Overcoming Our Irrational Fears Around the Coronavirus Crisis

Available for Interviews: Roger Hall.

Dr. Roger Hall has a doctorate in Counseling Psychology, is an Executive Coach to entrepreneurs and leaders, and is an in-demand public speaker throughout North America.


Talking Points from Roger Hall 
on How to Overcome Our Irrational Fears
Around the Coronavirus Crisis

The virus is real. There is a real threat, but human beings (when unsure of what to do), look to others to imitate. When everyone around them is freaking out, they assume that the proper response is to freak out. It is called “Social Proof.” One of the major problems for urban firefighters is crowd control. If you are looking to be safe, you probably don’t want to be in a crowd next to a burning building. In fact, people see others chasing the firetruck, so that is what they do, too. Before you know it, you’ve got a crowd of grown people chasing a firetruck to a fire. The same is true with toilet paper. You may have plenty at home, but the sparse shelves tell you that, “others are stocking up” so, based on the social proof, you stock up too—even if you already have a supply. Our basic imitative nature as humans creates a chain reaction of bad reactions. This is why leaders are so important in modeling calm, because when unsure, people look to leaders to imitate how to behave. 

 Issues Related to Irrational Fears

  1.  Fear and control are inextricably linked. People attempt to control the things they fear. When they have no control of the thing they fear, they shift to gathering information. The more anxiety they feel, the more they search.
  1.  Control. Controlling your dog on a leash. The more anxiety you have about the dog’s behavior, the shorter you keep the leash.
  1.  Information Gathering. Entire media empires have been made from generating information about things we cannot control: i.e., The Weather Channel.
  1.  “If it bleeds, it leads.” the media is invested in anxiety.  It keeps people coming back to their source of information.  As a result, some in the media are invested in talking about the worst-case scenario. 

Example: Advertisers know their audience.  Look at the commercials. Commercials for football games are beer, trucks, and Viagra.  Advertisers know their audience. Ads for the news are prescription drugs for stress related illnesses, gold, and insurance.  The advertisers know the audience is worried. The news provides the need, the advertisers provide the solution.  

  1.  Anxiety. When exhibiting anxiety, our rational brain shuts down, so we continue in behavior that isn’t helpful to solve the problem. We continue in behavior that only increases our anxiety which keeps us in a state that we cannot solve our problems and really alleviate our anxiety.

Example: You can’t do math problems when you are running away from a wild animal. 

Example: Looking down the tracks for the upcoming train.  I’ve seen people look down the line for several minutes that only gives them a seven second advantage over people who are busy reading.  We waste incredible amounts of time seeking information that (1) gives us no real advantage and (2) only serves to increase our fear. 

  1.  Fear. When in fear, we imagine the worst-case scenario, but do not factor in people who are working to prevent the worst-case scenario.
  1.  Acceptance. We assume as likely events that are easy to imagine. The more the news reports it, the easier it is to imagine.  

Example How are you most likely to die at the beach? You may guess shark attack, sun stroke, drowning, or jellyfish sting.  But you are most likely to die of heart disease at the beach because you are most likely to die of heart disease anywhere. 


  • (a)   Limit your information gathering.
  • (b)   Choose sources that have little or no financial investment in sharing the information. They are likely to be more accurate.
  • (c)   Monitor how it makes you feel. If it makes you worry more with no solution, then it isn’t helpful.
  • (d)   Remember past predictions of health disasters that didn’t come true. For example, there was a time in the 1980’s when HIV+ was a death sentence. Now, we have treatments to prolong and even save lives. When swine flu, bird flu, and other viruses were first reported, the worst-case scenario was also reported. The worst-case scenario didn’t occur.
  • (e)   Take reasonable precautions, but worry will only make your life worse and prevent you from understanding your real risks.  


Interview: Roger Hall.

Roger Hall a business psychologist, executive coach, national speaker and author of Staying Happy Being Productive: The Big 10 Things Successful People Do. He trains entrepreneurs, professionals, and business leaders to monitor and manage their thinking for peak performance.

Jo Allison
PR Managing Editor
Success In Media, Inc.

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