Feeling stressed, anxious about COVID-19? Here's what can help

March 21, 2020

In face of the climbing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world, experts in psychology and education are keeping a watchful eye on mental health of people drawn into the global crisis.

On a webinar launched by Columbia Global Centers | Beijing on March 21, 2020, scholars from US and China discussed the uncertainty and anxiety caused by the coronavirus outbreak, stressing the keys to self-care and stress management when facing a healthcare crisis.

People around the world should unite as a whole and spread love to everyone to heal the stressed, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Education from Columbia University Teachers College, appealed at the webinar.

“We are one world, and we'll all get through it together as global unity, helping one another.”

-Professor Judy Kuriansky

While paying attention to post-traumatic stress, people should also look at post-traumatic growth, which brings opportunities and changes after the the crisis, the Columbia psychologist reminded.

The stay-at-home period enabled people to enjoy themselves and develop hobbies that they were too busy to experience, and get closer with family and friends despite social distance, added she.

The resilience serves as a good way for people to recover. “If you bounce a ball on the ground, it bounces back, that’s how resilient you could be in a crisis and get strong after it,” explained Professor Kuriansky.

Ways to heal

Those who lost their beloved ones would feel guilty for not having expressed their love, as they did not have a chance to visit before they died, said Dr. Robert A. Neimeyer, Professor in the Department of Psychology at University of Memphis and Director of the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition. Listening to them and support from families, friends and society are effective ways to help them go through it.

“Walk with the people in darkness, in order to earn the opportunity to walk with them toward life,” suggested Professor Neimeyer.

Professor Kuriansky showed ways to get out of stress as well, such as clapping hands when feeling upset to interrupt the negative thoughts, taking deep breath, and contact comfort.

To accept the difficulty is the first step to overcome anxiety, said Dr. Changming DUAN, Professor in the Department of Psychology and Research in Education at University of Kansas. One should then avoid being trapped in the anxious environment. Hope and faith also weigh much.

For students overseas, Dr. Yi YANG, Clinical Psychologist and Health Service Psychologist in private practice, suggested rebuilding study and life routine from the disrupted regular life, and supporting each other on social network. 

Dr. Yang also introduced a process from denial, anger, bargaining to depression and finally acceptance. She suggested professional psychological consultation if a person keeps staying at the first several stages.

According to Dr. Guangrong JIANG, Professor of Psychology at Central China Normal University, the university had the largest psychological aid hotline in the world, and launched an overseas special line to serve Chinese students abroad.

Webinars on COVID-19

The webinar serves as the first one of Coronavirus thematic series program launched by Columbia Global Centers | Beijing. 

Since the coronavirus outbreak, Columbia Global Centers | Beijing has been working closely with experts and scholars from Columbia University, Peking University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and other institutions to help audience understand the virus and the mental health conditions of frontline medical staff and people affected by the virus outbreak, as well as to provide solutions and suggestions for improvement.