Managing Uncertainty During the COVID-19 Pandemic & Beyond  

A recap of NAAIA’s presentation with By Dr. Syretta James

During these uncertain and unprecedented times, managing the feeling of uncertainty has become a natural reaction for many. On May 14, Dr. Syretta James provided a 60-minute presentation to over 300 members of the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) on ways to manage the psychology of uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. This presentation was filled with useful tips and strategies aimed at addressing the anxiety, stress, and depression that can arise during chaotic times. It also covered ways to effectively adjust to the loss of identity and role confusion that can occur when individuals are forced to work from home and placed in unplanned situations of isolation.

Dr. James emphasized that there is no “one size fits all” response. She then highlighted a few strategies to assist people in adjusting better to these uncertain times.

  1. It is important to check in with one another and share needs with family members, colleagues and friends in order to obtain support.
  2. Set daily goals and time to work to maintain structure and productivity.
  3. Use “the teach and tell” method for communicating with small children about critical issues such as COVID-19.

Within the context of this discussion, she also shared how important it is to identify resources for all types of families, including those that might be living in multi-generational environments or have family members with special needs.

Other notable insight that emerged from Dr. James’ presentation was her timely caution against the presumption that all homes are safe. Importantly, she shared statistics related to domestic violence and identified ways in which individuals could obtain support within their respective communities. Based on current statistics, 1 in 4 (among women) and 1 in 9 (among men) households are dealing with domestic violence. However, this number likely increased due to the pandemic.

Further, Dr. James emphasized that while social distancing is a physical construct, families and organizations can build useful and positive interactions while adhering to social distancing practices. In particular, she shared personal wisdom about the protective nature of socialization. She also provided useful examples of how integrating technology and following social distancing guidelines have assisted individuals in managing common triggers to anxiety, depression and detachment during these uncertain times.

As the presentation ended, Dr. James invited the audience to spend some time in quiet reflection so that they could identify the positives associated with their current situation and invite in new opportunities. As an additional reminder, she emphasized the need for rest and its critical role in overall restoration. Finally, she reminded the audience of the importance of reaching out for additional help if their situations became unmanageable or debilitating.

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Syretta R. James, Ph.D., ABPP is chief clinical officer at Respire Behavioral Health, a non-profit community-based group mental health practice situated in two locations in the state of Maryland. Dr. James earned her doctorate from Howard University and has received specialized training as a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist, and Child and Family Forensic Practitioner. Dr. James’ empirical work has appeared in publications for The Centre for Policy and Practice, The Society for Prevention Research, The Center for Substance Abuse and Prevention (CSAP), and the National Association of African American Studies and Affiliates (NAAAS).
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