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Insight | Psychological Capital in COVID-19 Fight

March 16, 2020

How to stay calm amid all kinds of virus-related information and get through this outbreak unscathed? Wang Hui, professor with Peking University's Guanghua School of Management, urges people to flex their psychological muscles in addition to medical tips and body exercises.


Wang recommends getting outbreak-related information from authoritative sources and analyze it objectively so as to take away the most helpful and important messages, refraining from taking information out of its context and follow unproven advices blindly. This is an effective method to avoid anxiety and panic.

Exercise caution when posting and do not spread rumors online. Psychologist Stanley Milgram's six degrees of separation theory has it that all people are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. Now it is suggested that the Internet brings us only three connections away from each other. The potential viral impact of online rumors is huge and people should be responsible for their own words and acts online.


Organizational behavior professor Fred Luthans raised the concept of Psychological Capital (PsyCap), which refers to tacit knowledge that is built through socialization and offers a long-term competitive advantage as it is unique, cumulative, interconnected and non-transferable to competitors — as opposed to explicit knowledge that includesskills, abilities, and competencies derived from education and experience. In a word, it represents what kind of person you are.

Many studies, including one jointly conducted by Wang and Luthans in China, later proved that heightened PsyCap will lead to employees’performance efficiency, contentment levels, their sense of belonging in a group as well as organizational behavior and creativity.

PsyCap help change people's mindset and guide them to engage things in a more positive manner. People with high levels of PsyCap are more likely to reasonably and efficiently cope with the ongoing outbreak much the same as they are better at dealing things at work.

Psychological Capital can be broken down into four pillars: Hope, Efficacy, Resilience and Optimism (HERO).

Every one has hope, but what matters are the will and methods to achieve it. During the outbreak, people hope to avoid infection or overcome the virus. In order to do that, they have to wash hands frequently, wear masks when outdoors, open windows for good ventilation and do exercises to improve their immune systems.

Efficacy manifests itself as a form of confidence and belief that more patients will be cured and the outbreak will eventually be contained.

Resilience requires people to recover quickly from difficulties while optimism is also necessary when it comes to tackling the coronavirus.

The story of college student Li Linlin (alias) in Henan, a Chinese province neighboring Hubei, the center of the outbreak, is a vivid example. According to media reports, she had serious trouble breathing two days before the Lunar New Year and knew from her professional knowledge that “I was already in a critical condition.” “But I knew I had to stay awake no matter how hard it is, or I'd stop breathing,” she was quoted as saying. “I got myself to start moving and breathe loudly.” Later in hospital her resilience during treatments also inspired many people.

It takes all four pillars combined, or a HERO, to overcome obstacles and achieve success. One should exercise mind as well as their body so as to boost their PsyCap levels and get through this outbreak.