At present, two things are spreading at different rates in Hong Kong and around the globe: the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and panic behaviours such as hoarding food and household items. The second seems to be far more contagious than the first.
Scientists are working around the clock to learn more about the virus. This includes its origins, how it is transmitted, and effective treatment and prevention. It is a lot of new information to absorb in a short time. It may be overwhelming and can be misunderstood.
Different agencies have handled the facts in different ways. Some have taken more stringent steps to prevent the virus from spreading, whereas others have taken a more measured approach. It sends confusing signals about how dangerous – or not – the illness might be. It can leave the public wondering as to what is the true nature of the outbreak.
These information gaps can lead to speculation. In addition to factual medical information, plenty of inaccurate and outright ridiculous claims are also making the rounds. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference, and it is easy to get caught up in the fear or panic they might cause.
How information is presented is has an effect on us as well. Counters that dramatically scroll up to the number of infected and dead each time you view them are meant to be thrilling. Spin-off titles keep us reading, drawing us deeper down information rabbit holes that may or may not be accurate.
The outcome is that many of us feel anxious, confused, and even fearful. We don’t know who or what to believe. It goes so far as to cause division among people who react to the situation in different ways. There are those who have “fled” the city for safer shores, or those who are hoarding household products. It is all a result of the information they have used to make their decisions.
In times like this, it can be difficult to stay calm and make rational decisions. Use the following three methods to build your own strong psychological “immune system” in the face of information overload.
Number 1: Question the source
We receive so much information that we may not always be able to determine immediately if it is authentic and factual. Stop and think about the information you are receiving. What is the source? Is it a credible source? Is it fact-checked? Is the person who wrote it an expert or have experience in a related field? What motivation might they have for writing it? Unless the information is from a credible source, there is no need to trust it or react immediately. During periods of instability, it is easy for those with other motivations to use our fear for their purposes. Resist the temptation to pass on unreliable or far-fetched information.
Number 2: Compare notes
Hong Kong is going through a long period of social unrest, pressure, and division. It is understandable that we have developed a sense of distrust and insecurity. Before making any decision, you may wish to discuss with friends or family members. The point is not that their opinions must be reliable, but to stimulate thinking and dialogue. Do not blindly accommodate your conditioned reflexes. Rather, seek different opinions to help question the validity of your fears.
Number 3: Fight the feeling
Irrational decisions are typically made because we feel upset, scared and anxious. Therefore, when we encounter negative emotions, it is best to try and maintain a relaxed psychological state. This way, we have more psychological resources to face unexpected events. Here are some suggestions to help you decompress:
Do you feel yourself feeling fearful and confused by news and information about the Covid-19? Contact the BFDC, we can help. We also offer online counselling if you prefer to stay at home.
現在我們實在有太多不同途徑去接收不同的資訊，多得讓我們抖不過氣來，甚至一時三刻未必能分辨內容和來源真偽。在這個時候，最重要的就是停一停，想一想。我們絕對沒有必要讓自己對收到的建議或想法或作出條件反射 — 在沒有思考過便立即信任並作出行動。那些沒有過濾的行動就是我們面對壓力、焦慮或其他負面情緒時的一個反應。就像是我們遇溺時一樣，會因為害怕而雙手亂撥，忘記了要保持冷靜才能有機會走出困境。