For those who are in the helping or healing professions, staying home during an emergency is counter-intuitive.
I am having to come to terms with the acknowledgement that as an adult with asthma, I fall into the high risk category for this particular health emergency, and that could make me a liability in the field. I know that there are protocols to protect from contaminant transmission, and I know how to use them. I’ve certainly gowned up to enter patient rooms multiple times- for my protection and also for theirs. However, the risk would be higher than normal, and that could put not just me, but other people at risk. If a team came to rely on me and I got sick, that would put the patients and team at risk, too, potentially creating even more work for them. It’s not a normal feeling to know that you could contribute, but are not the right person this time. Being able to say “this one is not my fight” takes a new level of control and emotional restraint for those of us who are willing to sit with people in their worst moments and witness the ugly.
So how do we navigate this? It’s ok to have a meltdown, to yell or eat ice cream on the couch for a few days. There is a level of grief at the loss of our mobility and ability to contribute, and that needs to be acknowledged. When the edge subsides a bit, though, we can focus that energy into other ways to help.
- One thing that I’ve learned over the years and many disaster responses and emergencies is that information sharing is critical to moving resources, to alleviating fear and restoring calm, and to enabling people to do what they need to do to make stuff happen. In the age of social media and video conferencing, reliable and valid information is critical to get through the noise. Find ways to collate information and make it available. Here are some ways to do that:
- devote your twitter feed to only sharing on topic info during an emergency (easier during short-term events, like tornados or hurricanes);
- If you post many things on social media, use a consistent buzzword for social media posts that have data or factual info to be shared (like INFO SHARING:, for example) and be sure to put the settings for those posts to public so it can be shared;
- create a webpage or online bulletin board that collects critical info and links to more info; this might be a message board just for your team to share info in real time, or it might be a public webpage that has links to good sources of info. This might even mean shifting normal landing pages for your personal website so that critical info is easily found (that’s what I did with mine at tracywharton.com). Make sure that you keep info updated as close to real time as possible. Wiki pages can make this easy, but be sure that they sort with most recent by default for everyone, and that the format is easy to read on all kinds of devices.
2. Create spaces where people can connect online, or help other people manage those spaces. Faith communities and clubs across the nation are learning how to go virtual, and they need people to “host” and manage during events. For introverts who never could bring themselves to be a welcome staff at events, but want to serve, this is a great opportunity. Manage the mute buttons and troubleshoot technical issues during broadcasts, zoom meetings, and online hangouts. If you want to learn more about the features of the different platforms, google and youtube have lots of videos and more every day that you can learn from.
3. Volunteer to help others. This can take many forms, even if we can’t leave our homes.
- If you go out for groceries or to the pharmacy, offer to pick up supplies for a neighbor or friend. Yes, you can still knock on their door and step back a few feet when they open it, and keep the risk low. Drop stuff off on the front stoop, knock on the door, then walk away (or step back to make sure they heard the door).
- Offer to help support a local non-profit in making calls or running online groups. Lots of groups are trying to maintain connection with their people and they may need help making phone calls to check-in.
- Host check-in meetings for people who want connection. Zoom, google hangouts, and GoToMeeting are all popular platforms.
- Volunteer time to speak with health and mental health providers who want to debrief, vent, or just need someone to talk to. Telehealth platforms work great for this, and in most states, licensing boards are allowing use of non-HIPAA compliant platforms in this crisis, such as Facetime, Skype, and Zoom. Be mindful of licensing laws across the states- you can volunteer to do friendly supportive calls/video, but if you are doing therapy, make sure that you are licensed in the state where the person needing support is located.
- Host an online card game. I joined a Cards Against Humanity game online and we all had a much-needed break with lots of laughter and groaning. There are multiple platforms to make this happen.
Do you want to talk through some ideas? Need help getting something started? Want to talk to someone? Contact me here: