Nobody was prepared
I was traveling around Italy when I heard about the outbreak in China. Each day, I received messages from my friends and families about whether I was still in Shanghai and how I was doing. They sent me online links with quite informative but frightening news articles, the daily updates on the numbers of the infected, and the dead. On the last day of the trip, my flight back to Shanghai got canceled.
I was eager to get back to Shanghai, to have my work laptop, to be lying in my cozy room with my dog. I made my next move to Korea so I could be close to Shanghai and get back whenever schools were allowed to re-open campus. As soon as I arrived at Incheon airport, I was strictly questioned why I have a Chinese visa, where I was coming from, and what my next plans were. My answer was, “Um, I have no plans. Just to wait and see.”
Having to be quarantined in one place for such a long period (for some, WITH children), or staying at a place other than home not knowing what will happen tomorrow, can arouse angst and homesickness. Not having a plan due to spontaneous changes day by day can be frightening. Waking up each day thinking about when we will be able to get back to our normal routine may also be frustrating.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of worry, fear, nervousness, and apprehension. Every person experiences some level of anxiety as a part of life. When faced with potentially harmful or worrying triggers, feelings of anxiety are not only normal but necessary for survival.
1. Check the Facts, Not the Myths
Declared as a global emergency (World Health Organization, 2020), the outbreak continues to spread in and out of China. But we must check the facts and know the right information. Avoid spending too much time watching or reading the news. Not knowing the future and not having plans may feel overwhelming to us all, but here is a quote from a movie I watched recently, “The best plan is having no plan. No plan at all. You know why? Because life cannot be planned.” (Parasite, 2019)
Stop making assumptions about what will happen or should happen next, especially if they are not hopeful. There are lots of false or exaggerated news and rumors within the community that exacerbate the angst. Check the facts, not the myths. School administrators are in close communication with the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission (SMEC). So let’s wait patiently until we know what is true and make plans from then on.
2. Talk to Someone
My family has been reassuring me in many ways – telling me to take advantage of the current situation as the primary need is secured, the fact that we are all safe and healthy. We talk about the logic of the situation and rational outcomes. We open our day with what makes us feel happy and grateful.
My team has been providing another great support – we share the changes and current situations daily, send photos of the beautiful cities we ended up in, we talk about our worries, listen to each other carefully, and make jokes.
Talk to people you trust about your feelings. It is very reasonable to have a variety of emotions and reactions, including anxiety, frustration, and anger at this point. If the stress level is so high that you feel like you cannot bear it alone, talk it over with the people around you. Do not hesitate to share your feelings with your children. Talk to them about your feelings and have them share theirs. But it is not desirable to share inaccurate rumors or imagine the worst. Model how you work through these negative feelings. Spend time doing fun and enjoyable activities yourself and with family members. Find things you can do to keep yourselves busy and distracted.
Appreciate moments spent with your loved ones.
3. Fill Yourself with Positivity
After watching the video of Wuhan citizens shouting “Jiā yóu Wuhan!” in unison that went viral on the internet, I searched for the meaning:
· “Go! Go! Go!”
· “Don’t give up!”
· “Do your best!”
· “Good luck!”
· “Go, team, go!”
· “Come on!”
· “Hang in there!”
· “I’m rooting for you!”
· “More power to you!”
· “Keep it up!”
As far as context goes, jiā yóu can be used in emotional situations where you want to show a friend they have your support. Then it can also mean, “I’m behind you”, “I think what you’re doing is worth all your effort”, “You have my blessings”, or “I look forward to seeing your success”.
Not only people from Wuhan, but all of us in China will stay strong. There is no doubt things will get better. Fill yourself and others with positivity, learn to “jiā yóu” each other up. Also use this time as a chance to develop the growth mindset: to embrace challenges that come up in our lives, persist in the face of setbacks, push through with effort, and learn from the experience.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Take a moment to break away from negative feelings and practice mindfulness – the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Smiling Mind is one of my favorite mindfulness apps that can be used both on smartphones and laptops. Have a go with your kids at home, make it a fun, relaxing, focused session each day.
I look forward to reuniting with the WISS community soon and sharing all the different experiences we went through at this time. Wherever you are, stay safe.
Jiā yóu Wuhan, Jiā yóu China, Jiā yóu WISS!
By Jae Oh, Student Support Specialist / School Counsellor
Ms. Jae Oh is from South Korea but spent most of her life living in Mexico. As former alumni of an IB international school herself, Jae believes in the power of IB Programmes along with inquiry-based learning. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, a Teaching Credential in Counseling, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. After three years of teaching at an international school in South Korea, Jae joined WISS and continues to guide children to grow up as confident adults with high self-esteem and self-regulation skills.