trauma informed care

Stress, Trauma, Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, and COVID-19: What You Can Do Right Now to Best Support Your Team

Staff Perspectives

Written by: Elissa Strassman, RDN, CDN

As you can imagine stress right now, is at an all-time high. We are experiencing a crisis, one that for many of us could never imagine. It may be bringing up many mixed emotions as we deal with adapting to a new way of living, working, coping with all that is happening around us, and fear for the health and safety of our self, our loved ones, people we support, the community, and life as we know it in the future ahead.

  • People may be experiencing trauma for the first time
  • It may be bringing up past trauma for those who have already experienced it
  • In caring for others, the risk for compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary/vicarious trauma is raised to an even elevated degree.

As leaders, as staff, we may be asking ourselves, what can I do to help support my team, to build resilience in this face of adversity, to help us thrive, and continue to provide quality care to those we are supporting?
~At this time, more than ever, it’s important that we practice trauma-informed care.

Ensure:

  • Staff and people we support feel safe. Making sure physical, emotional, and psychological health is at the forefront of everything we do and convey.
  • That we are being trustworthy, clear, and transparent in our communication.
  • That we are empowering voice and choice.
  • We are practicing collaboration and mutuality in helping to find solutions to problems and in decision making.
  • We are encouraging and allowing time for peer support and mutual self-help.

Please check in with your team regularly. Ask how they are doing, what they need, but also recognize that some people may not be able to put into words or convey how they are feeling, or know or convey what they may need.

Assume people are genuinely wanting to do a good job. During this time, people may be acting a little bit differently, may have difficulty processing information, problem solving, or may be responding out of emotion, fear. Remember to shift thoughts to “What’s wrong with this person, to, I wonder what happened, or is happening, to them”.

Encourage and model self-care.

Remember that we are human too. That it is okay to be vulnerable, to share what we are feeling, and feel the way we do.

Please look out for signs of distress*:

  • Feelings of shock, numbness, or disbelief
  • Change in energy or activity levels
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleeping problems or nightmares
  • Feeling anxious, fearful, or angry
  • Headaches, body pain, or skin rashes
  • Chronic health problems getting worse
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

*From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If these signs interfere with day to day activities, if they last for several days in a row, or weeks, encourage
people seek the support of a professional (a clergy member, counselor, doctor) or contact the SAMHSA
helpline at 1-800-985-5990, text TalkWithUs to 66746.

If people are in crisis, at risk for harming themselves, or others, please call 911.

For a listing of additional resources please see below:

As the CDC states:
“A person’s “resilience” is their ability to bounce back from a difficult or life-changing event—like the diagnosis of
chronic disease or the impacts of a natural disaster. People—and communities they are a part of—are better able to
withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity when they make healthy choices.
When enough healthy, socially connected, and prepared people come together, they form a community that is often
better able to withstand, manage, and recover from disasters.”

  • We are strong.
  • We are resilient.
  • We are all in this together.

Resources:
SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Elissa Strassman, RDN, CDN
Health and Wellness Coordinator
The Arc of Monroe