Managing Distressing Moments

by ⁨Thomas Chan|26-01-2022
Tips to feel better

Things happen unexpectedly and some of them make us stressed. As a citizen in Asia, I have experienced two unexpected crises that caused massive psychological distress in my lifetime: the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Whatever happened in these two crises, they surely brought many of our souls from equilibrium to disequilibrium, which, psychologically speaking, led to our stressful mental status. As a result, skills for stress management were required by the public under this kind of circumstance. In this article, I would like to share some instant but helpful skills for managing distressing moments.

1. Avoid Overexposure

Gathering information from spaces around is an instinctive survival behaviour for animals in the natural environment. We as human do not flick like a snake or smell like a dog. Instead, nowadays we read news through traditional or social media. Unfortunately, the overexposure in the distressing information will overwhelm some of us and thus cause mental health issues. So keep away from the news that distress you whenever you feel overwhelmed even just for a moment. A little space to take a rest and refresh yourself is always good for us while managing distressing moments. You may take some deep breaths, a three-minute mindfulness practice, or drink a cup of tea during your resting moment.

2. Stay Hopeful 

Decades ago scientists studied pessimism by putting dogs in a small room and gave them electric shocks. The dogs were then sent to another room in which an area without electric shock was placed. When they were given electric shock again, they did not get into the area that is electric-shock free. Scientists believe that the dogs have accepted the electric shock as a normal experience, hence they did not move away from the electric shocks. Scientists coined this phenomenon “learned helplessness” (Campbell, 2019). To avoid the “learned helplessness” in real life, I suggest staying hopeful. Instead of giving attention to what have failed in a particular situation, which always makes us frustrated, the stay-hopeful-mindset will inspire  us to find possible solutions. Even if we cannot have an immediate solution to a problem, we still can find a way to handle it. So be hopeful! 

3. Engage Yourself in Acts of Generousity

Scientists demonstrated associations between human generosity and happiness (Park, et. al., 2017). They found neuro-connection between people with generous attitude and their levels of happiness. It seems the more generous a person is, the happier the person feels. Opportunities in practicing generousity are aplenty during difficult times.  To name a few, we can directly help each other whenever needed, show our kindness and care with appropriate expression; and practice listening to each other without judgment by understanding that whatever he or she shares are a consequence of multiple reasons. 

The most recent crisis happened right where I am staying now — Hong Kong. Since June 2019, , Hongkongers has been experiencing mentally distressing  times caused by the extradition bill crisis. There is a significant increase in the number of mental health cases reported within the counselling professional circle. In fact, according to Professor Gabriel Leung, the dean of Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, one in eleven Hongkongers are suffering from depression, which is  a new high since the massive demonstration in 2014 (South China Morning Post, 2019) and depression has already hit the “epidemic level” (The Standard, 2019). Though skills introduced in this article cannot free this place from the political tensions, I hope they can help to free people’s minds from disequilibrium.  

Photo by Isabell Winter on Unsplash


Campbell, B. (2019). Optimism, hope & control: Attitudes & health. ME/CSF Fibromyalgia Self-Help. Retrieved 19th August 2019 from

Park, S. Q., Kahnt, T., Dogan, A., Strang, S., Fehr, E., & Tobler P. N. (2017). A neural link between generosity and happiness. Nature Communications, 8. Retrieved 19th August 2019 from 

The Standard. (2019). Depression hits ‘epidemic level’. Retrieved 18th August 2019 from 

South China Morning Post (2019). Nearly 1 in 10 people in Hong Kong likely to have depression, according to HKU survey conducted during extradition bill crisis. Retrieved 19th August 2019 from


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