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How to cope with fear, panic during coronavirus pandemic

woman having a panic attack using paper bag to calm herself
How to cope with fear, panic during the coronavirus crisis. Source: Getty

It’s called the parasympathetic nervous system. Your heart rate climbs, you sweat more, and it can often lead to feeling physically ill.

Welcome to the world of panicking.

Panicking is a perfectly normal response to a heightened state of fear. In many cases though it’s not helpful and can lead to making irrational decisions.

What is helpful, when experiencing extreme anxiety and panic, is to calm down and breathe. That allows the body time to make better decisions.

Financial markets and panic

The reason financial markets have gone into such a tailspin recently is that market participants (investors) have been experiencing bouts of panic.


The effects of this are obvious. Rather than an orderly move of prices up and down as company values change, stock prices have suffered wild swings.

Until the coronavirus pandemic is contained, I suspect the financial markets will continue to experience extreme volatility.

The financial markets, and human beings, are facing the one thing that really unsettles us: uncertainty.

Economists haven’t a clue

Economists are also feeling their way in the dark right now.

I don’t mean that in a rude way. They literally can’t plug numbers into their spread sheets (which spit out economic forecasts) because there are no numbers.

Even the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, told the nation late last week that he couldn’t provide any economic forecasts for the foreseeable future.

All he could say was that there was going to be a “significant job losses”.

I’ve spoke to several economists now who say these job losses, and other coronavirus-related economic impacts, will produce a “severe recession”.

It could be worse than that though.

Your daily life

So, what does all of this mean for you?

Right now, if you heed the medical advice, your chances of contracting coronavirus are still relatively low. That could change quickly.

If you do succumb to it though, or have been exposed to people who have it, you will have to be quarantined for several weeks.

You may also need to go to hospital.

All of this can be painful, lonely, isolating and just plain boring.

Tough realities

A hard truth at the moment though is that those in insecure work are at risk of losing their job. If this is you, these will be challenging times.

If you have a mortgage, that creates extra stress. There are no easy answers here.

The big banks have given borrowers and businesses mortgage and loan holiday but this doesn’t mean you get a free lunch. Eventually the loan will need to be paid back. And when you do start paying it back it’ll be bigger than what you started with.

For those who are able to keep their job, it’s important not to panic buy, to look after others that can’t fend for themselves, and to offer help wherever you can.

Help is there

There’s too much assistance on offer to capture in a few paragraphs, but here’s a snapshot.

As mentioned above, if you can’t pay your mortgage, for now, you should be able to keep house (if you’re with the big four banks).

The government is also going to provide assistance to apprentices and wage subsidies to businesses.

The economy and financial markets are also being assisted with close to $2 billion in stimulus and liquidity relief.

That only scratches the surface, but I’m sure you get the idea. Australia is facing an economic tsunami and the authorities are in the process of “building a bridge” to the other side – to dry land where life returns to normal again.

For those swamped by the wave, know that you’re not alone, and that there is also assistance at “rock bottom”.

Consider calling the National Debt Helpline, for Financial Counselling Australia, for example.

This is a particularly severe storm, but it too shall pass.


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