Worries can be worrying

The novel #coronavirus and the #HCID response are leaving many of us, healthcare professionals, anxious and uncertain.

The families we look after are almost certainly feeling this MUCH worse than we are, particularly those with children who have chronic, immune altering states. I’m an oncologist, and have been working to explain, support and assure the folks we work with about what responses can be helpful … but I’m not a psychologist who really knows what to do.

Fortunately, we do have such expertise on our child health team and I’ve sought out top-tips:

We can advise families to

  1. Always follow the current guidelines on prevention of transmission. There is a constantly updated site here
    Doing this may allow the parents to maintain a sense of control.
  2. Advise parents to try to be aware of the impact of their worries, especially upon children. If their parents are acting strangely or seems to be anxious and behaving differently, they too may panic.
  3. Put things into perspective in a way their children can understand: what about using clips from their favourite TV paediatrician twins or dancing Doc star? There’s a helpful graphic here too
  4. If the parents know they themselves are prone to anxiety, suggest they try to notice the signs of anxiety (e.g. heart rate racing, or aware they appear to be catastrophising – blowing things out of proportion) and then act to ground themselves* or use distraction or relaxation techniques.*Grounding is the idea of coming back to the here and now, not the worries of future or past. One technique widely discussed is the ‘five things’ model: focus on five thing you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.

We can also use our ‘professional power’ to encourage and empower parents; we can let them know all their (positive) actions are helpful and they are doing the best for their children.

We’d welcome other suggestions too! Please let us know in the comments.

  • Bob Phillips (with thanks to Dr Karen Shimmon, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Leeds)


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