It’s a Crazy Time.
If you are like me, I know you are doing your best to work through the COVID-19 crisis in a way that reduces stress and anxiety, not just for yourself but for those around you as well.
After taking care of my annual eye exam yesterday I went on a quest to hunt down some toilet tissue, (you guessed it, our family did not stockpile and as a result, because of the shortages, we’re about to resort to plan B), anyway, I digress.
During my expedition to track down some of the most cherished TP yesterday, I had a chance to sample four different stores: Kroger, Walmart, and two Dollar General stores. I made purchases at each store but never was so lucky as to procure toilet paper.
As I entered each of the four stores, I could sense the tension in the air as I navigated the crowded aisles.
The only aisles not packed with people and shopping carts were of course the paper products aisles.
Spread Good Cheer, Express Joy, and Show Compassion
In all four stores most customers were not smiling and most seemed to be moving at a faster than normal pace, seldom looking up and charging straight ahead as if to say, “I’ll use this cart as a weapon if I have to, get out of my way”.
Customers pushed their carts with real determination – they seemed to be on a military mission.
In the midst of this panic-at-any-moment environment, by far the friendliest person I encountered yesterday was the cashier at Walmart, in Dickson, TN, a town close by where we live, not too far from Nashville.
After waiting in line for 15 minutes or so, I began loading the conveyor belt with my groceries. The cashier must have been diligently and dutifully scanning item after item for who knows how many hours. As I moved up to take my turn, while still approaching the cashier, she looked up, greeted me with a smile, and was overly warm and welcoming. While I have since forgotten the cashier’s exact words, what I do remember is she made a couple of light-hearted comments and we both had a good chuckle.
Despite the craziness all around us, it was as if the cashier was on her own personal mission — a mission to spread good cheer, express joy, and show compassion, on a day that otherwise lacked all three.
Staying Calm Works
The happy demeanor of the cashier at Walmart yesterday did not go unnoticed. Just the opposite – her warm and friendly expression of compassion and empathy was in such stark contrast to the tension-filled surroundings, she made me feel reassured that everything was ok in the world.
The cashier’s calmness, in the middle of this crazy circumstance called COVID-19, reminded me that this is just another temporary bump in the road we call life. I’m not making light of the COVID-19 situation by any means; I’m just saying it was refreshing to find someone going about their daily routine without acting like their hair was on fire.
Fear is Our Enemy
I came across this article titled, “Empathy in Times of Crisis”, by Helen Riess, M.D.
Dr. Riess is a psychiatrist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Below is an excerpt.
“When fear takes hold, we can expect reactions to follow along a continuum from frank denial to full scale panic. Both of these extreme responses are not only unhelpful, but dangerous.” (1)
Dr. Riess describes five important areas that help us provide empathy during a crisis.
- Other-Awareness and Empathy
- Self-Management and Self-Empathy
- Relationship Management
- The Power of Empathy: A Call to Action
Dr. Riess’ article comes with my highest recommendation, especially if you are in a position to bring a renewed sense of stability to your patients and co-workers during this trying time in our country’s history.
Responding to the emotional needs of others, even under normal circumstances can be challenging. Expressing compassion and empathy is even more important during the COVID-19 crisis.
“In a time of crisis, we need to worry about other people as much or even more than ourselves.” (2)
Stay safe and my best to you as you take care of yourself and others!
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Jerry L. Stone
(1, 2) Empathy in Times of Crisis, Posted By Helen Riess, M.D., Tuesday, March 17, 2020