The Critical Next Two Years You Must Prepare for Now : Brain Bites

The Critical Next Two Years You Must Prepare for Now

by Janet Zadina on 01/28/21

Hopefully, the pandemic will end soon, either due to a vaccine or a treatment. But our mental health, indeed, perhaps some lives, are still at risk afterwards. We must take steps now to protect our mental health for the future, as well as now.

After a natural disaster, some people recover quickly and some have post-traumatic growth. However, there are those who go on to long-term Post-Traumatic Disorder and worse. In my experience of going to areas after natural disaster to work with educators and to help them understand what is happening in their brain/mind and how to address the stress, I have found that the anxiety, stress, and trauma can even continue escalating after the disaster is over.

In this article, I address an area of even greater concern – suicide.

Statistics show increased deaths from heart attacks, stroke, and other causes in the years after a natural disaster. That was certainly true here in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. New research by Horney’s lab at the University of Delaware looked at suicide rates for 12 years after a disaster in 281 natural disasters. Overall, suicide rates were 23% higher. The first year rates were 18% and the second year 61% before declining to a baseline. These deaths might have been preventable if stress responses could be addressed both during, immediately after the trauma, and on an ongoing basis for those who are most vulnerable.

The researchers suggest that mental health and wellness interventions should continue even after the disaster has ended. Furthermore, they state that the goal shouldn’t be to return to their “normal” selves, but to a more resilient self. It is possible to attain post-traumatic growth if one has the right attitude and strategies, both of which can be learned.

The pandemic is a natural disaster of the worst sort, affecting everyone. There is no place to go, such as after a hurricane or fire. Even worse, many have experienced other disasters during the pandemic, such as fires, floods, and hurricanes. While most disasters end quickly, the pandemic just keeps going on and wearing people down. It is a mental health risk that cannot be ignored. Stress reduction practices need to begin during the pandemic and continue afterwards.

In my earlier blogs http://www.brainresearch.us/blog.html you have read about the effects of trauma on learning and on faculty performance. In my blogs and presentations http://www.brainresearch.us/workshops.html you can find information about the factors that affect whether one may get a lifetime of mental and physical problems or not. You will find strategies for addressing this.

 It is time to also focus on our long-range plans. We do not want faculty to end the pandemic with long-term mental and physical problems, especially suicide. It is imperative to set up wellness activities and get faculty engaged to start participating now to reduce their allostatic load and increase their resilience so that when this is over, you have a faculty ready to move forward.

Here are some strategies other leaders are using to help their faculty:

Mindfulness Mondays. Principals offer a meditation or a meditation moment over the PA system or in an email or on their web page.

Wellness Wednesdays. Again, the school system or college offers advice or strategies once weekly for stress reduction.

Yoga or tai chi. Classes are offered for free in the courtyard at lunch or online now.

Interventions:  One small rural college did an amazing thing for faculty and staff. Faculty or staff members who had a hobby or skill that they could share offered to share their expertise. A list of about 10 options was provided for all faculty and staff. They signed up for one or more “classes” for 8 weeks. Research indicates that hobbies and exercise reduce the allostatic load (amount of stress carried by the body) and lead to reduced stress over time. Classes included photography, a walking group, bird-watching, yoga, and many more.

Book club:  I started an online Coping with Covid book club in which we read nonfiction books that help us change our attitudes from stress to happiness. We read books on happiness, living in flow, biology of belief, and more. If you want more information on starting your own club, contact me at janetzadina@gmail.com

For workshops on stress reduction contact me http://www.brainresearch.us/contact.html


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Janet N. Zadina, Ph.D
Brain Research and Instruction

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Janet N. Zadina, Ph.D
Brain Research and Instruction
Bridging Neuroscience and Education​

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