Psychological tool box


Institutional Communication Service

23 March 2020

The task force for psychological support created by the Ticino cantonal authorities has published a "Short Pocket Psychological Guide for Difficult Times", to provide some useful tools for dealing with thoughts, emotions and behaviour brought on by the Coronavirus emergency. The original guide is available in Italian (here).

USI translated into English the 6 Keywords in the psychology “tool box”, for its international community

We are not alone, this experience gives us the opportunity to feel as part of the community: we are all on the same boat. For this reason relationships are important, while respecting the current regulations to keep physical distance and, when necessary, isolation. Keeping in touch thanks to the possibilities offered by modern technology, helps us feel better. It will help us focus less on ourselves and makes us feel mutually responsible and sensitive towards others. We should avoid spreading misleading information, and try to involve those we believe to be the most lonely. Exercising solidarity increases serenity and is contagious. A contagion different from that of the Coronavirus, but effective against its side effects on people's moods and the climate of the community.

Panic is a bad advisor. Panic-driven behavior makes life more difficult for individuals and the community. The perspective of panic prevents us from seeing things for what they truly are and find effective solutions. Not only that. It also prevents the correct implementation of guidelines, and makes life more difficult for those who implement them and for the community. It is important to put a stop to emotions when they exceed a certain threshold, to break the vicious circles of thought that they feed on: it's not easy, but focusing more on objective facts can help. It can also be useful to find reliable people with whom to share our concerns or seek the support of a specialist if necessary, especially when we feel that we can no longer master our own choices and thoughts.

It is important to learn to discern the facts, objective and scientifically proven, from beliefs, suppositions, and the thousand opinions circulating around Covid 19. To do this, it is worth relying on information from institutional sites ( and the scientific community. Differentiating also means being able to tell the difference between the feeling of fear that one perceives and the actual risk that one runs, and the real danger involved. The feeling of fear arises from the collective sentiment, from the bombardment of information that we receive or to which we expose ourselves, through our prolonged attention on certain issues.

Focusing exclusively on one thing makes us jaded and distant from the real perception of the problem as well as from others. Things of equal relevance may lose importance in our priority list. It is necessary to keep an overall picture. Fear can create a sort of reflective effect whereby only what is in the light is taken into account, while everything else fades away. Focusing exclusively on one thing, or even only on some of its aspects, distracts us from other equally important aspects, but also from the resources that are naturally available to us such as the relationships from which we can draw support or which need our support. In short, focusing on one thing greatly reduces our possibilities, our understanding and our ability to manage the situation in the best possible way.

We need to put what we know, what we do and what we think in order. To do this, it is necessary not to give in to the temptation of constantly searching for information online. Too much news does not always help understanding, considering that most of it is also rarely reliable. Distancing ourselves is important to channel what we know and receive from reliable sources. In this sense it is important to keep up to date regularly but avoid the constant and persistent search for information. Being always alert does not help, on the contrary it makes the situation worse; those who are always alert are constantly tense, looking for tools and strategies to protect themselves. They tend to focus a lot on themselves, looking for allies to confirm their visions. A state of continuous alert drains our energy.

Be patient
We need time to work out what is going on: haste is never a good adviser. Today we need time to deal with our emotions, metabolise them, and manage them. Patience also means accepting the fact that we might not be able to solve our problems in the short term. We cannot presume that we can protect ourselves from all the pain and trouble that life brings along, not only Coronavirus related. It will only makes us feel frustrated while trying to fulfill the need to protect ourselves and our loved ones. The quality of our life also depends on the choices we make, on what we value most. There is much we can do to leave well also during difficult times.