- Business Insider spoke with neurologist Rosario Sorrentino to shed some light on how we can use fear to our advantage at challenging times.
- According to Sorrentino, we can break fear down into two main elements: one, the emotional side, the other being the rational side.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
The COVID-19 outbreak obviously has serious implications as far as physical health is concerned.
It's also important to remember at this trying time that it can have real ramifications for people's mental health too.
From the self-employed and small business owners worrying about how they'll cope with the financial fallout, to people being laid off, there are many people affected by the measures being taken to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic, all in different ways.
Even if job security isn't a worry, some who live alone simply aren't used to being totally cut off from others for such long periods of time.
While many already experience struggles with their mental health, at such uncertain times, others may also be experiencing more pronounced depression and anxiety.
For some, these emotions can escalate into fear, sometimes even panic.
Business Insider spoke with neurologist Rosario Sorrentino to help shed some light on how we might be able to use inevitable fear to our advantage at such a strange and challenging time.
So how can you try to get a handle on your fear and use to your own gains?
Sorrentino says that times like these can be very emotionally charged, confusing, and overwhelming.
Though some of this may be colored somewhat by others' hysteria, that isn't to say that some of the fear you may be feeling isn't valid or healthy.
The neurologist suggests we need to shift this paradigm where fear is typically "negative" — an emotional response to be avoided. We need to start looking at fear as a natural, healthy, and as a useful resource.
Fear can be separated out into two primary components
According to Sorrentino, we can break fear down into two main elements: one, the emotional side, the other being the rational side.
The latter sort of fear is one we can actually exploit for our own benefit.
Being brave doesn't necessarily mean we're not afraid; it simply means we continue to take sensible, decisive action in spite of our fear.
Sometimes allowing yourself to feel anxious, worried, or frightened may feel bad but it can allow you to bounce back with more determination than before.
Sorrentino suggests we shouldn't try to avoid or to deny fear.
It's a human experience and can certainly be used in a positive sense, to start over with a better approach or to come back to the drawing board with a better mindset and renewed energy.
Fear can allow you time to reflect and, ultimately, make better decisions
There are many situations that we currently face that are filled with uncertainty.
Some have to consider whether they can afford to keep their businesses open, while others stand to lose a lot of money in the stock markets.
While employees are being laid off, freelancers are losing custom and bookings.
At times like these, there are typically a few response types that arise as a result of uncertain or insecure situations: there are freeze responses, in which we feel "stuck" and don't know what to do, and more impulsive responses, somewhat like "fight or flight" responses.
While the confusion, panic, and stress surrounding us during the COVID-19 outbreak can make it hard not to respond impulsively, whether internally or in our outward actions, the neurologist suggests we can find ways to exercise more control.
Sorrentino suggests that when we feel fear it can give us time to pause and reflect, to feel, to return to our thoughts, and not to be in a hurry and make ill-thought-through, rash, and impulsive decisions.
And these practices don't just apply to the current situation we find ourselves in, he says; they can be applied to all sorts of situations.
Whether it comes to our own personal lives, our finances, our job status, or the state of our country and its economy, sometimes the right time to make decisions isn't when we're feeling anxious and can't think straight.
When there's so much confusion and change around you to consider, you're often at the mercy of negative emotions — decisions need to be held off until your emotions are interfering less with your mind and until you have more mental clarity.
Though it's tempting to respond impulsively at times where emotions are running high, the COVID-19 outbreak is an opportunity for us to show our mettle, compassion, patience, and adaptability.
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