COVID-19: How to respond constructively

12 Mar 2020 | Written by Action for Happiness

The COVID-19 outbreak presents a major challenge for human wellbeing. There will be difficult times ahead, but this crisis also has the potential to bring out the best in human nature and remind us all how interconnected we are. At Action for Happiness, everything we do is evidence-based, asset-focused and action-orientated. With this in mind we recommend 3 key principles for responding constructively. 

1. Listen to the experts

Covid -1

With so much upheaval and ‘fake news’, it’s vital we tune in to the facts and use these to guide us towards the wisest and kindest actions. It is very clear that how effectively a society responds makes a big difference. For the latest expert advice, visit the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The most important concept that we all need to understand is the importance of “flattening the curve” to delay the spread of the virus, as illustrated in the following two charts.

Flatten Curve 1

In this first scenario (above), where we carry on with life as usual, cases of the virus will grow exponentially and overwhelm the healthcare system which has fixed capacity. In the second scenario (below), where we help to spread out cases over a longer period, the healthcare system is better able to cope, leading to far fewer deaths.

Flatten Curve 2

So even if we aren’t in a high-risk category or area, our actions have the potential to reduce the burden on the health system and help save lives.

Covid -19-symptoms -v 03
The 3 key symptoms of COVID-19 are FeverCough and  Shortness of breath. If you have these symptoms take immediate action: self-isolate and seek medical advice.
(e.g. in the UK call 111 or visit

2. Keep calm (but don’t carry on)

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[Image: Laura Jane Illustrations]

Although the COVID-19 outbreak may feel like a nightmare scenario, there are lots of reasons to stay optimistic and hopeful. For example:

  • Scientists understand a lot about the virus and we have the ability to test for it 
  • Catching the virus isn’t that easy (if we make wise & kind choices – see below)
  • In most cases symptoms are mild
  • Young people are at very low risk
  • Huge numbers of people have already recovered from it

So although we need to be careful, we should also stay calm and try to help others around us to stay calm and make wise & kind choices too.

Although we may have to spend less time face-to-face with others, we can still stay in touch with loved ones and take time to share appreciation and support others.

We are all familiar with the great British wartime phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On”, which is normally good advice. But during a pandemic, although the Keep Calm part still applies, the Carry On bit isn’t so helpful. That’s where our wise and kind choices come in (see below).

In light of the latest expert advice, our recommendation is to avoid non-essential face-to-face gatherings to help slow the spread of the virus.  This will involve a lot of frustration and inconvenience, with lots of public events, meetings and other gatherings needing to be cancelled. But this is the right thing to do and will help save lives.

And if you do need to self-isolate, don’t cut yourself off. Use the phone or devices to keep in touch with family, loved ones and neighbours.

3. Make wise & kind choices

To protect our wellbeing and support others we should do whatever we can to avoid coming into contact with the virus and to be considerate to others. Specifically it is vital that we wash our hands and protect others by following good hygiene principles.

Blue -1
Blue -3

Making wise and kind choices is about looking after ourselves AND others. We can make a big difference by supporting loved ones and showing solidarity. This is a time to really celebrate our common humanity and treat everyone with empathy and compassion.

This is likely to be a stressful time for lots of people. So the WHO also has some helpful guidance on how to cope with stress and help children cope too. 

Children -stress

Please let us all approach this time with logic AND empathy.  Please think before you buy and only buy what you and your family need. If we all do this then we can make sure we have enough for everyone. #flattenthecurve