April 08, 2020

‘FACE COVID’ – How to respond effectively to the Corona crisis

Original text: Face COVID – using ACT to respond flexibly (Russ Harris, 2020)

Translation: Priscila Rolim de Moura and Paulo Gomes de Sousa

‘FACE COVID’ is a set of practical steps to effectively respond to the Corona crisis, using the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Here’s a quick summary of the main steps, and in the pages that follow we’ll explore them all in more depth.

F = Focus on what is under your control

A = Accept your thoughts and feelings

C = Connect with your Body

E = Get involved in what you are doing

C = Commit to action

O = Open

V = Values

I = Identify resources

D = Disinfect and Distance yourself

Let’s now explore these one by one

F = Focus on what is in your control

The Corona crisis can affect us in many ways: physically, emotionally, economically, socially and psychologically. All of us are (or will soon be) dealing with the real challenges of widespread serious illness and the inability of health systems to deal with it, social and community disruption, economic consequences and financial problems, obstacles and disruptions in many aspects of our lives. life… And the list goes on.

And when we are faced with a crisis of any kind, fear and anxiety are inevitable; they are normal, natural responses to challenging situations caused by danger and uncertainty. It’s very easy to get lost in worries and ruminate on all sorts of things that are out of your control: what might happen in the future; how the virus might affect you or your loved ones or your community or your country or the world – and what will happen next – and so on. And while it’s completely natural for us to get lost in such worries, it’s not helpful or beneficial. In fact, the more we focus on what is out of our control, the more desperate or anxious we are likely to feel.

So the most useful thing anyone can do in any kind of crisis – Corona-related or not – is to focus on what is in your control.

You cannot control what happens in the future. You cannot control the Corona virus itself or the world economy or how your government manages this sordid mess. And you cannot magically control your feelings by eliminating everything that is perfectly natural like fear and anxiety. But you can control what you do – here and now. That’s what matters.

Because what you do – here and now – can make a huge difference to yourself, and to anyone who lives with you, and a significant difference to the community around you.

The reality is that we all have much more control over our behavior than we do over our thoughts and feelings. So our number one goal is to take control of our behavior – here and now – to respond effectively to this crisis.

This involves both dealing with our inner world – all of our difficult thoughts and feelings – and our outer world – all of the real problems we are facing. How will we do this? Well, when a big storm blows, the boats in the harbor dock – because if they don’t, they’ll be swept out to sea. And, of course, anchoring doesn’t make the storm go away (anchors can’t control the weather) – but it can hold a steady boat in port, until the storm passes in its own time.

Likewise, in an ongoing crisis, we will all experience ’emotional storms’: useless thoughts swirling around inside our heads and painful feelings swirling around our body. And if we are swept away by this storm within us, there is nothing effective we can do. So the first practical step is to ‘cast the anchor’, using the simple ACE formula:

A = Accept your thoughts and feelings

C = Connect with your Body

E = Get involved in what you are doing

Let’s explore these one by one:

A = Accept your thoughts and feelings

Silently and gently observe everything that ‘pops up’ inside you: thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, sensation, impulses. Choose the attitude of a curious scientist, observing what is happening in your inner world. As you do this, it can be helpful to put this into words, and silently say to yourself something like, ‘I am noticing anxiety’ or ‘Here is sadness’ or ‘My mind is worrying’ or ‘I am having a feeling of sadness’ or ‘I am having thoughts about getting sick’.

And, continuing to observe your thoughts and feelings, too….

C = Connect with your Body

Turn inward and connect with your physical body. Find your own way to do this. You can try some or all of the following procedures or find your own methods:

Slowly push your feet hard into the floor.
Slowly straighten your back and spine; if seated, remain upright and forward in your chair.
Slowly press your fingers together
Slowly stretch your arms or neck, shrugging your shoulders.
breathe slowly

Note: The intention here is not to get away, escape, to avoid or distract yourself from what is happening in your inner world. The goal is to stay aware of your thoughts and feelings, keep noticing their presence….and at the same time, go back inside and connect with your body, and actively move it. Why? So you can gain as much control over your physical actions as possible, even if you can’t control your feelings. (Remember, F = Focus on what’s in your control)

And as you observe your thoughts and feelings, come back to your body, too….

E = Get involved in what you are doing

Get a sense of where you are and focus your attention on the activity you are doing.

Find your own way to do this. You could try some or all of the following suggestions, or find your own methods:

Look around the room and notice 5 things you can see.
Note 3 or 4 things you might hear.
Notice what you can smell or taste or feel in your nose and mouth
Watch what you’re doing
End the exercise by giving your full attention to the task or activity at hand. (And if you don’t have any meaningful activities to do, see the next 3 steps).

Ideally, run the ACE cycle slowly 3-4 times to turn it into a 2-3 minute workout.

If you wish, to help you get the hang of it, you can download some audio recordings of free exercises to ‘drop the anchor’, ranging from 1 minute to 11 minutes in length. You can listen to them and use them as a guide to help you develop this skill. You can download or stream online from the left side of this page: https://www.actmindfully.com.au/free-stuff //free-audio

NOTE: please do not skip the A of ACE; It is very important to keep observing the thoughts and feelings present, especially if they are difficult or uncomfortable. If you skip the A, this exercise will turn into a distraction technique – which is not its purpose.

Anchoring is a very useful skill. You can use it to deal with difficult thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, desires and sensations more effectively; turn off autopilot and engage in life; firming up and stabilizing in difficult situations; interrupting rumination, obsession and worry; and focusing your attention on the task or activity you are doing. The more you anchor yourself in the here and now, the more control you will have over your actions – which makes you that much better able to take the following steps: COVID

C = Commit to action

Committed action means effective action guided by your core values; action you take because it really matters to you; action you take, even if it brings up difficult thoughts and feelings. Once you’ve let the anchor drop, using the ACE formula, you’ll have a lot of control over your actions – so it makes it easier to do the things that really matter.

This includes, of course, all the protective measures against Corona – frequent hand washing, social distancing, and so on. But in addition to the fundamentals of effective action, consider:

What are simple ways to take care of yourself, those you live with, and those you can realistically help? What care, support actions can you do?

Can you say a few kind words to someone in distress – in person or over a phone call or text message?

Can you help someone with a chore, or cook a meal, or hold someone’s hand, or play a game with a child?

Can you comfort and soothe someone who is sick? Or in the most serious of cases, protect and advise them with any medical assistance available?

And if you’re spending a lot more time at home, through isolation or enforced quarantine, or social distancing, what are the most effective ways to spend that time?

You may want to consider exercising to stay fit, cooking healthy foods (when possible, given restrictions), and doing meaningful activities alone or with others.

And if you’re familiar with acceptance and commitment therapy or other mindfulness-based approaches, how can you actively practice some of these mindfulness skills?

Over and over throughout the day, ask yourself ‘What can I do now – no matter how small your action seems to be – that improves life for me or others I live with, or people in my community?’ And regardless of your answer – do it and practice it fully.

O = Open

Being open, providing space for difficult feelings, and being kind to yourself. Difficult feelings will continue to surface as this crisis unfolds: fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and many more.

We cannot stop them from arising; they are normal reactions. But we can open up and make room for them: recognize that they are normal, allow them to be there (even if they hurt us), and treat us kindly.

Remember, self-kindness or self-care is essential if you want to handle this crisis well – especially if you are in a caregiver role. If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you’ve heard this message: ‘In an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.’ Well, self-kindness is its own oxygen mask; if you need to take care of others, you will do it much better if you are also taking good care of yourself.

So ask yourself, ‘If someone I love were going through this experience, feeling what I’m feeling – if I were kind and caring to them, how would I treat them? How would I behave towards them? What could I say or do?’ Then try to treat yourself the same way.

To learn more about self-kindness, also known as self-compassion, read this e-book: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1__Q3UcT9Q8VuSbiRm7x7-xjaxy5xkrba/view?usp=sharing

V = Values

Committed action must be guided by your core values: What do you want to highlight in the face of this crisis? What kind of person do you want to be, how do you want to get through it? How do you want to treat yourself and others?

Your values ​​may include love, respect, humor, patience, courage, honesty, caring, openness, kindness….or many others. Look for ways to ‘sprinkle’ these values ​​into your day. Let them guide and motivate your committed action.

Of course, as this crisis unfolds, there will be all sorts of obstacles in your life; goals you cannot achieve, things you cannot do, problems for which there are no simple solutions. But you can still live your values ​​in a multitude of different ways, even in the face of all these challenges. Especially come back to your values ​​of kindness and caring. Consider:

What are the kind and thoughtful ways you can treat yourself when you go through this?

What are the kind words you can say to yourself, the kind actions you can do for yourself?

What are kind ways to treat others who are hurting?

What are kind and thoughtful ways to contribute to the well-being of your community?

What can you say and do to enable you to look back on the years to come and be proud of your responses?

I = Identify resources

Identify resources for help, assistance, support and advice. This includes friends, family, neighbors, healthcare professionals, emergency services. And make sure you know emergency phone numbers, including psychological help if needed.

Also approach your social networks. And if you are able to offer support to others, let them know; you can be a resource to other people just as they can be to you.

A very important aspect of this process involves finding a reliable and reliable source of information for crisis updates and guidelines on how to respond to it. The World Health Organization website is the main source of such information:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 and

Also, check your country’s government health department website https://www.saude.gov.br/noticias/agencia-saude/46540-saude-anuncia-orientacoes-para-evitar-a-disseminacao-do -coronavirus

Use this information to develop your own resources: action plans to protect yourself and others, and prepare in advance for quarantine or emergency.

D = Disinfection & physical distance

I’m sure you already know this, but it bears repeating: disinfect your hands regularly and practice social distancing as realistically as possible, for the greater good of your community. And remember, we’re talking about physical distancing – not breaking the emotional connection. (If you’re not sure what this means, read this:


This is an important aspect of committed action, so as to deeply align it with your values; recognize that these are truly caring actions.

© Russ Harris, 2020 www.TheHappinessTrap.com www.ImLearningACT.com

This is an informative text and is not intended to exhaust the subject or replace consultation by a specialized professional. If you identify with the text, I suggest seeking the help of a professional who has theoretical knowledge and practical experience in the area.

Text authored by Psychologist and Professor Priscila Rolim and Psychologist Paulo Gomes, published on the Comporte-se portal on March 26, 2020

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