Don’t Let the Raging Virus Put Life in Jeopardy. Chula Recommends How to Build an Immunity for Your Heart Against Stress and Depression

Cumulative stress, denial, and chronic depression are the byproducts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for Psychological Wellness, Chulalongkorn University recommends ways to cope by harnessing positive energy from our heart.

Asst. Prof. Dr. Natsuda Taephan, Head of the Center for Psychological Wellness, Faculty of Psychology, Chulalongkorn University
Asst. Prof. Dr. Natsuda Taephan
Head of the Center for Psychological Wellness,
Faculty of Psychology, Chulalongkorn University

The COVID-19 global pandemic that has been going on for almost two years and shows no sign of ending is killing millions of people and causing tremendous stress, ever-increasing burden and suffering for people at the cost of their health and economic well-being.  Asst. Prof. Dr. Natsuda Taephan, Head of the Center for Psychological Wellness, Faculty of Psychology, Chulalongkorn University invites us to look inside ourselves, explore our mental strength, and give ourselves a pep talk.  Then, we can create positive energy from within to relieve the pain and suffering before it spreads to the people around us and society at large.

Out of sight, not out of mind

Reduced personal interaction from social distancing will affect people’s relationships. The intimacy between family members may not be the same.  Many people find themselves feeling lonely as a result.  More importantly, such feelings of loneliness may lead to major bouts of depression, and humans who are social beings, need to find ways to address this loneliness to prevent further psychological problems.  Reaching out to friends or talking to anyone who makes us feel better, finding activities to do with others, or asking for help when necessary can prevent us from feeling isolated from the world and society.  On the other hand, we can still feel alone in the crowd. A clear example is the need to share common areas to study or work online that inevitably requires space and time allocation among family members which will eventually lead to  claustrophobic feelings, due to the lack of space and privacy in your own home

Such cases can be resolved through open discussions within the family, exchange of news and information and the needs of each person to set a schedule for sharing the common home space with minimum impact on everyone’s feelings. These limitations may therefore be a good opportunity for the whole family to get to know each other better than ever.

Three areas of anxiety often encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Constant anxiety about the health and life safety – that we and those around us may be infected.
  • Worries about lifestyle changes, an unpredictable future, the aftermath of unemployment, online study and work, unfamiliar new forms of meeting, or getting used to activities or sharing common areas with family members that can make us feel uncomfortable for the lack of privacy that can lead to conflicts.
  • Concerns about all forms of life change, from small things around us to big national issues, future economic conditions, and the well-being of the Thai people in general.

Four techniques to reduce cumulative stress

Asst. Prof. Dr. Natsuda recommends four ways to help explore the mind and practice building a mental immunity against life stress, especially during the pandemic.

Technique 1 – Deal with Problems Properly

How to properly approach problems when we are upset should regularly be explored and practiced.  Coping with the problems is recognizing and assessing the situations and arising problems as they are, while always understanding that we can fix them with the intellectual capital that we have. This technique is divided into two methods:

Problem-focused coping

concentrates directly on the root cause of the problem starting with gathering relevant information, plan and set problem-solving goals while applying life experience in considering the right solutions. Then we can proceed to fix the problems, which also includes changing our attitude.

Emotion-focused coping

is used in situations that we cannot change. Instead, we should control our emotions, alleviate the feelings that arise, be it fear, anger, sadness, or frustration.  One possible way to express emotions is by confiding in someone.

Technique 2- Resilience

The ability to be resilient is based on the premise that everyone who falls can always get up. All human beings have to face inevitable problems, and so do we.  The ability to regain strength is like a crutch for us to stand up again and finally overcome the problems.

This technique consists of three key concepts:

I Have

Recognize what we have and who we can rely on or ask for help, or people who understand us, see our value, and give us emotional support like family members, friends, and lovers.

I Am

Recognize our self-worth, strengths, or potentials, such as honesty, patience, the importance of our existence, and value to those around us.

I Can

Recognize our abilities to think, act, talk or ask questions to be able to get things done, including asking for help and believing that we will eventually get through the problems. This ability is an important skill to overcome difficult problems. It also means being able to learn from those problems.

Technique 3 – Have self-compassion

Self-compassion — a non-judgmental look at oneself — is a new perspective that everyone should have. This technique guides us to accept and appreciate ourselves as we do others.  It may be called being kind to ourselves as we are kind to others, and don’t beat ourselves up for mistakes or disappointments. Know how to forgive ourselves, and recognize that mistakes that happen to us can also happen to others.

Technique 4 – Gratitude

The feeling of gratitude should also be practiced. Each day, we may try to feel gratitude for various things that give us happiness even during difficult times, whether it be people, pets, belongings, and food.  The desired outcome is a positive feeling and encouragement which will affect our relationships with others.

Wave after wave of outbreaks is a situation that we cannot control. If we keep worrying, we’d become depressed, exhausted, and unable to deal with other problems in life. Those who start to feel stressed about the situation may try to follow the advice above, such as stop what they’re doing, trying to move and change the posture, taking a break for a moment and trying another, more relaxing activity, or stepping away from the same environment all of which are a good start in order to reduce stress.

Chula’s encouragement and support for research is excellent for teachers, students, and the public.

Associate Professor Dr. Suchana Chavanich Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University

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