I’m still hearing about H1N1 and worried I may contract it. How can I deal with the stress?
There are facts and then there is sensationalized news coverage: “millions will die,” “cities will be wiped out.” Focus on the facts, and view the latter with healthy skepticism. Keep in mind that media outlets need to attract viewers, and often that’s done by gripping your attention in a sensational way. Case in point: For the first few months of the virus outbreak, people only heard about extreme cases (deaths) and heard nothing of survival rates. This fueled both panic and ignorance about the virus. Bottom line: Uncertainty breeds anxiety, therefore, find a trusted source to learn about the virus and stick with it. Follow this advice:
Keep things in perspective. H1N1 is a flu virus, similar to others. Most who contract it do not die and recover just fine. The difference, though, is it’s new and the experts don’t quite know the impact it may have on high-risk groups such as pregnant women, elderly and infants.
Take an active role in staying H1N1-free this winter. First, let your doctor determine if a vaccination is necessary. The virus is spread person-to-person, so now is the time more than ever to follow your mother’s old advice of washing hands and covering your mouth when you cough.
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Know that stress weakens the body’s immune system, so do your best to stay psychologically sound this winter.
Have hope and confidence in the experts. They’re on it and doing what they can to control the outbreak and develop procedures.
Finally, should you come down with the flu, have a plan ready — food supplies, assistance, et cetera.
– Jonathan Alpert is a licensed psychotherapist. E-mail him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
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