Public officers who have been impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are taking advantage of the safe outlet provided by Government for them to express their feelings and share experiences. The interactive online support sessions, which are being held twice daily every Wednesday, until April 7, are being hosted by the Ministry of the Public Service, through Network Services Centre.
Some of the topics being discussed are: Assessing and Understanding Personal Stress; Understanding and Managing Emotional Response to the Pandemic; Dealing with Social Stigma; Building Resilience; Enhancing Life Balance, and Coping and Self-Care.
Counsellor at Network Services Centre, Jeaneta Waithe, told the Barbados Government Information Service that the sessions were welcomed by participants, who were keen to share and hear the perspective of others.
“They felt supported, even in the limited time, as most participants share similar feelings, such as anxiety, fear, concern, and reduced motivation. Discussing different strategies to manage stress has also been beneficial to the officers,” Ms. Waithe stated.
The counsellor underscored the importance of these interventions, explaining that they provide an opportunity for persons to pause, reflect, vent and share.
“There is a need for all of us to acknowledge and accept where we are emotionally during this pandemic. We are all going through this pandemic, but each experience is unique. It is important that people feel they are being seen and heard, and that their personal struggles are valid. Group sessions help persons to understand their feelings, provide and receive support and offer each other helpful tips,” she pointed out.
Ms. Waithe said some people who had recovered from the virus had experienced stigma, which affected their relationships with family members.
She reported that some participants shared the experiences of friends and loved ones, who had difficulties readjusting to work and home life because of the words and behaviour of others.
“There is a deep sense of disappointment, hurt and even anger in response to these harsh reactions. These reactions are often fueled by suspicion, mistrust, fear and even ignorance,”she surmised.
The virus, she stated, has impacted the lives of each Barbadian, whether directly or indirectly, and the uncertainty and unpredictability of the last few months has resulted in different responses from citizens.
“Some are anxious and fearful, which can evidence itself both in avoidance and aggression. Others are numb and apathetic, which can cause people to be nonchalant, careless or hypersensitive. Others have been traumatised and scarred physically and or emotionally, experiencing great loss and pain.”Counsellor, Jeaneta Waithe speaking on the impact of COVID-19
“Some are anxious and fearful, which can evidence itself both in avoidance and aggression. Others are numb and apathetic, which can cause people to be nonchalant, careless or hypersensitive. Others have been traumatised and scarred physically and or emotionally, experiencing great loss and pain,” she explained.
However, the counsellor has advised Barbadians affected by the virus to acknowledge and accept their feelings. “Reach out as much as you can to someone you trust. Find professional support if needed. Assert control in the areas you have control. Be realistic about your expectations of yourself and be kind and compassionate to yourself, even if others aren’t. Take each moment as it comes and keep life as simple as you can,” she suggested.
In a crisis, she pointed out, it is important to focus on and nurture the most important things in our lives.
Ms. Waithe said it was necessary for those impacted by the disease to assess and understand their personal stress because long-term or excessive stress affects every system in the body. She added that the way an individual feels, thinks and functions can be greatly impacted by stress.
“Our personal stress is based on our unique perception of the demands in our lives and our ability – skills, resources, confidence – to meet those demands. Knowing our stress level and triggers help us to manage demands and develop coping strategies,” Ms. Waithe outlined.
The counsellor indicated that persons could build resilience by being aware of their current environment, and recognise that setbacks are a part of life. She added that building resilience requires good problem-solving skills and focusing on what an individual could control.
“Reach out as much as you can to someone you trust. Find professional support if needed. Assert control in the areas you have control. Be realistic about your expectations of yourself and be kind and compassionate to yourself, even if others aren’t. Take each moment as it comes and keep life as simple as you can.”Counsellor, Jeaneta Waithe
“It doesn’t mean that we get it right all of the time, or that we always feel strong, or need to do it on our own. Resilience is about harnessing our resources – particularly our social network – to keep going. Often it is about asking for help,” she stated.
Ms. Waithe said persons could manage their emotional response to the pandemic by keeping their coping strategies simple. In addition to sharing their feelings with a confidant, she suggested that they should increase their self-care to find balance. She opined that sometimes it is good to distract oneself, but other times it is important to ride the wave of emotion.
Already, hundreds of Barbadians have recovered from COVID-19 and have returned to their various activities. Though recovered, some may be battling their own emotional issues and concerns. Therefore, we must be alert to their feelings and ensure our comments and actions uplift them and help them get back on track.