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Managing Uncertainty


Jul 27, 2020

In this episode of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast, Bryghtpath Principal & Chief Executive Bryan Strawser talks about how to take care of yourself through a major crisis - such as the COVID-19 pandemic that we're all engaged in working to manage.

Topics discussed include self-care, taking immediate action where warranted, going to "the basement", where to go for help, how stress manifests itself, and coping mechanisms for stress.

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Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Managing Uncertainty Podcast. This is Bryan Strawser, principal and chief executive here at Bryghtpath. And in today's episode, I want to talk about how to cope with the stress of working through the COVID-19 pandemic. We've had some previous episodes over the past five months where we've talked about how to help the team. How do you help your crisis team? How do you help your executives? How do you help your teamwork through the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the issues that have come up?

But this episode is different. I want to talk about how to cope with your own stress. How to work through the challenges that you're facing as the business continuity, crisis management, resiliency, security leader in your organization? Or even just in your role as a member of your family, or as an individual and how you can work through that.

Each one of us is handling the stress of COVID-19 in our own way. And for some of us, we endure more stress than others. We process stress differently and that's normal. Everyone handles challenging situations in different ways. And no two of us really process this alike, but certainly fear and anxiety with COVID play a pretty significant role in our mental health and how we think about what's going on in the world right now.

And even today, and I'm recording this episode on July 22nd, 2020. I saw a post on social media from a friend of mine who is normally one of the most rock-solid, confident, carefree individuals who is in a great marriage with great children. Both of them are full time employed. Haven't been impacted by this epidemic except in the area of stress and mental health.

And you know what I saw today, it concerned me a little bit and five months into this pandemic with no end in sight and changes continuing to happen in terms of mask mandates and not knowing what we're going to do for school in the fall. Not knowing when we'll be returning to the office in some environments, certainly has created a different level of stress and fear and anxiety in individuals.

For some of us, this can feel overwhelming and it can cause very strong emotions in not just in children, but in adults, in folks that have endured lots of other challenges and hardship during the course of their lives. Some actions that we have had to take during this pandemic, such as social distancing, the shelter-in-place, stay-at-home periods that might be returning in some states, as we're seeing right now. If you're an extrovert, it can make you feel isolated and lonely. And can increase stress and anxiety. And even if we think of these... Or even if we all agree that these are the right actions to take to reduce the spread of COVID to get our handle on this pandemic, it can still create stress and anxiety for many individuals. Finding ways to cope with stress in a healthy way can make you and the people you care about and your local community stronger.

So some of the things that we look for when we think about stress during a pandemic like this are changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulties sleeping, or concentrating, fear and worry about your own health, the health of your loved ones, perhaps your financial situation or job or support services that you rely upon. It might feel like chronic health conditions that you may have been dealing with in your life feel worse or that mental health conditions that you've been challenged by in your life, feel worse. You may see increased use of products like tobacco or alcohol or even drugs that may not be legal in your jurisdiction.

So these are some of the things that we see be caused by stress during an infectious disease outbreak. So let's talk just first about the critical piece, which is that if you're in a crisis if you feel like you are in a crisis, you're thinking about harming yourself or harming someone else. There's a lot of places that you can turn to. And it's important that you find someone to talk with right away in that situation.

If you're feeling like that, now or in the future, if you can go to an emergency room or a clinic or talk with your family, physician or a counselor if you've seen a mental health professional, that is the best thing that you can do. If you can't, there's a number of other places that you can go to. You can talk to the national suicide prevention lifeline. That number is 800-273-talk or 800 273-8255. You can call the Disaster Distress helpline if you want to try something that's a little more all hazards in nature. And that number is 800 985-5990. If you're a veteran, there's a Veteran's Crisis line at 800-273-talk. This is the same number as the national suicide prevention lifeline, but they'll get you someone who understands the needs of veterans that can be unique that you might be working through.

If none of those are something that you want to do, call a friend or a family member, talk to your spouse or another loved one, and tell them what's going on and tell them that you need help. And let them take you to a place where you can receive that help.

If nothing else, you can call me. Our office number is 612 235-6435. And if you hit the number for emergency for, "I'm having a crisis right now." I think it's one of the voice response says when it picks up. It'll go to our on-call voicemail and one of our employees will... Well, either I will pick it up or one of my folks will let me know, and I would be happy to talk with you if you're a listener to this podcast.

I'm not a mental health professional, but I can be your friend and help you out.

But if you're in a crisis, if you're feeling like your wit's end and you're thinking of harming yourself or another, then I want you to do something about that right away. I don't want you to wait. I want you to call and get immediate help. Let's talk about when we're not in that crisis situation, what are some of the things that we can do? I think it's important to acknowledge that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and how you react and respond to that stress can depend upon your background, your social support from family and friends, your financial situation, your health, and emotional background, the community you live in and other factors. And there are changes in that that can happen because of what's been going on with COVID and the ways that we've had to take steps to control the spread of the virus and those affect all of us in different ways.

There's a number of groups that might respond more strongly to the stress of the moment. And that includes folks who are at higher risk for illness. Older individuals, people that have certain underlying medical conditions. For example, my mother has a couple of underlying health conditions and is just turned 70. So, she's in that at-risk group. And so, taking chances with travel and doing some things are not decisions that she's comfortable with. And that's okay, but that adds stress to her situation and how she perceives the risk and then having to deal with COVID. Children and teens deal with this differently because they don't have the coping mechanisms that adults do to deal with this kind of stress. People who are caring for family members or loved ones have additional stressors that are going on as we work through the pandemic.

Frontline workers, like healthcare providers, law enforcement, fire and EMS, doctors and nurses, and others, are on the frontline of this. And they're seeing the impact every day. Essential workers who are working in the food industry or in food processing and agriculture, retail, and others are at the front end of this. And so they've had their own stress as they've gone through COVID. There are people who have existing mental health conditions that have had to work through these additional challenges. Folks who have an addiction to alcohol or substance abuse, have different stressors that have gone on. We have millions of our neighbors and members in our community that has lost their jobs, have had their hours reduced or have had changes to their jobs or employment or the work conditions, all of which add additional stress. Individuals who have disabilities or who are socially isolated from others. Folks who might live alone because they're single or had a loved one pass away, or they're in a rural or frontier area.

Folks who may not have access to information in their primary language. I'm assuming that here, we're talking about people who their primary language is not English. Folks who are homeless, people who live in group settings, and then there are others that we're not even getting to here, but everyone... The point is, everyone reacts differently in these stressful situations.

We do want to make sure... I think we all want to be able to take care of our friends and our family and see that as something that helps us relieve our own stress. But we want to make sure that you're balancing that with care for yourself. Helping others cope with their stress, such as providing social support or checking in with them, can help your community be stronger. But you also want to make sure that you are taking care of yourself in doing so. During these times where we've had more social distancing and we may not be able to see all of our loved ones, you can still maintain contact and care for their mental health. You can do phone calls and video chats using FaceTime or Google Hangouts or Zoom or another tool. You can check in with them, you can go see them at a socially acceptable distance, more than six feet to help folks feel more socially connected, less lonely, and less isolated.

There's a lot of ways to think about how to take care of your emotional health. So here are some things to think about here. The first one in order to improve your own resilience is looking at how you can take care of your body. I'm horrible at this, but eating healthy well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, and ensuring that you're getting plenty of sleep. As much as you can, you want to avoid alcohol tobacco, and certainly other illicit drugs that might be available in your area. Having physical strength and rest really helps you deal better with stress and work through... Build good emotional resilience in the situation. The second is to connect with others, share your concerns and how you're feeling with friends and family, with your loved ones, try and maintain healthy relationships.

And really, I was thinking about this as your anchors. These are the folks that you trust the most, that you love because of their family or close friends. These are all important ways to make sure that you stay connected and you feed that social requirement for interaction that's an important part of your emotional health. Take breaks, make time to unwind, remind yourself that the stress will fade in time. Try taking in deep breaths. Try to do some things you enjoy, that might be reading or video games or time with your children. Whatever that hobby is that helps you feel rejuvenated and relaxed and it's a way from work, is a way from thinking about the pandemic, I think it's a good break. Stay informed. For some folks, and I'm one of these, if I feel like I'm missing information, I get stressed or nervous.

So I want to make sure I'm connected, I'm watching, I'm listening. I'm reading the news for updates from my local state and federal government about what's going on. I'm making sure that I'm avoiding false information, disinformation, rumors. I'm looking for facts. I want to hear the science. I want to hear what the strategies are that are being successful here and elsewhere. So I'm always kind of checking the sources and making sure I'm going to the reliable source of true information, not disinflation. The other side of this is just making sure you don't have too much exposure to news that you're taking breaks from watching, reading, and listening to news stories. That you're looking for news that doesn't just have to do with the pandemic and its impact on jobs and mental health and the business. Looking for enjoyable activities and trying to get away as much as possible from that, and just have the right balanced approach to getting in good, factual science-based information and not this constant exposure to doom and gloom.

And then lastly, to seek help where necessary. That if your stressed or your emotional state, your emotional challenges you might be faced with the impact the activities of your daily life for more than a few days or weeks, then I think you want to seek help at this point. You want to talk, at a minimum, talk to a friend or a family member about finding help. You can always talk to... Perhaps you're a member of a church, you can talk to clergy, a pastor, minister, deacon... I'm Catholic, so deacons and priests are people that we talked to. You can talk with a counselor, you can go see your doctor. You can get a referral to a mental health professional. There's a lot of routes that you can go in order to seek that help and kind of build that emotional resilience. That's really going to be important for you.

Again, if you are in crisis, make sure that you seek help right away. That you go to an emergency room or clinic. You talk with your doctor, you seek help from mental health or medical professional, talk to a family or friend. Call one of the hotlines we talked about, or you can always call me here at the office and I would be happy to talk with you and be your friend, even if I don't know you. And again, our number is 612 235-6435. It's a little different episode for us. We're not really talking about companies. We're not really talking about building a stronger resilient enterprise out there somewhere, but a lot of things going on around COVID right now and really feel like it's important for each of us to take a moment and take stock of our mental and emotional health and make sure that we're taking some time to take care of ourselves as we continue to work through the pandemics. So we can be there for our family, our friends, our local community, and our businesses.

That's it for this edition of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast.

We'll be back next week with another new episode.

Be well.