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Emotional response as crucial as physical recovery

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2020-08-17 08:15
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Li says the pandemic has affected the five basic needs of people - a sense of safety, trust and control, self-esteem and affinity. As the pandemic is brought under control and the economy begins to recover, the psychological impact of the pandemic is fading.

"Each person should have a little knowledge about psychological crisis intervention and learn some scientific methods to self-regulate when a crisis happens," she says, adding that once people feel they can't live their normal life, with regular social contacts or a feeling of happiness, they can ask for professional help.

According to Liu, so far there are more than 6,500 cases of people who have contacted the hotline asking for help.

Jiang Changqing, chief physician at department of clinical psychology, Beijing Anding Hospital, Capital Medical University, says that the tension in intimate relationships and parent-child relationships is a prominent problem alongside anxiety and fear for the public during the pandemic.

"For people, the social functions include work, interpersonal communication and also family life, and if people only put focus on one aspect, it's easy to cause problems," Jiang explains.

Jiang says a key rule to regulate the relationships between parents and their children or couples is to maintain self-censorship and ask whether the goal and the action are consistent.

"Usually, in most families, the intention is good, so people need to reflect whether their behavior is good or bad, and make sure to act in a way that is conducive to accomplishing what they want," Jiang says.

"For example, if you want your child to make progress, by making too many negative comments, you may not achieve the desired goal," he says.

During the pandemic, for people who live alone, Jiang says they need to keep in touch with their family and friends, as close family contact and social support is an important foundation to a sense of security.

Jiang says that, even though the pandemic has limited people's sphere of activities, the public should try to maintain their regular schedule and get their life back to normal.

"Rules and a sense of control is a dose of good medicine for anxiety and panic," Jiang says.

He advocates for people to "self-check" by communicating with friends and family to find out whether or not they are exhibiting any change in their behavior, or acting more - or less - cautious than they should be.

"For example, if someone is wearing a protective suit, an N95 mask and goggles to go out while others are just wearing masks, it shows signs of over cautious behavior," Jiang says.

As well as learning the procedures for, and scientific reasons behind, the various pandemic prevention measures, practice is another way to strengthen the sense of control.

"This can be seen with medical workers in Wuhan. They may have felt a bit afraid when they entered the negative pressure ward to treat the COVID-19 patients, but after practicing for several days, they became sure that if they followed the necessary safety measures step-by-step, they wouldn't be infected," Jiang says.

Jiang arrived in Wuhan on Feb 20, to help the medical assistance team from Beijing. According to him, around 28 percent of the medical workers often have insomnia or their sleep is restless and filled with vivid dreams, and less than half of them have problems with their appetite or digestion due to the pressure and nervousness they experienced.

Liu and his team arrived in Wuhan on March 3. Their main focus was the medical workers and the COVID-19 patients.

Liu later noticed that the city's front line community workers were also under a lot of pressure during the pandemic, so his team decided to expand their scope of help.

According to Liu, Zhang Dingyu, head of Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, arranged for all front line medical workers to take turns in taking two weeks' leave.

"The break can help them to deal with their emotions," Liu explains. "Zhang also asked our team to arrange training for them to enhance their psychological resilience, as well as to learn how to help the patients manage their emotions if there is a second wave of the pandemic," Liu says.

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