Why should we take time to increase our stress- management tools and training right now? Because we have more stress. COVIDovid-19 is putting us all in situations, repeatedly and , over time, both personally and professionally, that most of us never conceived of before now. We need to increase our internal, personal capacities to effectively meet the greater, external challenges we face with this pandemic so that we can remain centered and grounded, effective at our jobs, and positive about the future. And for this shift to happen, we need to super-charge our stress-management strategies.
When you look at the data in recent studies, it’'s clear that the COVIDovid-19 pandemic is causing significant stress. The frontline healthcare workers in China who were taking care of patients with COVIDovid-19 haved shown a 54 percent% rate of depression, a 44.6 percent% rate of anxiety, 34percent% of them had insomnia, and 71.5 percent% of them experienced stress and distress.
A survey[BF1] of 3,270 American adults conducted by Elon University found that:
· 71.6 percent% of them were afraid of a family member developing this illness,
· 74.4 percent% were afraid of this pandemic’s impact on their personal finances, including their ability to make a living at all, the loss of losing their job, and the decrease in the value of their 401K, and their savings, and any stock market investments[RR2] [BF3] .
· 59.3 percent% of them were nervous about spreading the virus themselves, particularly since you can be a carrier of the virus without showing the symptoms of being sick,
· 56.9 percent% were afraid of developing the illness themselves, and
· 29.3 percent% were afraid of having to go to work while they were sick.
These results are from a survey of people in the general population, not healthcare and public safety workers, not emergency services providers, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, nurses, and physicians– all of whom we’d expect to who generally have a higher rate of these issues [RR4] [BF5] than regular civiliansdo. Clearly people are anxious about their futures.
My friend Debbie is a police detective in a small Illinois town. Under normal conditions, her daily life is stressful. But now, it’s even more so. Her husband, who is undergoing chemotherapy for treatment of prostate and bladder cancer, has suddenly become even more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of his suppressed immune system. Debbie is terrified of catching the virus and bringing it home to her husband.
An emergency medicine physician friend of mine had a young colleague, a previously healthy nurse in her thirties, who was having difficulty breathing while on duty with him. Two weeks later, she collapsed on the job, was intubated, and later died in the intensive care unit from COVID-19.
A paramedic friend of mine who’'s a single mother with two small kids and no other means of financial support is terrified every time a patient in the back of her ambulance sneezes or coughs --— even though she is armored with an N95 mask, goggles, a face shield, bonnet, gown, triple gloves, and has the ventilator system in the back of the ambulance turned upblasting full blast. If she becomes sick or dies, she does not know who will take care of her kids.
And I also know aThe critical care [RR6] physician described having with several patients who required ventilators, only to realize that there were not enough to go around. whose breathing status had gotten to the point where they need a breathing tube put down their throats, who realizeding she had more patients than they had ventilators for. She was forced had to make the unimaginably difficult choices about who got the treatment and who didn’t.
These are real people whose jobs ask them to go into battle each and every day. And though I’ve never been to war and don’t pretend to know what battle is actually like, when . But when I see friends on the front lines, putting on their facemasks, goggles, face shields, gowns, and a triple layer of rubber gloves,I am reminded of the body armor that soldiers, police officers, and some paramedics wear to protect againstbullets or fragments of a bomb.
In our case now, the “enemy” is a microscopic virus that is striking great swaths of people all over the world. And for those who are first responders –— in hospitals, ambulances, police cruisers, and fire engines –— it’s a reality that you could die if your protective gear does not work.
The possibility of losing teammates to injury or death is also real. Anyone working today knows we need to do all we can to stay as strong and healthy as possible – —physically and mentally --— for ourselves, our families, and the communities we serve. And althoughwhile it’s true that every essential worker will experience some fear, the key to is to become aware of how and when we experience fear and channel it effectively.
First, we need to understand that fear is both common and inevitable. We are hard-wired for this emotion to keep us alert to danger or possible threat. Second, we need to allow ourselves to feel fear, accept it, and not try to hide or suppress it. Our fear can protect us and can even save our lives[MT7] . Knowing that fear is a natural part of our human wiring and the work we do in emergencies is part of the arsenal we can use to take our stress- management techniques to the next level so we can be most effective at work and at home. [RR8]
These kinds of issues and life-and-death stressors have led some people to describe the COVIDovid-19situation we’re in as if it were a battle or a war. Some of my friends who’'ve served in the military are uncomfortable with this comparison. Others feel it’s an absolutely accurate analogy. As part of my research for this book, I explored the way the U.S. Mmilitary, the Army in particular, prepares soldiers emotionally and psychologically for going into battle and managing their stress during battle, so that when their service is complete, they retain the highest level of mental and emotional health possible.
I apologize to anyone who has served who might take offense to the notion that the stress associated with battling COVID-19 as a frontline worker is similar to the stress of combat that involves IEDs, tanks, rockets, bombs, and snipers. My intent is not to belittle in any way, shape, or form, the service of combat personnel, but to help our frontline people benefit from an incredibly useful framework developed to help those who need to function at the highest levels while they’re [MT10] under threat of deadly peril.
Specifically, I think that our civilian nurses, physicians, paramedics, firefighters, and police officers can benefit from the concept of Battlemind, which was developed by scientists at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to help prepare soldiers for battle. Battlemind helps focus soldiers on the fact that combat is intense, and potentially [RR11] life-threatening, and requires a combination of both calm and alertness – —the same kind of super- stress management [RR12] that people working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic or any other crisis situation require to do their best.
[BF1]MT – March 2020?
[RR2]I’m having trouble with this bullet because the list items don’t seem parallel in construction. If you read it as “were afraid of” the “their ability to make a living” doesn’t make sense, and if you read it as “were afraid of …impact on” “losing their job” doesn’t make any sense. Can this be reorganized/rewords something like this?
…were afraid of losing their job and questioned their ability to make a living at all as a direct result of this pandemic; the same percentage were also worried about its impact on their personal finances, including the decrease…investments.
[RR4]“would be expected to respond with higher percentages to the questions posed in this survey than …”?
[RR6]OK? If not, can you rephrase so this is a complete sentence like the previous ones?
[MT7]We deleted the weird non sentence and your comment with it. Good catch.
[RR8]This is not a complete sentence and I’m not sure how to make it one. Maybe remove “so”? Or is it missing a word and perhaps some punctuation? Please clarify.
[BF9]This is not a header but a sub-head – it’s part of Let’s Be Real” Section
[MT10]Delete thery’re . I don’t care if it’s not grammatical I like how it reads.
[RR11]check edit. OK
[RR12]later this term is hyphenated “super-stress management.” Which do you prefer?