID-19 on mainstream and social media started to negatively affect my view on other things in my life.

Consciously Changing Our Perspective Can Make a Difference – Here’s How

When I realised what was going on I consciously changed my perspective and started to more mindfully manage my response so I could feel more positive. Having ‘come up for air’ on this now I’m reminded that what I focus on in life is what I get. This is an ‘inside job’ that I CAN do something about. Here are a few tips that worked for me that may work for you.

1.Mindfully choose peace over fear – we all have a choice, in every moment, to choose fear or peace. What do you choose right now? Do you choose to buy into the fear or to accept that you, and all others, are doing everything we can to address this situation? As quantum physics shows us the observer affects the observed – so focusing on fear can create more fear. On the flip side feeling more peaceful can pave the way for new ideas and potential solutions to come forth.

2. Limit your checking of news and social media updates on coronavirus. Unfortunately, this disease doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon so checking the news or social media once, or maximum, twice a day is more than enough to understand any potential changes in your local community. One study found Millennials check their phone 150 times per day – even if you are checking your phone 15 times a day it’s probably too much when it comes to COVID-19.

3. Reduce your involvement in coronavirus discussions. I found last week discussions on coronavirus did not leave me feeling any better. Often they made me feel a whole lot worse. I’m not suggesting burying our heads in the sand, but incessant conversations about something we currently have little, to no control over, do not help us. They simply suck us further down the rabbit hole.

4. Focus on things you are grateful for right now. Fear cannot live in an environment of gratitude. Even a few minutes of gratitude every day will help you feel better and uplifted – and sustained gratitude will improve your health. Summer Allen PhD from Berkley in her Science of Gratitude White paper states: ” gratitude may be associated with many benefits for individuals, including better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction.”

5. Look after your own health and wellbeing. One of the best things you can do in times like these is to get enough sleep and look after your immune system. I love this article by Arianna Huffington here

6. Focus on things that inspire and excite you. These are the things that power us up most and give us a sense of wellbeing. What new project or interest could you focus on right now? What would really light you up from the inside? Imagine spending time doing this instead of looking at your phone for the latest update.

7. Speak to a trusted friend, family member, or a qualified professional if you are feeling really down about COVID-19. Ruminating endlessly on ‘what-if’ scenarios is not going to serve you. If you’re feeling concerned share your feelings with a trusted person to help you get some perspective. If you’re feeling deeply concerned or scared seek help from a qualified professional.

None of us have any idea how long this will go on for or how far-reaching this situation will get. My prayer is that our tireless scientific and medical will find some answers very soon.

Until then it is up to each of us to manage our own response to the situation.

In the grocery store on the weekend, I heard a small child ask his mother why there was no toilet paper left in the store. I didn’t stop to listen – but her response to this issue will be the key to her little boy’s own response to this disease and, potentially, on his outlook on life. Did she offer him fear or peace in that defining moment?

And now my question to you – what do you offer yourself in this moment? Fear or peace? The choice is yours.