Practice Example // Personal Protection
22.04.2020

Recognizing needs – Keeping your head

Those responsible for hygiene are confronted with exceptionally stressful situations during the coronavirus pandemic. Gerburg Lutter, mediator and certified social pedagogue from Kiel, Germany, talks about how hygiene experts can take care of their mental health in these uncertain and unprecedented times and, in doing so, continue to carry out their important tasks to the best of their ability.

From having to deal with seriously ill patients to reassuring deeply insecure colleagues and coping with a lack of PPE as well as more difficult conditions for safe protection against infection in general – hygiene specialists are currently under great pressure: What should they pay attention to in order to take care of themselves so that they are in a stable condition to help others?

In crisis situations such as the current Coronavirus pandemic, it’s essential that you take the time to listen to what your body and mind are telling you. Ask yourself: How do I feel and what needs do I have?

Why is it so important to recognize your feelings and needs right now?

This is particularly important now as there is a connection between our feelings, our needs and our ability to act. Being able to act and act according to our abilities is essential for our mental and physical health (especially in an uncertain time such as during the coronavirus pandemic). If basic needs, such as the need for rest and breaks, are not met in the long term, this can lead to burnout and manifest itself psychosomatically, such as in the form of back pain.

What is the connection between feelings, needs and ability to act?

Due to the stressful situations caused by the pandemic, unpleasant feelings of distress, anxiety or anger and fear are increasingly common. These difficult feelings indicate to us that an important need is not being fulfilled. In addition to food, drink and sufficient sleep, basic needs in professional life can also be the need for recognition, holidays and security of action. This means that if a feeling of fear, for example, shows us that an important need has not been met, such as for security, then this is a signal for us to adjust our behavior so that the need is satisfied or at least partially satisfied.

Can you give us a specific example from your everyday work?

Let’s say, for example, as the person responsible for hygiene in a clinic, I’m not sure that there will be sufficient protective clothing available for the employees in the future, this triggers a deep feeling of concern in me. This feeling, in turn, indicates that my basic need for security has not been met. In order to provide me with more security, one option that could be taken would be to inform me of where I can get protective clothing and how I can use the existing equipment in a way that conserves resources. This would make me feel that there was practical action I could take instead of simply feeling at the mercy of the situation. Instead, I realize that I can have a certain degree of control over the situation through my behavior.

Do you have any tips on how we can better recognize and understand our needs?

First of all, it is crucial that you do not ignore or suppress unpleasant feelings. Instead, we should try to identify the feeling. So, to break it down for you: Is it anger, distress or fear, for example? Lists that describe the feelings in detail can help here. Once I’ve recognized the feeling, I ask myself what situation triggered the feeling and what was the important need that was not fulfilled. You can have a good think about this after work, during your break, at the weekend or when out for a walk. All things considered, this is a relatively easy and effective method that anyone can use at any time. This can be very helpful as a basic tool, especially now during the Coronavirus crisis.

Ms. Lutter, thanks for speaking with us.

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