5 critical factors needed to flatten the anxiety curve


Americans are fighting for our psychological freedom. While the coronavirus crisis is nothing like an actual war, there are invisible battles being fought and not just against COVID-19. For many, this battle is in our minds and we need to have a plan of attack on anxiety. In most crises, there is an acute spike and then it’s over and people rally to recover. Acute stress is challenging, but it’s the chronic stress over the long term that does the greatest damage psychologically and physically. The challenge is that anxiety has become as contagious as COVID-19. 

In this uncertain time, we need to leverage what we know from previous crises: Intentional growth is an anecdote to anxiety. Anxiety often can lead to depression and other challenging experiences. Therefore, we need to act together fast. Think of it as starting a pandemic of strength and growth. By flattening the anxiety curve, it not only gives people relief, but it also increases the chance that people will be stronger and more resourceful on the other side.

According to the Sidran Institute, 20 percent of people who experience a traumatic event will develop PTSD. We also know that trauma is a personal experience and perceived. When a crisis happens people rush to help, but we need to be ahead of the crisis. 

If we are intentional and build growth resources and strength before, during, and after a crisis, the crisis not only has less of an impact on your psychological and physical health, but you will actually experience growth.

We know that stress diminishes our immune systems which makes us more vulnerable to sickness and viruses. Doctors are concerned because they are used to a data-based playbook, but this time they are playing in a game they have never played before. We need to play our part by decreasing our anxiety, increasing our focus on strength and growth, and boosting our immune systems.

Feelings are like the weather, all of them come and all of them go. No storm stays forever and neither does any emotion good or bad. The sooner you realize you play a role in your experience, the more positive you can be and the less anxiety you will feel. The idea is to create positive experiences and guide your brain toward what you want so it doesn’t take you somewhere you don’t want to be. 

Active stress management

Binging Netflix is not enough. We need to have a more active approach that connects with us physically as well as psychologically. Some examples are walking, running, imagery, deep breathing, intentional laughter, or dancing. HelpGuide has tips on how you can manage stress related to coronavirus.

Find a purpose

There is no better positive distraction from the lack of control we have than finding meaning and purpose during a crisis. A new purpose does not need to be something that helps you win the Nobel Prize. It can be something as simple as spending time every day supporting a friend or learning about stress management and helping skills so you can help others. Purpose creates positive emotions. Greater Good Magazine offers tips on finding a purpose.

Be a growth leader

We are all in a leadership role and have the power to set a positive vibe. Emotion is contagious so be intentional in your interaction and focus on helping people feel connected, positive, motivated, and in control. Growth Leadership is a people-first approach that starts with yourself so you can help others. Focus not only on the needs of the moment but building people and businesses for the future. Employees who see their leaders focusing on doing what’s right will remain loyal and engaged for years to come. Don’t let navigating the crisis become a greater crisis.

Build your growth resources 

Based on their research in families of 9/11 and 18 years of experience helping people grow through adversity, trauma, loss, and crises, our organization created the OTHERS(S) framework. The Growth Resources and a self-awareness tool are designed to not only buffer the negative impact of crises but lead you to growth. The 8 resources are: optimism, true meaning, humor, emotional intelligence, resilience, spirituality, self-confidence and OTHERS(S). 

Learn, laugh, love

In times of crisis and uncertainty creating a sense of control and positive momentum matters. Just like learning a new skill a little practice every day goes a long way. Each day spends at least 15 minutes doing something that falls in one of these categories: learn, laugh, love. An example of learning is asking yourself “What have I always wanted to learn, but haven’t yet?” 

#LearnLaughLove was started to connect people and create a community of uplifting moments that are based on positive experiences. Our minds are powerful, but they cannot experience two emotions at the same time. If you are laughing, you are not anxious.

We are all faced with day to day challenges and will have ups and downs. It’s OK to not be OK and at the same time, it is our job to take steps toward growth, however small they may be.

Think of our anxiety as a thermometer. Be aware of your temperature and lower it every day. We can prevent anxiety fevers. If you want to feel the benefits of healing through helping others, ask someone else what their anxiety temperature is and how you can help lower it. Some days will be better than others. Social distancing has changed the way we live, but it doesn’t have to change who we are at the core. We all have the strength and the ability to grow inside us. It’s time to bring them out to flatten the anxiety curve with one growth step at a time together.

Dr. Rob Fazio, Ph.D., is the managing partner of On Point Advising and president of Hold the Door for Others.

Tags Anxiety Coronavirus COVID-19 Human behavior Positive disintegration Psychological resilience Psychological trauma Psychology Social distancing

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video