Coping with Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS)

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It occurred to me that most Thinking Thursdays TIPs readers, and our reader’s team members are very likely to experience STS real soon, if you haven’t already.

In this week’s Thinking Thursdays TIPs we take a quick look at Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) and some practical ways to cope.

What is Secondary Traumatic Stress?

According to Administration for Children & Families, Secondary Traumatic Stress is defined as follows:

“Compassion fatigue, or secondary traumatic stress disorder, is a natural but disruptive by-product of working with traumatized clients. It is a set of observable reactions to working with people who have been traumatized and mirrors the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Osofsky, Putnam & Lederman, 2008; Figley, 1995). Many types of professionals, such as physicians, psychotherapists, human service workers and emergency workers, are vulnerable to developing this type of stress, though only a subset of such workers experience it.”

Secondary Traumatic Stress IS Real

To combat STS get outside and give yourself a break. Take time to restore and replenish yourself.

Those of you that serve and care for patients as part of your daily routine, those of you that are responding to COVID-19, those of you on the frontline of patient care are indeed taking the brunt of the stress associated with COVID-19, which means YOU have the highest risk of STS.

As I look around, it seems that everyone, literally all of us, in some way have been hit hard, emotionally, by the COVID-19 crisis.

As a result, each of us would be well served to take steps to reduce Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS).

As published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, below are six things we can do to mitigate STS.

  1. Acknowledge that STS can impact anyone helping families after a traumatic event.
  2. Learn the symptoms including physical (fatigue, illness) and mental (fear, withdrawal, guilt).
  3. Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the pandemic.
  4. Create a menu of personal self-care activities that you enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family (quarantined family and friends only of course), exercising, or reading a book.
  5. Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19.
  6. Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that COVID-19 is affecting your ability to care for your family and patients as you did before the outbreak.

Item number five (5) listed above, ‘Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19’, requires turning off the TV, staying off of Facebook and other social media, and pretty much disconnecting yourself from all media outlets for extended periods of time during this crisis.

Coping: First, Take Care of Yourself

The same CDC article mentions taking care of your body. Item #2 listed below.

If you have a regular exercise routine, stay committed and continue to exercise. If you’ve been wanting to start an exercise routine but just have not acted on your desire to get in better physical shape, now is the perfect time to make that happen.

Here’s the CDC list.

  1. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  2. Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  3. Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  4. Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Notice the first item on the list? Take a media break.

That’s right – let’s agree to turn off the TV, put down our phones, and unplug. We’ll be much better off. Let’s commit to give ourselves a break — a media break!

Here at MedicalGPS we continue to work from home and do all we can to stay safe and to keep others safe.

We are wishing the very best for you and your teams as you do the same. We WILL get through this together.

Take care of yourself, which allows you then and only then, to give your best care to others.

Stay safe!!

Please let us know if you have comments or questions, and subscribe to our Email Updates, so that you can be assured to receive Thinking Thursdays TIPs.

Thank you!

Jerry L. Stone
MedicalGPS, LLC.

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