Psychological first aid

March 14, 2022

Anxiety and stress commonly accompany family caregiving. The ongoing pandemic and its stream of variants are only adding to that. Perhaps you could use a little “psychological first aid.” These are skills or techniques first responders are trained to teach or apply to distressed persons after urgent physical issues have been addressed.

The goal of psychological first aid is to help people feel safe (physically and emotionally), calm, and hopeful. Connected to others. Sound good? Try these strategies on yourself.

  • Maintain healthy basics. This means good nutrition, good sleep, and daily physical activity. Avoid leaning on sugar, alcohol, tobacco and such for coping.
  • Practice deep breathing. When you feel anxiety mounting, practice slow, deep breathing. A few minutes of deep breathing can reduce stress hormones and blood pressure and get you quickly back to your emotional balance.
  • Establish a daily routine. Structure is reassuring in a time of uncertainty or upheaval. It also allows you to save vital mental energy for other tasks since a routine can be done a bit more on autopilot.
  • Avoid further harm. Recognize that what you are feeling is normal. Especially with the pandemic, it’s easy to feel hopeless in the face of new surges. But that doesn’t mean you let your guard down. Stay vigilant! Continue to protect yourself and your loved one.
  • Prioritize. What is urgent? What can wait? What is within your control? What is not? Focus on the things you can control, addressing the urgent before the nonurgent. It will counteract feelings of powerlessness.
  • Give yourself a media diet. Limit your intake of the news to once a day. Ideally, avoid TV news. Too many vivid pictures.
  • Cultivate hope. Admittedly, this may feel difficult. Start by mentally identifying the things that are going well, however small. Be on the lookout for positive moments and savor Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Stay connected. Whether by text, phone, video chat, or visiting safely in person, stay in touch with people who make you feel better, people you can confide in.
  • Consider past coping strategies. How have you gotten through challenges? What worked and is worth repeating? Anything you want to be sure you don’t do this time around?

Are you feeling anxious or burned out?
You are not alone! After two years of the pandemic, we are all tired and stretched thin. As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we at Iowa City Hospice see a lot of families who could use some psychological first aid. Let us help. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free.