Coronavirus: hamster purchases, school closings, reactions to the exceptional situation

How can we deal with coronavirus stress?

The spreading coronavirus pandemic is causing violent reactions in many people. Even in areas where only a few cases of illness have been reported, certain foods such as pasta or toilet paper are often sold out within a very short time. And of course the fear of infection is widespread. An expert explains how we can deal with coronavirus stress.

More and more people are becoming infected with the novel coronavirus Sars-CoV-2. Numerous measures have been taken to keep the number of infected as low as possible. Schools and daycare centers are closed in almost all federal states. The population was also called on to limit social contacts. But many people still fear Corona. A psychologist explains how we can deal with it.

Many people are afraid

Hamster purchases, school closings, fear of even taking a step in public at all: Exaggerated fear and panic broke out in Germany that they could be infected with the corona virus.

What is now added is the fear of the economic consequences and the question of dealing with concrete everyday challenges. This is far from being a panic disorder in the clinical sense, explains Prof. Dr. Nadia Sosnowsky-Waschek from the state-recognized private SRH Heidelberg University in a message.

The professor of health and clinical psychology describes how to explain the burgeoning threat and what you can do about it.

Where the threat to our health comes from

As the psychologist explains, when shopping, we assess the risk of whether we get fat by eating chips and whether it causes health damage. When driving, we decide in seconds whether we can still make it through the yellow traffic light, for example.

How such decisions are made depends on various factors. Firstly, how serious we assess the consequences of this decision on health and how likely it is that we will have to bear these consequences ourselves.

Can the pack of chips contribute to the development of diabetes and thereby shorten personal life? In many everyday decisions, the personal health risk is classified as low. So we drive over the yellow traffic light and put the chips in the shopping cart.

Such risk considerations are commonplace, at the same time highly efficient and very energy-saving for the brain, since they make our lives much easier. The evaluation often runs quite subconsciously, almost automatically.

Assessment of the corona virus

In the case of the corona virus, according to Prof. Nadia Sosnowsky-Waschek, we cannot fall back on proven everyday routines.

Because we are dealing with the evaluation of an event that is new, rarely occurs in comparison to many other life risks and whose potential health consequences we cannot assess for ourselves, our families and the economy.

The risk posed by such rare and new events is typically overestimated, but it is rather underestimated for significantly more common but known risks.

What else influences risk perception?

According to the expert, it is also relevant how you assess the control options for an infection. Can you protect yourself effectively, for example, by disinfecting your hands or using a mask? Does an infection depend on my own behavior or that of other people, or just by chance?

New information from the media, reported incidents or bans give many people the impression that the risk of infection and its consequences are less controllable.

Considering the involuntary exposure to the virus, the risk is also estimated to be greater. A fear of a plane crash can be avoided by basically avoiding plane trips. But is the distance of one meter from other people enough to contain your own risk?

Given the amount of new and, in some cases, contradictory information, it is difficult for us to make a final judgment on the situation. We are unable to calm down and are unsettled. As soon as you have made a plan, how you feel about the infection situation and how to behave, you may have to rethink.

Finally, your own personality comes into play. In this uncertain situation, people who are optimistic will steadfastly take a more confident stance, so that everything will somehow turn out well.

From this perspective, the fear of the new corona virus is actually very rational. It is the result of many evaluation processes and the result of adapting to the new situation, explains the psychologist. But this is not a panic disorder, rather we try to cope with stress or to solve an elusive problem.

Dealing with corona stress

What can help, according to Prof. Nadia Sosnowsky-Waschek, is certainly on the one hand to be aware of these evaluation processes. Our thinking and feeling often control our behavior unconsciously.

Being mindful and having a plan for restoring control to your everyday life can help reduce the onset of panic.

New routines such as long, thorough hand washing, avoiding shaking hands, avoiding crowds of people and, at the same time, a positive change in everyday life can be helpful - such as a quiet walk in the forest, reading a book again, taking a bath.

It may also make sense not to follow the messages in the corona virus lifeticker on your cell phone, but only once in the evening or according to another specification of your own. One should be able to pause from the flood of new information in the meantime, according to the expert. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • SRH Heidelberg University: Reactions to Corona: Panic or Reason? (Accessed: March 15, 2020), SRH Heidelberg University

Video: Parents react to schools closing amid coronavirus outbreak (January 2022).