Support for managing fears about coronavirus

March 17, 2020

It can be a fine line between awareness and fear. If you are feeling stressed about the new coronavirus, COVID-19, there are things you can do to manage your fears. And, if you are eligible for the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), support is just a call or a click away.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared that the global coronavirus outbreak is now a pandemic. Just hearing the word pandemic can be scary. It means cases of a new disease are showing up around the world and may spread rapidly because people don’t have immunity.

Anxiety is understandably high as we learn more about the spread of this disease. You can feel fearful even if you live in an area where the disease hasn’t occurred. Here are some ways to help manage the fear and anxiety you may be feeling.

  • Become educated. When you know what the real dangers are, you can take steps to avoid or minimize them. Accurate information is an effective antidote to unrealistic fears. The Board of Pensions has compiled resources and information for our members and employers.
  • Monitor your exposure to the news. It’s important to get the facts, but repeated news stories and images about the spread of a disease can be distressing. Be aware of how you and your family members respond to news stories and limit television or screen time if it’s making you feel anxious.
  • Put your risk into perspective. The risk of contracting the coronavirus in the United States is relatively low at this time. It’s important to stay informed but try to make sure your level of fear does not exceed your risk factors. If you have specific concerns, contact your doctor’s office.
  • Put this disease in context. Everyone is exposed to health risks every day. The good health habits you use to reduce the risk of infectious diseases, such as frequent hand washing and covering your cough, are some of the same precautions recommended for the coronavirus.
  • Always be aware, but not always fearful. Try to keep your thoughts in sync with what is actually happening, not what your worst fears may be. Constant fear that isn’t based in reality can cause stress and be counterproductive.
  • Notice if fear is becoming panic. If fear is changing your behaviors, for example, you’re afraid to leave your home or let your children go to school, or if find yourself avoiding places or people of a certain ethnicity, it may be a sign that you could benefit from additional support.
  • Take a break. Make it a point to spend time doing things you enjoy and that help you feel calm and balanced. Try to shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

If children have fears, give them honest information at a level they can understand. You don’t need to explain everything about the virus and risk. Give them only as much information as they ask for. Encourage your children to talk to you about their thoughts and feelings, listen to their concerns, and then reassure them.

Get support

Talking through concerns and sharing your fears can help you put them in perspective and feel calmer. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP)* is available 24/7 to support you, your family members, and anyone who lives in your home.

  • Call Cigna Behavioral Health at 866-640-2772 to speak with an EAP advocate who will listen to your concerns and direct you to helpful resources; or
  • log on to the Cigna website to live chat with an advocate, schedule a consultation with a clinician, and more (one-time registration is required; use pcusa for Employee’s Employer ID).


*The EAP is not available to members enrolled in Triple-S, GeoBlue, or the Medicare Supplement Plan.