By Janice M. Kusch, Ph.D.
Recent events have placed an inordinate amount of stress on all of us due to political conflict, racial tension, and the ongoing viral pandemic. Individually, and collectively, these events can cause significant feelings of division, uncertainty, fear, and anger. Moreover, these events call us to reexamine our truths, change our lifestyles, and adjust our expectations.
Each day we set aside conflicting news reports with diverse opinions from leadership and those around us to come to work and do our jobs. Our HPMC OMS and BHS teams do an outstanding job putting a professional foot forward each day to provide Hanford Site workers with quality patient care. In return, the structure and camaraderie of the workday provides an important means of coping by offering a set routine, diversion from the news, skill building, and some environmental control. Our workplace also presents opportunities for more light-hearted conversations, identifying positive outcomes, and engaging in laughter; all of which increase our success for long-term coping.
Professional calmness, however, may feel a bit odd or even emotionally cold or indifferent at times. How can we act so normal when so many things around us are so painful, unjust, or scary? It is important to keep in mind that everyone reacts to and copes with stress differently. Some people need to process their thoughts and feelings out loud, while others use distance, avoidance, and may even socially withdraw. These differences are further magnified by the increased sensitivity that develops from exposure to prolonged stress.
A good policy for coping in the workplace is to avoid engaging in analyzing others’ stress reactions or personalizing their behaviors. Instead, look for opportunities to provide support and understanding, tolerance and open-mindedness, and above all, respect for all who make our workplace a rich and diverse culture.
If you are interested in further strategies for enhancing your coping during these turbulent times, be sure to check out The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) article, “7 Tools for Managing Traumatic Stress.” https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2019/7-Tools-for-Managing-Traumatic-Stress.