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When you fear that death is near

We all know that the risk is small when comparing the number of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have recovered with the number who have died

Once a man saw Yamdoot (the messenger of death) passing through his village and the man asked him where he was going. The messenger replied, 'Yamraj (the Lord of death) has ordered me to get one hundred men from your village but today I am going to another village and will come back to your village tomorrow'. The news got spread in the village like a wildfire. Next day people noticed that number of casualties mounted to a thousand. The Yamdoot on his return, again met the man who asked him, 'You said you were asked to get one hundred lives, then how did a thousand die?' Yamdoot replied that he killed only one hundred, while the rest died of fear.

The story holds good for Covid-19. We all know that the risk is small when comparing the number of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have recovered with the number who have died. As on 16th May 2020, number of deaths due to Coronavirus were 308,651 while number of people who recovered were 1,759,673. Fear seems to be the greater threat. In medical parlance this fear of illness is known as Nosophobia. Nosophobia is the fear of developing a specific disease such as Corona. In recent years, nosophobia has also been referred to as cyberchondria which means that the root of the fear is found in "cyberspace." This fear could be a result of exposure to high levels of media coverage about the risks of contracting diseases, having experienced severe health problems in the past, repeated exposure to people with serious illnesses, or having seen someone close to the nosophobic died from that illness. A study says that such fear appears to be more common among students and researchers who spend a great deal of time with the patients of such disease. These conditions are often called "medical student’s disease."

But the irony is that fear and anxiety have been scientifically proven to harm your health, putting you at risk of everything from heart disease to cancer to the common cold. Thus fearing the Corona is like inviting the Corona. As Paulo Coelho mentioned, “If we seek something, that same thing is seeking us.” Fear and anxiety trigger the body’s “fight-or-flight” stress response, stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and putting your body at risk for disease.

On the other hand, there are people who do not go for a diagnosis because they may have a fear being diagnosed by the disease. In fact, it’s a pretty common experience to feel reticent about going to the doctor, said psychologist Dr. Barbara Cox. She explained that while this fear has many triggers — including having iatrophobia, the medical name for fear of doctors— the primary culprit is anxiety triggered by a fear of getting bad news. Yes, avoiding the doctor and stressing yourself out about the “what ifs” can actually make you sick.

So the fear of disease and the fear of getting diagnosed by the disease are the matter of great concern during pandemic. Are we saying that fear is bad? Are we saying that don’t fear about this pandemic? Are we suggesting that give a damn to social distancing? No. Fear is not necessarily a bad thing; it is one of the inbuilt human survival instincts. At the basic level fear guides our fight or flight responses and helps to keep us safe and alive. Fear heightens your senses and awareness; it keeps you alert and helps in better preparation. So interpret fear as “Face Everything and Respond”. The phrase “Corona se darna nahi hai ladna hai (don’t fear Corona but fight Corona)” has become quite popular these days. Besides your usual response of social distancing, wearing of masks, washing your hands, your most powerful response lies in meditation. Harvard professor Herbert Benson, author of the 1970s bestseller The Relaxation Response, proved that a simple meditation shuts off the stress response and stimulates the relaxation response, allowing the body to not only free itself from fear and anxiety, but to also flip on its natural self-repair mechanisms and heal itself.

Keep this positive thought with you - someday, I'm going to die. But I am not going to die of this stupid virus.


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COVID-19 fear

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