City Scape

Emotional First Aid

Emotional First Aid - Lessons Learned from COVID19

We asked a team of volunteers how we can best be of assistance to our members during this time. One said he had never had to deal with so many emotional issues from staff. One of the issues was his team facing was moral dilemmas - his team members have a high sense of duty to both their team, which provides an essential service, and their families. With short-staffing and children home from school which are extreme pulls in two directions there was much anxiety. This is not to mention the fact that there were real concerns about physical safety due to a new risk, the virus, at work as well.

The first step, obviously, is to be sure that staff are physically safe at work. Once this has been addressed, it's clear there are many more potential sources of anxiety under the current circumstances and some skills for helping deal with them could be very useful.

Not being experts on emotions we brought one in for a Webcast that was held on April 16th. Marie Gervais PhD, and CEO of Shift Management Inc offered a primer on Emotional First Aid - Psychological workplace safety for tough times.

Here's the executive summary:

With just a basic self-awareness, acknowledgement of the importance of emotions, and some skills for calming ourselves we can assist others without pretending to be counsellors or psychologists.

  • The physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual aspects of our selves are an interconnected system.
  • Emotions are an important element of the interconnected system of being a human - they give us fundamental data about the state of the system.
  • We can't ignore the data that emotions offer us. Negative emotions will hijack rational intent every time.
  • There are very practical, quick and easy to use tools for calming ourselves in the moment. Strategies for Emotional First Aid, if you will.
  • Once we (and those we are working with) can find calm, rational decisions and actions are accessible.
  • Once we are calmed, a focus on "virtue" gives us a way to elevate our vision, to find the positives in difficult situations, to honour the possibility that something great could come of whatever situation we find ourselves in. A list of 52 virtues was given. Here are four:
    • Courage
    • Respect
    • Hopefulness
    • Perseverance
    • Excellence
    • Flexibility
  • As we learn to focus on virtue our thoughts will be reflected in our speech, "I respect that you need to prioritize your family right now.  This kind of language raises our vision and helps us all stay in the positive emotional state that is necessary to make rational decisions and to act on them. Here are some examples:
    • It took courage to explain your situation to me like that.
    • It was very helpful the way you clarified the problem.
    • This a big challenge that won't be solved overnight. We have to persevere.

The webcast went almost 2 hours and included practice on several of the First Aid techniques. PEMAC members can access the recording and the .pdf of the presentation slides here.