The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives. And taken over our minds. Think of all the information you consume every day on the respiratory illness called COVID-19. Newspapers, web articles, videos, advisories and, of course, WhatsApp forwards.

The information overload might overwhelm you, but you can’t do without some of it. You need to know the extent to which the virus has spread, whether there are positive cases close to you, if there’s a curfew or lockdown in your area, and if supermarkets are open.

It’s quite natural to be filled with some anxiety during these testing times. But sometimes you can also fall prey to cognitive distortions or exaggerated thoughts that are not true or rational. How can you stay informed without being overwhelmed? How can you deal with such thoughts? 

To begin with, identify the cognitive disruption. Some examples of cognitive distortions are:

1. All-or-nothing thinking: Black-and-white thinking or evaluating events in extreme terms. For example, one might think the coronavirus will kill everyone or swing the other way and believe it is no more dangerous than the common flu. 

2. Overgeneralization: Using one’s experience to generalize all experiences or thinking that nobody is following social distancing in the country because one person has thrown caution to the winds. 

3. Mental filters: Focusing exclusively on the negative aspects of a situation and rejecting all positive elements. This could involve believing that even if the world manages to reduce carbon dioxide emissions due to the lockdowns, the coronavirus will be the end of everything anyways.

4. Jumping to conclusions: Drawing inferences based on inadequate or incorrect information. One could read an article about how ginger is great at fighting the virus and believes it is the gospel truth. 

Did you find yourself succumbing to one or more of these irrational thoughts recently? Here are five ways to deal with cognitive distortions so they don’t play havoc with your lives:

– Identify the cognitive distortion.

– Pay attention to your language. Limit the use of absolute words such as ‘always', ‘everything’, ‘everyone’, ‘never’.

– Consider the grey areas between your extreme thoughts.

– Gather different perspectives before you make up your mind about something.

– Specifically seek evidence for what you’re tempted to believe.

– Make a concerted effort to look for silver linings in all situations.

We hope these tips get you started on countering cognitive distortions. To learn more concepts that will help you navigate these uncertain times, try Harappa’s free course on Embracing Change.

Manisha Koppala is Associate Specialist, Curriculum at Harappa Education.


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