Autistic Healthcare Worker on the Frontline of COVID-19 Pandemic Shares 5 Tips to Ease Anxiety and Fear

By Ron Sandison

The month of March was the twelve-year anniversary of my working full time as a psychiatric care specialist (PCS) at a hospital in Metro Detroit. As a PCS I work directly with twenty-one to thirty-two patients. Even with social distancing, I am never less than four feet from a staff or patient at any moment. Working with acute and sometimes aggressive patients is stressful enough but with COVID-19 the fear and anxiety is almost unbearable.

Coronavirus is spreading faster in Detroit than nearly anywhere in the U.S. It is exceeded only by New York and its surrounding counties and New Orleans. The hospital I work is located in the epicenter of Michigan’s infection outbreak. On the local news a doctor warned healthcare workers, “The questions is not, if you will get COVID-19 but when and how severe. Be prepared and stay safe by practicing handwashing.”

Autism causes me to have a compromised immune system and digestive issues. These health issues intensify the fear I experience serving on the front line. I’ve come up with five survival tips to lessen my anxiety and fear.

1. Find someone to talk with.

Talking with a friend or family member can help you confront your worries and ease anxiety. When the patients watch CNN or the local news and we hear updates on the death toll—I feel the weight of fear grip me. For relief, I walk the unit hallway with my co-worker Toby and we peek out the window at the lake and share humorous stories about the legendary Asian carp as big as a school bus.

II. Find someone to laugh with.

Laughing with friends provides mental relief from compulsive thoughts and makes the heart cheerful. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Dark humor can also lighten the mood. A co-worker nurse shared with the staff social distancing pick-up lines. My favorite was, “Since all the public libraries are closed, I’m checking you out instead.” I joke with co-workers, “When this pandemic is over can we wear our masks as a thong?” P.S checkout the mask I have in the article picture.

III. Play it safe.

Keep up with personal hygiene and stay physically fit. Eight ways to play it safe:

1. Social distancing—stay at least six feet from those around you. Remember any person can have COVID-19 and symptoms may remain dormant for fourteen days.

2. Handwashing—use soap and water and wash your hands for twenty seconds.

3. Apply hand sanitizers—make sure to use hand sanitizer after touching items. The hand sanitizer needs to contain at least 60% alcohol-based. It’s believed COVID-19 can survive on plastic and metal for 24 to 48 hours and the fur of animals 17 days.

4. Be mindful of germs. Don’t put your hands in your mouth or nose and cover your mouth with your elbow when you cough to prevent the spread of germs.

5. Take each day supplements: vitamin C, a multi-vitamin, and Zinc—to empower your immune system to fight off viruses.

6. Exercise daily—you can do pushups and sit-ups as you listen to music or go for a nature walk.

7. Sleep at least eight hours a day—sleep enables the body to repair and be fit and ready for another day. Getting adequate rest also helps prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and increased illness duration.

8. Drink plenty of water—this keeps you hydrated and boost your immune system.

IV. Enjoy your time in social isolation.

Do fun activities and be creative: reading books, watching movies, playing video games, quality time with your family, art projects, or making YouTube videos. Remember do things in moderation. I’ve enjoyed playing hide-and-sneak and jumping on the bed with my four year old daughter, Makayla.

On March 12th I had 10 speaking engagements canceled in less than 3 hours. During my time in self isolation, I’ve created 2-minute YouTube videos on autism and also encouraging faith messages. For the conferences canceled I made my presentations available on videos which I share on social media.

V. Finally, stay strong in faith & hope.

Read the Scriptures, meditate and pray. Each day, I pray for God’s protection for my family and friends and after work I pray Psalm 91. The Scriptures provide us comfort in these uncertain times. As Psalm 94:18-19 says, “I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”

Keep safe, practice social distancing and hand wishing; when you feel overwhelmed by the Coronavirus, remind yourself, “This too shall pass.”

Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House and Thought, Choice, Action. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.

He frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016. You can contact Ron at his website www.spectruminclusion.com or email him at sandison456@hotmail.com.

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