At the Calm Mom.com, our goal is to help readers calm their anxiety about the day-to-day realities of being a new mom. This fall, however, we face a new twist on the day-to-day worries – the H1N1 flu (often referred to as “swine flu”). It’s hard to ignore – it’s all over the media and people are talking about it everywhere we go. The problem is that information is wildly inconsistent and it is these inconsistencies that can so easily stir up anxiety.
This month, at the Calm Mom.com, we have two voices to help calm your fears about this timely issue. First, I will share some thoughts from a psychologist’s perspective on how to calm all those worries swirling around your head. Then, we are so lucky to have a pediatrician and fellow new mom respond to your concerns from a medical perspective. Read on, and please forward this article to friends who would find it helpful.
A Psychologist’s Perspective:
When we first started to hear about H1N1 back in the Spring, I’ll admit, I was anxious. No one likes to think about their little ones getting terribly ill. Yet, I quickly started to work my way out of my anxiety in much the same way I would with any patient who has health-related anxiety. My two-step Calm Thinking Strategy has worked for me, and for many of the moms with whom I work:
Step One: Acceptance – Many of us, and many of our children are going to get the H1N1 flu.
Step Two: De-catastrophize – But, for the overwhelming majority of us, it is going to be okay!
Sounds simple, huh? But, it works. Anxiety gets the better of us when we try too hard to prevent bad things from happening. Yes, there are reasonable steps we can take to reduce our risk (see below), but there is no way to prevent illness altogether. When we spend our days going to vast effort to prevent illness (i.e., constantly washing our hands, obsessively checking in with people about their health before getting together with them, avoiding most activities previously enjoyed by ourselves or our kids), our anxiety paradoxically gets worse. Similarly, if we try to push thoughts of flu out of our heads (“Don’t think about it! It’s too stressful”), we end up thinking about it with greater frequency and intensity. Instead, when we accept a fear (“Hmmm….we might get the flu”), and more or less go about our lives normally, our fear actually tends to lessen. It really does. Try it, and you’ll see.
You then need to go one step further. Once you accept that you and your family might get the flu, you need to focus on the facts and ignore the fiction. Although the flu sounds awful, and although you will hear (primarily in the media) about truly dreadful things happening to people who have it, the truth is that for the vast majority of people, it isn’t that bad. People feel ill for a few days and then they are back on their feet.
So, once you accept that you might get the flu, remind yourself that you will be able to manage and that you will be okay.