Living on High Alert: COVID-19, Fear, and the Brain Part One: Understanding the Emotional Response

During this unprecedented time of COVID-19 many are experiencing one of the oldest reactions, also known as an emotional response, known to humans, FEAR.

FEAR of going out in the public…

FEAR of being in close proximity of others…

FEAR of contracting and/or being diagnosed with COVID-19…

FEAR of the potential consequences of contracting and/or being diagnosed with COVID-19…

FEAR of potentially infecting others with the virus, unintentionally…

FEAR of being asymptomatic and not knowing one has the virus…

FEAR of family members, especially those who are elderly and/or have significant medical concerns, contracting COVID-19…

FEAR of losing loved ones, close friends, and/or co-workers due to complications from COVID-19…

FEAR of what will happen to the world and its people…

FEAR of not being able to pay one’s bills…

FEAR of losing one’s job…

FEAR of not having enough money to buy food and/or necessities…

FEAR of going to the store and there are no necessities left for one to purchase…

FEAR of just about any and every things that is associated with this bleak time in our country’s history…

So where does one’s emotional response, more specifically FEAR, to COVID-19 originates?

Fear, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is an unpleasant and often strong emotion caused by the anticipation of danger (Merriam-Webster, 2020). It often initiates in the brain and extends throughout one’s body making adjustments for what it considers to be the best way to defend oneself.

The most common defense is known as the flight or fight response. This response originates in the region of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is an almond shaped cluster of nuclei located in the temporal lobes of the brain has several functions.

One of those functions is the processing of and controlling one’s emotional responses. Therefore, the amygdala not only processes the fear one may experience but is also controls the fear being experienced, which has been associated with most emotional disorders.

Now I am sure you are trying to figure what all of that means and if I was you, I would too.

Ultimately, COVID-19 has triggered a fear response in the amygdala of many, activating several areas in their brains needed to prepare the flight or fight motor functions responses.

As a result of the amygdala experiencing a response to the fear associated with COVID-19, several bodily reactions can, have, and will take place.

Those reactions include the following: dilated pupils, increased breathing as the bronchi begins to dilate resulting in an elevated heart rate and the potential for one’s blood pressure to rise, sweating, inability to sleep and/or restlessness, goose bumps, digestive issues, and many more physical responses.

Fear, as an emotional response, can be very taxing on one’s. However, it is important to note the response is different among individuals.

While it may seem and even feel scary, fear is one of the most important emotions one can experience as it influences how one may respond to situations that could potentially cause harm to you.

How has the FEAR you are experiencing due to COVID-19 influenced your daily routine?

Be on the lookout of Part 2: Understanding One’s Cognitive Response as a Result of their Emotional Response in the coming weeks!


Amen, D. G. (2000) Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness. New York: Times Books.

“Fear.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Apr. 2020.

Psst…. I’ve Got Something To Say!

Can I have just a brief moment of your time?

I promise I won’t take long.

There is just something I really need to say to you……

…. is it okay for me to say it?

Okay, here it goes…..

I think you are AMAZING!

You are doing such a WONDERFUL job!

The WORLD needs more individuals like you!

You are truly making a POSITIVE IMPACT in the lives of others through the work you do each and every day!

Yes, you are APPRECIATED and you are being noticed!

Take a moment and just BREATHE!

Make your self a PRIORITY!

Sometimes as individuals we find ourselves so wrapped up in our daily task that we often overlook ourselves.

On this Fantastic Friday, I wanted to put a smile on your face and remind you that you are not alone. You have a support systen who believes in you and rooting you on.

Enjoy the small things!

Embrace what LIFE has to offer you!

You are PURPOSELY DESIGNED for this moment and many moments to come!

COVID-19 & Distancing: It’s More PHYSICAL than it is SOCIAL!!!!!

For many, adapting to the this new-normal brought about by the unprecedented coronavirus, also know as COVID-19, has been quite difficult.

We are consistently thinking about and yearning for what use to be our normal lives.

We aren’t as active as we once were, with many confined to their homes unless they are leaving for essential purposes, which includes work, grocery shopping, medical appointments and so forth. But let’s be real even those essential activities seem very isolating given the physical distancing guidelines of six feets (6 fts.).

Notice that I have re-termed the phrase “social” distancing to “PHYSICAL” distancing.

I am sure you are probably wondering why I did such and the explanation is quite simple.

When I hear the term “social” distancing, I immediately cringe because the reality is that while we have to maintain a “physical” distance from our peers and individuals in our community we live in a time where we are still able to interact socially with one another through the use of technology (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, video messaging services, virtual services, etc), . Therefore, we are practicing “PHYSICAL” distancing and not “social” distancing

We, as humans, thrive on social interaction and being able to communicate with others is such a necessity in our lives.

Social interaction is pivotal to individuals, young and old, overall development. Social interaction influences ones physical, emotional, and mental state. More specifically, social interaction has been found to boosted ones mood, reducing their risk for depression, provide sharper mind by giving individual the opportunity to engage in instrumental cognitive processing and reduces ones risk for severe and chronic medical illness.

Althougth COVID-19 has significantly impacted the world, we do not have to allow it to adversely effect how we interact with others.

Yes, it may take some creativity on our behalf and no we may not be able to interact with others how we use to, but what is important and that we can still interact with others.

Send emails…..

Schedule video calls…….

Host virtual get-togethers and even secure/supervised virtual play dates for your children…….

Have conference calls….

Do whatever it takes, within the context of the “physical” distancing to ensure you are still engaging in social interaction with your loved one and friends.

Just because COVID-19 has limited us physically, we should not allow it to limit us socially.

Let’s practice “Physical” distancing while engaging in “Social” interactions!

Self-Care if the Best Care……. A Reminder for Counselors during COVID-19!

I am sure by now your days and weeks are now running together and you are unsure of how much longer you can endure the new normal we are all trying our best to adjust to.

Our clients have begun experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety and our families seem to not understand exactly why we are having to, for some still go to work, and why others are having to find a quiet place in our homes to so that we can still provide counseling services during this uncertain and chaotic time.

I can only imagine that this all seems to much for even you, the HELPER and EMPHATIC Counselor, can bear; yet, in it all you are handling the intense pressure well.

Today, I wanted to ask you one question…………

How are you taking care of yourself during COVID-19?

Self Care is the Best Care and in these day and weeks SELF-CARE will be paramount to your ability to continue providing the services that you are to your clients, as well as maintain your health and overall well-being.

While it sounds good to say that you are practicing mindfulness or using stress relieving activities, the reality of it is that none of these techniques and/or activities will be beneficial to you if you are not taking good care of yourself.

But isn’t utilizing techniques such as mindfulness and/or engaging in stress relieving activities what taking care of yourself consist of?

Sure it is, to some extent, however, there is more to taking care of yourself that just therapeutic techniques and stress-relieving activities.

Taking care of ourselves, personally and professionally, consist of many aspects of our lives across various domains.

Physical Self-Care involves us making sure that we are getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, and engaging in exercise on a very consistent, or should I say DAILY basis?

Social Self-Care requires us to make sure that we are maintaining healthy and meaningful relationships with others, to include our significant other, children, other family members and our friends. Social Self-Care also requires us to have healthy communication and time spent engaging in activities that would nurture those relationships that are meaningful.

Intellectual Self-Care includes us doing things that will stimulate and fuel our mind/brain, as well as our creativity, to include: reading books, learning something new, drawing, coloring, completing puzzles, etc.

Spiritual Self-Care is about us as individual developing a deeper sense of meaning and understanding, as well as having a connection with the universe.

A-Vocational Self-Care involves us engaging in those leisure activities we enjoy doing, to include: writing poetry, taking a walk, playing video games, gardening, playing basketball, etc.

Emotional Self-Care is how we deal with and manage those unhealthy and uncomfortable emotions that we are experiencing. Emotional Self-Care includes activities that will help you identify, acknowledge, and express your emotions in an healthy manner on a consistent basis.

Economic Self-Care involves how we manage our finances, automobiles (transportation), and homes (living arrangements).

………………………….. and lastly;

Occupational Self-Care involves are ability to enjoy the work that we are doing and establish and maintain a work-home life balance.

Having realized that Self-Care involve so many domains, what we realize is that self-care is not a one size fits all strategy.

Ultimately, your self-care is specific to you as a person and professional and I encourage you to begin developing your a self-care plan today. You don’t have to tackle every area immediately, but rather, I encourage you to identify those areas in which you struggle more often than not and begin identifying activities that you can do so that you are not struggling and begin taking better care of yourself.

When care for yourself, you will find that you are able to doing things more effectively and efficiently.

Schedule time each day to focus on your individual needs and begin making your self-care a priority!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

* Please note that the self-care domains are adapted from Dr. Karla Sapp’s “WHOLE-Self Paradigm of Wellbeing”. For more information or to learn about the “WHOLE-Self Paradigm of Well-Being”, please feel free to contact Dr. Sapp. *

You Are Resilient…… A Brief Note to Counselors Across the Globe!

As we continue to face the uncertainty of this global pandemic that is impacting the lives of millions, I wanted to reach out and remind each of just how important you and your skill set are during this time.

You are “ESSENTIAL” in every sense of the word.

You all provide the world with HOPE in the most darkest of dark moments.

You are willing to give of yourself in ways that are unimaginable to most.

You carry the burdens of others on your shoulders, heart, and mind; yet, you continue to keep a smile on your face and manage to keep your life and family lives in balance.

You are resilient! You don’t break, even when you are stretched ever so thin!

In all of this, I want each of you to know that YOU ARE APPRECIATED and are making a difference in the lives of others.

Remember to make yourself and your family a PRIORITY and Practice SELF-CARE daily.

Happy Counselors Awareness Month to all Counselors across the Globe!