. ‘The storm will pass’: How to tackle fear and prepare the industry to hit the road running | Meetings & Conventions Asia

‘The storm will pass’: How to tackle fear and prepare the industry to hit the road running

A psychiatrist’s tips for travel professionals to conquer fear and build resilience

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Psychiatrist and counsellor, Dr Adrian Wang, describes resilience in the face of crisis as the ability to overcome and outlast pain - and rebound and transform the pain into something else. Credit: Getty Images

SINGAPORE - For a highly social and connected industry as travel, the unprecedented scale of the coronavirus has not just jeopardised livelihoods - it has upended travel as a way of life.

In these uncertain times, how can travel professionals tackle their own fears, address those of their clients and remain ready for when the travel industry is back on the road?

In a webinar last week, Web in Travel's Yeoh Siew Hoon spoke to psychiatrist and counsellor Dr Adrian Wang, who has been in the practice for the last two decades, on fear and practical tips to tackle it in our personal and professional lives.

1.    Adapting to the new 'normal'
In these rapidly changing times, Dr Wang emphasises the need to have a routine and not let one be paralysed by fear.

"We make ourselves relevant by adapting to new situations. In overcoming trauma, being resilient means to keep going with a routine. It's important to keep perspective and start each day by taking the time to pause for thought and breath. I'll usually tell myself that 'this is the day that I'm going to do a certain thing or feel a certain way'", Dr Wang explains.

Another crucial thing you can do is to educate yourself; learn about the illness from trusted sources and separate real news from rumours.

2.    Reframing situations: 'The storm will pass'
Seeing problems as temporary and solvable as opposed to the 'hyper-focus' on the doom and gloom is key to building psychological resilience, says Dr Wang.

One thing we should not be saying is that 'we will never travel again' or 'we shouldn't go to that restaurant'.

"In this current situation, for example, the virus draws from human reservoir - and we control that. Eventually, the virus will pass and so will the storm. The situation is finite. It's not a never-ending pattern of doom and gloom. If we examine our fears and write them down, we can start to put them in perspective and see clearer the realistic options you have and how to plan," he said.

His advice for companies is to lay out the options realistically and to plan for these outcomes. "I think the companies that adopt this perspective will be better prepared for the uptick when it comes."

3.    Spark travel interest - when the time is right
Even in this current standstill in the industry, it remains important not to be closed off to the possibility of travel.

"You shouldn't shut your mind to something just because you cannot participate at the moment. For now, we're all on the side lines but we can be preparing to be back in the travel game. I think people will always want to travel; there's a wandering spirit in all of us. If we can't physically fly to a destination, as long as we are reading, thinking and even fantasising about it, I think that's not a bad thing at all," says Dr Wang.

He draws a comparison to physical injury that prevents one from riding a bike. "I'm still reading about bicycles and about sports, so that the minute I'm fit again, I'm back in the game."

4.    Turning anxiety into action
A helpful advice for when travel withdrawal hits is to redirect the emotional energy associated with travel to something else like religion, relationships and hobbies.

"Or take the external kinetic energy from the 'on-the-go' routine of business travel and reinvest it in something internal and more spiritual and meditative."

Here, Dr Wang recommends three ways on how to snatch moments of joy.

"One, always learn to relax - whether it's through simple things from breathing exercises to taking that yoga class. Two, have something to look forward to - whether it is meeting a friend in a socially distant way or watching a favourite Netflix movie. Three, have a hobby or interest that keeps you going - it could be sports or even learning a new language."

5.    A silver lining in unprecedented crisis
Take time to think about the possible positive outcomes - personally and professionally - from the current situation.

Whether it is stronger family ties and business relationships or a greater appreciation of travel's importance to our economies and wellbeing and Mother Nature - the common vein is resilience, noted Dr Wang.

"The opposite of depression, sadness or stress is not joy and happiness, but resilience. Resilience means the ability to endure pain and know that you can overcome and outlast it - and rebound and transform the pain into something else."

During a time like this when it's hard to see the light at the end of the crisis, if you have the resilience - the mental and physical strength to keep going - you're able to say 'this is tough going, but I have the ability to plan for my future and there are things I can control'".