Psychological resilience in the face of the fourth wave of the pandemic

With the increasing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in recent two weeks, it is beyond dispute that the fourth wave of the pandemic is happening in this city. The tightened measures in social distancing, the suspension of physical schooling, and the resuming of work from home schedules are impacting our plans for Christmas celebration and New Year’s resolution. With previous experience, we may be better equipped with strategies to cope with the fourth wave. However, some people may feel frustrated for the return of a restrictive lifestyle as in the third wave. How can we cope with this fourth wave with psychological resilience?

According to Steven Hayes, an American clinical psychologist and founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), we need to cultivate cognitive flexibility in the face of any difficulty and adversity that cause our suffering. With cognitive flexibility, we accept our feelings and thoughts with openness and experience our present moment with mindfulness. In this way, we will not be suffering from our struggle of pushing our suffering away and be able to create inner space for constructive actions conducive to psychological well-being.

In the face of all the impacts of the fourth wave of the pandemic, we need to be aware of our internal negative thought process. Whenever we feel upset or anxious, we can step back and be curious about our thoughts associated with the emotions. By observing our thoughts in this way, we do not need to agree or identify with our thoughts. For example, when we are being able to be aware of our worry about our deteriorating financial condition, we can acknowledge it as a thought and may not be a fact. In fact, we may come up with some practical strategies to protect our financial condition when we create space inside us by stepping away from rumination.

Even when we are able to observe our negative thoughts and not being affected by them, we may still experience negative emotions, such as anxiety and sadness, in the face of the fourth wave of the pandemic. As human, we tend to avoid sufferings. However, the more we struggle to avoid experiencing our suffering, the more we suffer. On the contrary, if we cultivate acceptance to experience our suffering, we will develop a new relationship with our pain or fear. In this way, we will be more flexible in responding to the pain or fear. For instance, if we are waiting for the COVID-19 test result, we may feel anxious and worried. By accepting our anxiety and worry, we may create inner space and be able to come up with some enjoyable activities to do at home while we are waiting for the result in quarantine.

With openness to observe our thoughts and experience our emotions, we can cultivate presence in the face of the fourth wave of the pandemic. We all tend to ruminate about what had happened in the past and worry about what will happen in the future. When we involve too much in ruminating and worrying, we restrict our ability to enjoy the present moment experiences. We may practice mindfulness exercises to cultivate presence. We may also be mindful whenever we are engaging in any activity. For example, during work from home, we may enjoy a refreshing shower by being present with our experience. We may smell the shower gel, feel the warmth of the water, as well as observe any bodily sensations during showering. By cultivate mindfulness, our quality of life improves as we are more present and are enjoying our experiences of daily activities more.

It is inevitable for all of us to have negative thoughts and distressing emotions in the face of the fourth wave of the pandemic. By learning to be more cognitively flexible, we can be more psychologically resilient in the face of all the upcoming challenges. Let’s be hopeful and optimistic in the face of the challenge in front of us.

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