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The Pandemic Proves We All Should Know ‘Psychological First Aid.’ Here Are the Basics.

If ever there were a time for people to know the important skills that make up what mental health experts refer to as “psychological first aid,” a pandemic is it. Like regular first aid, PFA is a way of helping someone in pain — except rather than cleaning and bandaging a cut or applying ice to a sprained ankle, you tend to someone’s anxiety or distress in a way that will ease it and help restore a sense of equanimity. Many disaster responders and public health professionals have been trained in PFA, but it’s time for the rest of us to join them, so we can help our families, our friends and ourselves.

“These are life skills — [and] psychological first aid is even more essential in times such as a pandemic,” says George S. Everly, a clinical psychologist and professor of international health in the Center for Humanitarian Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and author of “The Johns Hopkins Guide to Psychological First Aid.”

Fortunately, you can dial down your stress reactivity and come to your own emotional rescue — or that of others — with PFA-based strategies. There are many different models of PFA. The World Health Organization’s approach recommends developing skills that help people feel safe, connected to others, calm and hopeful; feel that they have access to social, physical and emotional support; and feel they are able to help themselves, as individuals and communities. Here’s how to put the actual components of PFA into practice for yourself and those you care about:

Address basic bodily needs. If you know people who are struggling to get enough food, water or shelter, help them directly or indirectly (by steering them toward community resources).

Avoid further harm. Protecting people from additional distress is a key aspect of PFA, and there are several ways you can do this for yourself and others. First, check to make sure conditions are physically safe, then take steps to ensure emotional “safety” by treating others and yourself with respect and compassion.

Keep calm to carry on. Maintaining a gentle tone of voice can have a calming effect on distressed people around you. In addition, remind yourself and encourage others to do a relaxing activity — such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation — every day. This will help you de-stress in a given moment and maintain your psychological equilibrium, Shah says.

Set priorities. In tumultuous times, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with worries and fears. That’s why PFA encourages people to consider their most urgent needs, including how to prioritize and address them, versus what can wait. To that end, it helps to distinguish between what you can and can’t control and to encourage loved ones to do the same.

Build hope. Especially during periods of uncertainty, it’s important to stay positive with learned or active optimism and remain forward-focused, Everly says. One effective way to do this is to consciously focus on what’s going right in your life now. Research has found that having a ratio of three positive emotions to every negative emotion helps people flourish.

Excerpted from ‘The pandemic proves we all should know ‘psychological first aid.’ Here are the basics.” in The Washington Post. Read the full article to learn more about each of the strategies above as well as connecting with others, practicing good communication, and reinforcing coping skills.

Source: The Washington Post | The pandemic proves we all should know ‘psychological first aid.’ Here are the basics., https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/pandemic-psychological-first-aid-anxiety/2020/09/21/7c68d746-fc23-11ea-9ceb-061d646d9c67_story.html | © 1996-2020 The Washington Post

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