Coping with COVID Tips, Part V: Differing Opinions

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Dr. Watson's photo with the title 'Coping with Covid Tips 6 part series with Dr. Watson'

Families, Inc. Trumann Clinical Supervisor and psychologist Dr. Dana Watson has been featured regularly this spring on KFIN’s Breakfast Club to discuss maintaining a healthy mindset during the coronavirus pandemic. The following transcript is of her conversation with KFIN’s Brandon Baxter on May 6, 2020.

Q: Things are so rapidly changing, more information, more advice… Now that we’re reopening businesses, we are going to have to deal with differing opinions/ideas about what that means and how to stay safe.

As we begin to reopen businesses, I think it’s best if we frame this as a Part 1 of 100 (or more) conversations we are going to have to have with ourselves, our partners, our children, our parents, our colleagues, our friends and so on, and decisions we are going to have to make to stay safer.

It’s important to start with a couple of foundational ideas that most of us actually may be able to agree on:

1.          COVID is not going away any time soon. It’s about learning to live with it until we have a cure or a vaccine.

2.          It’s so important to realize that we do not see the world exactly like any other person because our experiences, our past, our present… All those things color each of our world views, political views, religious views, ideas about marriage, about raising children and certainly about best or safest practices in coping with this potential threat.

3.          Each of us has the power to change our minds when we have more information. When we know better, we can—and should—do better. So as quickly as we are getting new information, we can integrate that into our daily lives to make safer decisions for ourselves and those around us. Washing hands more frequently and diligently, wearing masks, keeping a distance inside of stores—all these are safety tips we’ve learned as we’ve gone along and received more information.


Q: My wife says sometimes I get stubborn about the way I think things should be. I have seen others do this in response to suggested safety measures.

Your wife is always right, even when she’s not. That bit of advice will revolutionize your marriage and did not cost you a penny!

You’ve probably heard the phrase, don’t believe everything you think, right? We’re conditioned to think that the way we think and see the world is the correct way. But it goes back to our unique perspectives and experiences. So, what feels right for us may not feel right for other people. It takes about three minutes of marriage to see that other people—even the ones you like best—do not see the world exactly as we do!

It is a sign of higher emotional intelligence when people are open to evaluating new information, changing their minds and behaviors so they can make new/better decisions. 
 

Q: And safety isn’t just about what’s right for us, right? It’s about what’s best for all of us.

Exactly. Another sign of higher emotional intelligence is realizing we are part of a larger whole and that we must keep the social contract with each other. Accepting risk for yourself isn’t a personal decision—accepting risk is a communal decision. The level of physical distancing and safety other people take will increase, or decrease, your chances of getting sick.

I saw a cartoon drawing of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. The wolf was Coronavirus. Little Red Riding Hood said, “Oh, you can’t hurt me, I’m young and healthy.” And the wolf said, “I just need a ride to your Grandmother’s house.”
 

Q: So how do we talk to friends and family who don’t believe in taking all the safety measures or those who feel strongly that the businesses should remain closed?

Well, if arguing to win or to be right worked, I’d be out of a job. Although some folks won’t give up the fight, we don’t influence people’s rational and thoughtful sides by berating them or by blasting them on Facebook. We only cause hurt and drive them further away.  

Your best bet is to have these conversations, even when they might be uncomfortable, to let your friends and family know what steps you’re taking and why, and then allow them to share. You can try to inform them with facts and encourage them to take steps in the right direction—if not for themselves, then for others, and if not for others, then for themselves. 

Coronavirus requires a change in societal behavior; it is not an attempt to control anyone. It is a wonderful opportunity to play a small but very important part in decreasing the chances of death for someone else. After 9/11, our world changed in so many ways—identity verifications, air travel, international travel, etc.—to keep us safer. Now our world is changing again.
 

Q: Some people think we don’t need these safety measures because they haven’t gotten sick and may not know anyone that has, or maybe they think the virus is not such a big deal.

I don’t think the mindset should be: save lives or reopen businesses. We have to achieve a new sense of normalcy where we can reopen safely and slowly, so that we can manage the rise in illnesses that we will certainly have. Premature opening isn’t sustainable and could be more devastating than the closings we’ve experienced.
 

Q: People are getting a little tired and fussy about being cooped up. How can we sustain this distancing?

Yep. Quarantine fatigue is real. On some level, I think we’re all physically and emotionally exhausted from what this has required of us. Not to mention, the grief that is involved in being separated and losing our previous way of life.

Self-care is so important. People are signing up for therapy—which, we are still mostly doing via telehealth—and it makes us all so hopeful to be able to provide support and comfort to those who are struggling. It is easier now than ever before to get therapy. I strongly encourage it for anyone who is finding these emotions more than what they can manage, to reach out for professional support.