How Are You Doing?
Caring for Yourself During Crisis
Adjusting to the New Normal
Taking Care of Your Emotional Health
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during and after a crisis. Everyone reacts differently, and your own feelings will change over time. Notice and accept how you feel. Taking care of your emotional health during an emergency will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family. Self-care during an emergency will help your long-term healing.
The Center for Disease Control (https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp) offers tips about how to take care of yourself during a crisis:
Take the following steps to cope with a disaster:
- Take care of your body– Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
- Connect with others– Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships, and build a strong support system.
- Take breaks– Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try taking in deep breaths. Try to do activities you usually enjoy.
- Stay informed– When you feel that you are missing information, you may become more stressed or nervous. Watch, listen to, or read the news for updates from officials. Be aware that there may be rumors during a crisis, especially on social media. Always check your sources and turn to reliable sources of information like your local government authorities.
- Avoid too much exposure to news– Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.
- Seek help when needed– If distress impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to a clergy member, counselor, or doctor, or contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
The Role of Leaders
Recognize Common Reactions to Stressful Events:
It is natural for leaders to experience stress during a disaster or traumatic event. Look for these signs of stress in yourself, and members of your family and community:
- Feelings of anxiety, grief, fear, or anger.
- Struggle to carry out routine activities and lack of interest in activities one usually enjoys.
- Sleep disturbances, often including nightmares and thoughts about the disaster.
- Changes in appetite, tiredness, headaches, and stomach aches.
- A need to talk, often repeatedly, about events and feelings associated with the disaster.
The Role of Leaders in Community Coping and Recovery
During a crisis, a leader may become a symbol of order. Leaders can strengthen a community during a crisis.
- Give members of the community actions they can take to help based on their strengths (i.e., check on neighbors, bring emergency supplies to the elderly, donate supplies, or volunteer to help rebuild).
- Encourage survivors to take care of themselves and others.
- Draw upon cultural and community values to bring people together.
- Give fast and accurate updates.
- Listen to the concerns of others.
- Recognize responders’ contributions during and after a crisis.
- As a leader, help responders that you supervise manage stress during and after the crisis.
Tips for Responders (Educators)
Responding to COVID-19 can take an emotional toll on you. There are things you can do to reduce Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) reactions:
- Acknowledge that STS can impact anyone helping families after a traumatic event.
- Learn the symptoms including physical (fatigue, illness) and mental (fear, withdrawal, guilt).
- Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the pandemic.
- Create a menu of personal self-care activities that you enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family, exercising, or reading a book...and make time to engage in those activities.
- Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19.
- Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that COVID-19 is affecting your ability to care for your family and students as you did before the outbreak.
Toward a New and Better Normal - George Couros
“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”
As learners, we can look at change in two ways:
1. Change will come our way. We can “go” through it or “grow” through it. We grow when we seek out solutions rather than letting obstacles hinder us.
2. We can initiate change; in fact, the most important and meaningful changes are often the ones we choose to make.
As this is all happening, it is crucial to understand that the above is not an “either/or,” but often a combination.
I have been watching and been inspired by educators who are trying things to help their students, while juggling so many other responsibilities, personally and professionally.
Right now, what you are seeing is that the “Better Answers” column is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. Great leaders are focusing more on “people” than they are software, knowing that the software is useless without building meaningful connections.
Here is the best advice I can give any educator right now. Focus on connection first, everything else second. And a very DISTANT second.
But I am not just referring to our connection with our students, but the relationships we have with our families and friends, as well as the connection students have with their families and friends. “How do we ensure that we honor the different situations of every one of our families?” is a tough question to answer, but one that must be continuously asked.
So, back to the quote, “change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”
I have continuously heard, “when we get back, we will have to understand that it will be a new normal.” To me, I want something more than that. I am going to focus on creating a “new and better normal.” A “new and better normal” that is not only focused on the opportunities we can create for our students and colleagues to focus on meaningful learning but also have a better appreciation of one another and ourselves.
I have been thinking about that “first day” back after all of this and the interactions colleagues and students will have with one another and how wonderful it will be. A “new and better normal” is not just about providing more meaningful learning opportunities for every single learner we serve, but appreciating, more than ever, that we have the ability to do so.