Are you okay?

In a time of crisis, emotional intelligence can get you through to the other side.

In some ways, frontline healthcare workers and hospital staff are at war. Not with a known enemy, but a mysterious one. COVID-19 is raising more questions than answers among experts, making it difficult to pin down in clinical terms. This is turn, is playing havoc with our minds.

‘Frontline health workers share commonalities with combat soldiers,’ explains Elmer Groenewald, a clinical psychologist at Mediclinic Durbanville. ‘COVID-19 plays dirty. It is playing a waiting game with us. We don’t know if it’s there, yet we know it’s contagious – even before the symptoms appear. Soldiers may refer to this as an ambush. The enemy lies in wait, knowing the dangers of this mind trick. The psychological impact is particularly detrimental.’

They also share a feeling of anticipation. ‘Add to this feeling ambivalence, fear, frustration, and you have an emotional concoction that may drive an already stressed group of people over the edge.’

But like a soldier, you can fight back. How?

First, look inside yourself. ‘Resilience relies on practice – it’s not a thought exercise. But most people, especially healthcare workers, have more of this hidden strength than they realise. We need to tend to our sense of self, self-worth, purpose, and self-confidence with great care and tenderness.’

Caring for yourself, he says, means stopping the clock. ‘We understand the need to be punctual and adhere to the demands of synchronous time in our rat-race world. But consider it instead an opportune time to let the clock stop and focus on your being. Art, painting, sculpting, drawing, singing, playing games, walking, gardening, sitting and staring at the stars – a myriad of opportunities to realign your emotions with the wonder of the earth beneath your feet.’

There is also healing power of community within teams. Here are six ways to support each other:

  1. Greet your colleagues when you see them for the first time in the day, ask how they’re doing and truly listen to what they say.
  2. Learn to notice a shift in a colleague’s energy levels. Even if they say they’re doing well, notice if verbal messages don't match non-verbal messages. Assure this colleague of your support and invite them to chat if necessary.
  3. WhatsApp groups are a good tool for colleagues to provide daily support and motivation to one another.
  4. Hold regular team check-in meetings during this period of COVID-19, where staff can just share how they’re currently coping and express what support they need, are a good idea.
  5. Where needed, arrange external debriefing sessions for teams.

As managers make use of the emotions thermometer for tool  which provides individuals with an opportunity to indicate and talk about their thoughts, feelings and concerns whilst dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.