How to be more resilient in the face of the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak?

The outbreak of the Wuhan Coronavirus is causing the general public a lot of anxiety and stress. People are panicky in searching for facemasks and sanitiser. Many families are avoiding going out as usual and trying very hard to hoard enough food at home. The daily increase of confirmed cases and death also exacerbates worries of many people.  Despite these, many people still need to go to work, travel for business purposes, or take care of their family as usual. Given these responsibilities, it is beyond dispute that the current outbreak takes its toll on all of us. How can we still be resilient in the face of this?

According to Steven C. Hayes, who developed Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), concepts in ACT are effective in helping us to face our stress resiliently. It is not the stress itself that contributes to our sufferings; in fact, it is our reactivity to stress that intensifies our sufferings. In the face of stress, we need to differentiate between those problems that are within our capabilities to solve and problems that are out of our control. For those problems that are within our control, we need to face and solve them. For example, if there is not enough sanitiser to buy, we need to face it and may be try to make our own.

On the contrary, if there are problems that are out of our control, we need to be flexible and accept that something we cannot change. For instance, the uncomfortable sensations of wearing a facemask are inevitable and we cannot change if we need to wear a mask. We need to embrace the bodily sensations and being with the sufferings. A researcher, Frank Bond, developed a metaphor. He pointed out that we can be a sink and our stress be the running water from the tap. We can try to turn off the tap that is to get rid of the stress. Sometimes, another way may be easier and more feasible, that is to unplug the drain and let the stress pass through the sink.

Another common stress we are facing currently is the uncertainty of our career or businesses as the outbreak keeps worsen in the coming months. We may start to have negative self-talk to ourselves that we are inadequate in up keeping our career or businesses. In this case, we need to remind ourselves that our thoughts are not facts. In fact, we need to connect with our transcendent self to be aware that we are not totally defined by our career or our businesses.

Being more present is another way for us to be more resilient in the face of stress. For instance, instead of ruminating about the risk for being infected, we may try to be more present at what we are doing. We may try to be more mindful and attentive at cooking while we need to stay home. This makes our cooking process more enjoyable. Our mood will improve and not be affected by the current situation so much.

If we can regulate our mood better, we will be able to revisit our values and focus our energy in doing meaningful things for the society. It is heartwarming to see many people in Hong Kong start to help each other out in the face of the outbreak. With resilience, we can take actions to set achievable goals instead of procrastinating due to our anxiety.

Hongkongers are famous for their resilience and always being able to bounce back from crisis. Let’s us manage our stress well and be more resilient to help ourselves despite the uncertainties and difficulties we are facing.

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