April 8th, 2020

How to Help Loved Ones on the Front Lines

Christy Billings, MS, LPC

There is no question stress is running high across our country and abroad due to the spread of the Coronavirus. It can feel like a double dose of stress when you have a loved one working on the frontlines. I have felt this double dose with 3 of our adult children working in the healthcare industry. Our oldest son and his wife are both ER nurses in local hospitals in the North Dallas area. As I watch from afar, I witness their stress in dealing directly with individuals who are ill with the virus, as well as the high number of inquires from individuals requesting to be tested for the virus. In addition, there are concerns about the limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), limited bed space in ICUs and the need for more medical staff to support the demands.

Our 3rd family member on the frontlines isn’t a nurse but works for the county health department in a more indirect role. Her duties have included health education, working a phone bank to manage questions about the virus, where to get tested and when to seek medical care. She has also had the task of notifying individuals with their virus test results. In this role, she has had to manage many emotions from others and her own, feelings of shock, fear, sadness, and relief.

There are other front line workers whose jobs aid in keeping life moving for our country. In that job they often have to interact with masses of people- whether that be in grocery stores, a pharmacy or at a “big box” retail store. These front line workers are experiencing the transference of stress from customers, frustration over unavailable items, or anxiety over being exposed to the virus while out getting those needed items. Not to mention the front line workers own concerns of whom they have come in contact with during their work shift for the day.

No matter which frontline duty your loved one is providing, the stress and exposure to Covid-19 is high for them. You may find yourself wondering how can you assist your loved one. What could help them during this time of high-demand on their physical, emotional and mental well-being? As a professional counselor, I find these tips have been helpful not only for my clients, but also for my loved ones on the frontlines.

1. Be mindful that we all manage stress in different ways

  • Extroverts often need to share their thoughts, vent, and process the events of the day. Be that listening ear, don’t try to fix or over-question their day, work to validate their emotions.

  • Introverts are looking for distraction and for their time away from work to be a refuge and a reminder of the joys in their lives. Having time with family and hearing about the highlights of other family members' day can be a nice distraction.

  • Humor, encouragement and optimism can be great stress relievers for both personality types.

2. Help out with chores and childcare

  • Help with everyday tasks that would allow your loved one more free time when they are not working. Provide a meal, help with house or yard work. If you're unable to physically help at their home due to geographic or social distancing, consider sending a gift card to a local carry-out restaurant or order food to be delivered.

  • Providing childcare can be a huge weight off their shoulders. If you're able to be the caretaker while they work, that can bring great relief to their day. If that isn’t an option, consider offering after-hours to allow your loved one free time to exercise, relax or spend time with a spouse or friends.

  • This same principle applies to helping with pet care. Take their dogs for a walk, feed and entertain their pet while they work.

3. Build their community

  • Organize a Zoom, Google Hangout or FaceTime opportunities for your loved one and the rest of the family. This can be a great way to stay in touch and continue to share in each other’s life’s.

  • Create time for fun and games through video platforms, text messaging or face to face (if it is an option). Many fun ways to connect are being created during this time of social isolation, including online board games.

4. Share resources

  • Share this counseling resource with your loved one https://www.coronavirusonlinetherapy.com Professional help maybe the best support for them during a time like this.

  • Encourage them to seek out online anxiety support groups in their area, many licensed counselors are currently offering these groups or the HR department at you loved one’s place of employment may know of resources.

5. Stay home

  • The best help for your loved one is to not add to the spread of the virus. Stay Home, Stay Healthy and Wash Your Hands!

Christy Billings, MS, LPC is a licensed professional counselor in McKinney, Texas and is the founder of Love and Grace Counseling. Her 20+ years of experience has focused strongly in the areas of marriage, parenting and women’s issues. Christy desires to guide client’s through a process of growth and insight in all areas of their lives; emotional, spiritual, mental, physical and in their relationships.