How to overcome the fear of going outside

Since May 2, when they settled time zones that relaxed confinement and allowed children under 14, the elderly or to play sports, we have seen in the media many images of streets full of people who, after two months at home, did not miss the opportunity to go out . But not everyone has, some people have not dared to go out for fear of contagion, which makes it difficult to face this new stage in which we have entered de-escalation.

After two months of constant warnings of the danger of contagion, of the need and obligation to stay at home, of the numbers of sick and deceased, it seems logical to wonder if it will be really safe to go out, if it is not going too fast. These doubts, Fears or insecurities can cause such an everyday habit before the pandemic as going out for a walk, causing us anguish and anxiety.

In this way, some prefer to respect confinement on their own initiative for a few more days since, as Gema Martínez, 74, comments, “I have already endured two months, so I prefer not to go out except when strictly necessary as I have done so far to the purchase. I find it difficult to believe that there is no longer so much danger of contagion. ”

Another point that influences some people to be reluctant to go out for a walk, even if it is allowed, is the fear of those who do not comply with the necessary security measures. “The other day I sat on a bench to rest and a little while later a man sat next to me without keeping my distance and without a mask. I had to get up and leave,” says 81-year-old Amor Osorio, who has also decided to leave the exits for later because she doesn’t feel safe.

And it is that the fear of contagion is a reality with which we coexist as reflected in the results of a survey carried out by the European University to more than 16,000 people in the Communities of Madrid, Cantabria and the Canary Islands, between April 15 and 25, where 70% of the participants admitted to being afraid of catching COVID-19 in their closest environment.

For psychologists these fears are understandable after this unprecedented period of confinement, but overcoming them is in our hands.

Tips for dealing with the fear of going outside

  1. First of all, experts recommend going little by little, that is, set small daily goals in the first exits. Maybe start by going to the corner alone, another day daring to go a little further and thus increase the routes as we feel safe.
  2. Avoid, as always, overinformation. It is advisable to know what can be done in each phase, to be informed about the evolution of the pandemic, but not to be constantly connected because an excess of information can generate doubts and anxiety, which does not contribute to being able to face the lack of refinement normally.
  3. In relation to the previous point, it is also advisable to control fear, be well informed about the necessary security measures and how to use a mask or gloves correctly. Knowing that we are doing everything well and that we are properly equipped will give us security when leaving.
  4. It is also important always lean on our environment. Talking about what happens to us with family and friends can help give the appropriate dimension to our fear and, probably, see that we are not the only ones who feel this way. And, if deemed appropriate, turn to a professional.
  5. Plan the resumption of social activities With which we will be able to recover ‘normality’ in the coming weeks is another tip to overcome fear. Setting goals to be able to re-enjoy activities that we did before confinement can facilitate the process of, little by little, going outside to enjoy again.
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Cabin syndrome

These days there is a lot of talk about the ‘cabin syndrome’ linked to the fear of going outside. It is a term to define the set of symptoms, such as anxiety or palpitations, that a person experiences when going outside after having spent time in a closed space.

It is not a new concept since the United States began to be used in the 20th century to describe a type of mental state caused by months of loneliness, isolation and boredom, due to the intense and long winters that affect extreme latitudes. The people who suffered from it were those who lived in isolated places or very narrow spaces.