Using ACT to Face Covid

Angela Mitten is The ACT Counsellor and is extremely passionate about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT for short. Angela loves to share with people the skills and strategies that they can use to help you get through those challenging times in life.


There's a fair bit of challenge going on at the moment in Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, and other states, we're having a bit of a wave of COVID hanging around and people have been asked to well ordered to stay at home. So understandably, this is the fifth one in Victoria that we have had to face.


It's challenging and it's tough.


I don't mind telling you that I felt quite challenged in and despairing when we got the news today that we are going into another brief lockdown. Even though I agree that we need to be doing this to prevent the Delta strain taking off in Victoria. I won't get into the politics of it. But I guess what I want to do is validate whatever thoughts and feelings that you're having around these issues.


You know, sometimes we invalidate ourselves when we're having strong emotions, because we've got that thing well, other people have it worse than us. And yes, of course, other people may be experiencing a lot greater hardship, the new, it's part of that stoicism, I guess, of pulling your socks up and getting on with things that many of us were taught to do, that it's also useful to acknowledge what's going on fear, anxiety, worry, all, normal human emotions, even anger.


I know my irritation at the behaviors of other people has come up this week, when I say that other people have not been as careful as I would have liked them to be in relation to COVID. I want to talk you through a helpful model that Russ Harris shared with the therapist community last year when COVID first took off in Australia, and he developed some resources called face COVID.


And it was using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy strategies to help cope with the anxiety and the stress that was coming up in relation to COVID. And the uncertainty fear. So the acronym is face COVID. And the F stands for focus on what's in your control. We need to acknowledge First of all, all those feelings that you're having around the COVID situation are normal. And it's part of our nervous systems response to what's going on in the world. So fear, worry, despair. You might have even felt a bit helpless or hopeless around the situation like there's not much you can do. What he asks us to do is to come back and focus on what's in our control. So we can't magically control our feelings, or our thoughts.


You cannot control Coronavirus. There's a whole lot of things that we can't control in this situation. We can't control what's on the news or how other people behave, or government activities.


  • We can't control if other people hoard toilet paper.

  • We can't control the weather.

  • We can't control lockdown.

But we do have a circle of control. And that's where he asks us to focus on what is within our control. So our circle of control is what we say what we do, whether we set boundaries, how we express our emotions, and how we react towards others, expressions of emotion, and our attitude and our effort, our ideas or our mindset, and gratitude, whether we have gratitude or not.


Now there's a sort of zone in between those two things called the circle of influence. So we can focus on our circle of influence as well. We can influence our physical health, even though we can't always control it. We can influence things like our mental well being and we can influence level of community involvement, we can have influence over social distancing all the activities that we engage in.


The first step in facing COVID is about to focus on those things that are in our control. And I would also say focus on what you can influence. Because certainly we do have a sphere of influence in our life.


The next part, the a is acknowledge thoughts and feelings, silently and kindly acknowledging whatever thoughts and feelings are showing up. So that's commonly that means without judgment, bringing some compassion to yourself and your situation. And staying curious, noticing what's going on in your inner world, you might say to yourself, I'm noticing feelings of anxiety, or I'm noticing my minds worrying. I'm having feelings of loneliness. So noticing and naming what's going on, and acknowledging those without judgment.


With compassion, now the say, Come back into your body. So this is about finding your own way to connect with your physical body, you might slowly press away from the desk, push your arms against the desk, move your body back, or push your feet into the floor, or slowly press your fingertips together, ostrich arms and neck.

What are we doing when we're coming back into our bodies, that we're coming back into the sphere of our control, we have these parts of our body that we do have control over, despite what everything else is going on in the world.


He is about engaging in what you're doing:

  • Noticing where you are, and refocusing your attention on the activity at hand,

  • Noticing what you can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell

  • Noticing what you're doing and giving your full attention to that activity.

Within act, we talk a lot about taking committed action.


Taking action towards self values. So when you're engaging in whatever activity is at hand, when that's aligned to your values, and you take committed action towards those values. So you're asking yourself, what can I do right now, no matter how small it may be, that improves life for myself or others.


Committed action, that's the C.


Then we've got to open up.


We want to make room for all those painful feelings. And again, being kind to ourselves.


What kind of thing would you say?

Or do for someone who's experiencing what you're experiencing?


Sometimes we're hardest on ourselves.


I want you to apply those kind words and deeds to yourself. If someone you loved was going through a hard time feeling worried, overwhelmed, anxious, would you give them a hard time?


  • Would you tell them just to pull their socks up and get on with it?

  • Maybe it cut them a bit of slack?

  • Can you cut yourself a bit of slack right now?

  • Maybe not work yourself so hard?


Maybe find a way to use the current situation to give yourself a bit of rest.


V is for values. And I already mentioned a little bit about the values before. So the V is what sort of person do you want to be? How are you going to treat yourself and others in the face of what's going on right now?


The values include things like patience, courage, contribution, connection.


  • How can you bring those values into play right now?

  • Even though we're in lockdown?

  • How can you stay connected, for example, to other people?

  • Or maybe how can you contribute to the world even in the face of lockdown?

  • How can you align with those values?

The I is identifying resources.


The resources are, where you can get help we can get assistance, or support or advice. And these may include friends, family, neighbors, health professionals or emergency services.



It's around what resources do you need and when can you get them

  • And maybe you're checking on some of your neighbors or friends and family?

  • Are they well resourced?

  • Do they need any additional resources at this time?

And the D, well, disinfected distance. Don't forget the hand washing, social distancing. And wearing a mask, of course, is part of that as well.


That's it. That's Russ Harris's model of face COVID.


Have you find this useful?


Please comment below or get in contact us to chat further on how we can support you at Chrysalis Counselling.


To summarize, we're going to focus on what's in our control, we're going to acknowledge thoughts and feelings, come back into our bodies, engage in what we're doing.


Take committed action. We're going to open up make room for those painful feelings. We're going to connect to our values, identify resources that we need, or we have, and we're going to disinfect and distance.


We'd like to thank Russ Harris again for his work and sharing this as a resource. Thanks, Russ. And thanks for listening. I do hope this is helpful.


Until next time, stay safe and if you'd like to learn more about ACT, please click here.