The stay-at-home orders didn’t stop some celebrities from collaborating on a viral video to thank medical workers, at the direction of Army veteran Ian Truitner. Rita Wilson, Constance Wu, Noah Wyle, Air Force veteran Jon Huertas, Kit Williamson, John Halbach, Kate Flannery, Chris Chalk, Angelica Maria, Simon Helberg, Parminder Nagra, Joan Lunden and others came together for a PSA supporting the American Nurses Association.
Self-shot in their homes under the collective vision of director Ian Truitner and producer Randall Scerbo Truitner, over 30 parts from both coasts combined for a fun, heartfelt project to raise money for nurses on the frontline who are treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inspiration for the PSA came from Randall Scerbo Truitner, whose sister Tonya is a registered nurse in Georgia. Tonya had shared a video on social media of a doctor who was treating COVID-19 patients, describing the stress medical professionals were under as they were saving people’s lives. The video moved Randall to tears, and compelled her to want to do something to help the doctors, nurses and first responders on the front lines. Having produced documentaries to raise money for NGOs, she was accustomed to using her production skills for charitable causes.
Randall’s husband Ian Truitner had shown her some creative film work people were doing during the lockdown. It sparked a discussion about how they could make something compelling through their production company RANDIAN, but without the lights, cameras and crews required of normal production. The talent would film themselves remotely, with a through-line connecting everyone and a strong message at the end.
While Ian mapped out how all the parts and transitions would come together, Randall reached out to colleagues to get people involved. The response was immediate, with celebrities quickly offering their time to participate.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) had recently put together a funding arm, the American Nurses Foundation, specifically for nurses treating COVID-19 patients, which made them a perfect fit for the campaign. The foundation is designed for multiple support initiatives for nurses, including direct financial assistance, mental health services, critical information to help protect them and their families, and national advocacy for nurses and patients.
One of the first celebrities to come on board, who also reached out to fellow actors to get them involved, was Brianna Brown Keen. “I wanted to support this PSA to help shine a light on the real heroes during this crisis and help raise money to support them during this difficult time,” she said. Parminder Nagra, who played a doctor on NBC’s ER, said, “Being able to be a part of a PSA that sends a simple message of thanks in a fun way, was an honor. I hope it felt like a message of support and brought a smile to some faces.”
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation’s 4 million registered nurses. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all. Founded in 1896, and with members in all 50 states and U.S. territories, ANA is the strongest voice for the profession. #thanksnurses
Founded by Randall Scerbo and Ian Truitner, RANDIAN is a media technology and production company based in Los Angeles, CA.
Wuhan, China, evacuees being held at a military base in California drafted a petition demanding improvements to the CDC’s quarantine protocol after a person infected with the coronavirus COVID-19 was accidentally released from hospital isolation.
Passengers aboard a State Department-mandated evacuation flight from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, have been quarantined at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar.
One passenger, who tested positive for the coronavirus, was accidentally released from isolation at UC San Diego Medical Center back to the air base on Monday. The woman was discharged prematurely after her results were mislabeled, per the CDC’s methodology to protect patients’ identities, local news station KNSD reported.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the woman and three others were discharged and on the way back to the base when it was discovered that three of four tests had not been processed yet.
“We decided, OK, we’re going to put these people in isolation in their rooms and instruct them not to leave, not to mingle with the general population there at Miramar base, and we’re going to wait for the results of those tests,” CDC official Dr. Christopher Braden told The Union-Tribune. “Well, of course, as luck would have it, it was one of those tests that came back positive.”
The woman’s symptoms were described as mild and she was not exposed to members of the public. The woman was not symptomatic before she went to the hospital for testing, so it’s unclear what impact if any it will have on the others in quarantine at the base. The three people she was transported with, however, will likely have to extend their quarantine time, The Union-Tribune reported.
Still those on the base are concerned about their overall safety. The petition from those in quarantine was written “in light of the first confirmed case at Miramar coupled with the current precautions taken at the center,” and the listed improvements were “critical measures toward mitigating the potential risk of spreading the virus at the Miramar Center.”
The five suggestions in the petition are as follows:
“Everyone in the facility be tested.
“Preventing the gathering of large numbers of people into small, enclosed environments; suggesting meals be delivered to the door and town hall meetings through conference calls.
“Periodic delivery of personal protective gear to each room, including masks and sanitizing alcohol for in-room disinfection.
“Provision of hand sanitizer at the front desk and in the playground.
“Disinfection of public areas two to three times a day, including playground, laundry room, door knobs, etc.”
“We really felt the need for these basic things to be addressed,” Jacob Wilson, who is being held at the airbase, told KNSD, “and we hope that the petition would at least be able to address these basic concerns.”
Wilson described what it was like under quarantine at the air base, saying the CDC recommended the residents stand six feet away from each other, but they are placed shoulder-to-shoulder for daily temperature checks, which he said “flies in the face of the protections and precautions.”
“We’re trying our best to disinfect things with the hand soap that we’ve been given, even though we don’t have disinfectant,” he told The Daily Beast. “We’re frustrated and worried.”
The 232 Wuhan evacuees arrived at MCAS Miramar on two flights — one on February 5 and the other on February 6. All passengers were subject to 14-day quarantines starting the day they left China.
Thus far there have been 14 cases reported in the US.
When their choral festival was cancelled, a group of high school students recorded their parts virtually and put together a touching rendition of “Over the Rainbow”. (Youtube Screencap)
Okay, folks. Let’s get real. So far, 2020 has exuded a decidedly apocalyptic vibe. If it starts hailing live frogs and swarms of locusts, we’ll probably just put on our masks, grab our umbrellas, and proceed with our daily quarantine stroll. At this point, not much can phase us. The list below is a reminder that good things ARE still happening, and you don’t have to look far to find them. While you’re stuck inside, you can even pickup a Dunkin’ Donut decorating kit! Enjoy, America. And stay strong.
A group of high school students also proved you don’t have to be a master composer to make music. When their choral festival was cancelled, they recorded their parts virtually and put together this touching rendition of “Over the Rainbow“.
The Cast of Parks and Rec got back together for a reunion episode that raised M for for Feeding America’s COVID-19 Relief Fund—and donations are still pouring in, according to NBC. The episode, which welcomed back Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Jim O’Heir, Rob Lowe, and even Paul Rudd, explored how the characters have been coping with the current pandemic since the show ended in 2015.
If 36 years in the Army hadn’t taught me that, then the culmination of the first two weeks of my job as the City Manager of Panama City, Florida certainly did. From Iraq to Afghanistan to posts across the U.S., I have been extremely fortunate to serve our country as an officer in the U.S. military – and thought I’d seen it all.
I was wrong.
With an impact like a hammer on a plate glass window, Category 5 Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle on October 10, 2018, with a force not seen since Hurricane Andrew leveled parts of South Florida 26 years earlier. And although I had accepted my new job in February – the city gave me a grace period so that I could finish my service in the Army, conclude a civilian job as a church business administrator, and donate a kidney to one of my fellow parishioners – nothing prepared any of us for this hurricane and its brutal aftermath.
Yet, even as the clouds parted and the enormity of the challenge ahead became clear, so too did the community’s resolve to take control of its future. Devastated as the city was, the sense of inspiration to rebuild Panama City with renewed opportunities for all was palatable.
From the outset, we adopted twin fundamental tenets: we would surpass the pre-storm status quo, and this initiative would only be successful if it was truly driven from the “bottom up” and not dictated from the “top down.” And every undertaking had to deliver tangible benefits to improve the safety and security, quality of life, vital infrastructure, and/or economy of the newly reimagined Panama City.
The series of citizen-driven public events we kicked-off in June 2019 to shape anew the city’s historic downtown and waterfront are perfectly illustrative of this effort. Neglected over the years, there was now a once-in-a-century blank canvass on which everyone in Panama City could paint. Embracing this opportunity, hundreds of neighbors joined the design teams to ideate around their vision, join the process via open microphone sessions, surveys, and hands-on work with maps to render a key part of the blueprint for a new Panama City. Earlier this year, we (virtually) staged additional events across other equally historic neighborhoods within the city.
Often, the simplest of statistics brings definition to particularly important, albeit unglamorous, accomplishments. As a case in point, in the 18 months following the storm we removed the equivalent of 40 years’ worth of debris (3.9 million-plus cubic yards) mostly in the form of downed trees and limbs, compared to a pre-hurricane average annual collection of 100,000 cubic yards per year.
Indeed, there is nothing more foundational to rebuilding a community than housing. I am especially proud of the almost million we secured in State funding to establish the ReHouse Bay initiative to help Panama City and Bay County residents secure affordable housing. With direct financial assistance of up to ,000 for down payments and closing costs, to repair and recovery aid, to help preventing foreclosure and short-term mortgage assistance, to short-term rental assistance, these programs are key to the city’s long-term vibrance and resolution to its acute shortage of housing stock. This effort has already provided help to more than 300 applicants, with hundreds more in the pipeline – and more than 5,000 houses currently in development or under construction.
Equally important, we’ve seen a surge in economic opportunities for our residents. Post hurricane, we have supported the opening of 436 new businesses, for a total of 3,288 – which is 171 more than existed before the storm.
With companies from Suzuki Marina Technical Center to Clark and Son Inc. moving to Panama City, existing employers like Eastern Shipbuilding expanding, Verizon inaugurating 5G service (making the city one of the first in the country equipped with this high-speed service), and the St. Joe Company announcing a long-term land lease to bring a new hotel and restaurant to the historic downtown waterfront district, the city’s growth is only accelerating.
For those who ask, “are we done yet?” – the answer is an unequivocal “not by a long shot.” Two years on from the storm, our community’s steadfast joy of hope for a better and brighter future simply wouldn’t permit this collective commitment to stall. Not even for a moment. We press on to become the Premier City in the Florida Panhandle.
Mark McQueen is the City Manager in Panama City, Florida. Prior to his service with the City, he spent 36 years with the U.S Army, retiring as an Army Major General.
In March, parents across the country began hunkering down at home with kids of all ages. Stay-at-home orders going into effect across states at different times left many juggling both parenting and teaching, and trying to find a way forward.
As temperatures across the nation heat up, parents have taken to driveways and sidewalks to ease that at-home blues for their kids, letting creativity take the lead with sidewalk chalk designs.
For Abbey Tucker, a mom of four girls ages 3, 7, 11 and 13, the creativity began with her oldest child.
“My oldest daughter drew some balloons at the start of quarantine,” the Atlanta-area mom told We Are The Mighty.
“I took a photo of my 3 year old with them and loved it so we decided to try some more and it took off from there. The ideas come from lots of places – the internet, favorite Disney films or just things we would love to do that we can’t do right now.”
Heather Gibb, a central Pennsylvania mom of three, can relate.
“It all started with Ella asking me to draw her a princess carriage to sit in,” Gibb said, referencing her 5 year-old daughter. “So I Googled it because I actually am terrible at drawing unless I have a picture.”
Gibb said that the princess carriage led to her son, Rhett, wanting a crocodile.
“And that led to me getting 100 other ideas from Pinterest,” she shared.
When Heather Tenneson of Madison, Alabama had to cancel a much-anticipated family trip to Disney World, she took her daughters using chalk (and a little bit of imagination) in the driveway.
Tucker, Gibb and Tenneson are just three examples of parents taking their creativity outdoors.
When We Are the Mighty asked parents to share how they were getting creative with their kids outside, they delivered. Messages of hope and inspiration, Disney characters, stained-glass inspired works of art, learning tools and games came tumbling into our inbox from every corner of the country.
(Amber — California)
(Austin — Pennsylvania)
(Austin — California)
(Calvin — Sugar Hill, Georgia)
(Courtney — Kansas City)
(Declan — Honolulu, Hawaii)
(Jordan — Pennsylvania)
(Kayden — Harrisburg, PA)
(Kayden Willa — Harrisburg, PA)
(Lauren son Maddox, pictured — Littleton, CO)
(Max — Honolulu)
(Nicole — Las Vegas)
(Rachel — Oxford, MS)
(Rachel — Oxford, MS)
(Rachel — Oxford, MS)
(Robyn — Houston, Texas)
(Robyn — Houston, Texas)
(Robyn — Houston, Texas)
(Robyn — Houston, Texas)
(Robyn — Houston, Texas)
(Robyn — Houston, Texas)
Whether parents are encouraging creativity through art, looking for a family-friendly outdoor activity, or simply seeking another way to entertain kids at home, sidewalk chalk delivers.
The extreme and necessary measures taken to restrict the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have impacted the day-to-day lives of everyone around the globe. From schools and jobs to sports and entertainment such as restaurants, bars and movie theaters – all been closed or impacted. The federal government has not been spared as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has directed agencies to utilize telework to the maximum extent possible.
Many Federal agencies are able to adapt to this new paradigm and can provide provisions for their employees to access the necessary government networks from home using government furnished laptops and sensible security protocols. Not to say there won’t be hiccups in this process. The scale and speed of this shift to telework are unprecedented, and there will certainly be challenges as government workers and contractors shift to this new reality. What is certain is that the nature of work has changed for the foreseeable future.
What has not changed is our adversaries attempts to leverage and exploit this vulnerable situation for their own gain. Recently, a cyber-attack on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a presumed state actor attempted to overload the Department’s cyberinfrastructure. As the lead agency in the pandemic response, HHS is the trusted source for the latest pandemic information. When trust in the source is compromised or threatened, the public loses confidence and the results can be confusion at best, panic at worst.
The need for keeping our government networks secure is vital for agencies to accomplish their missions.
While many government workers and contractors are adjusting to remote work, there are several groups of workers that cannot. These include our first responders, military members, medical staff and other critical roles that are essential to the day-to-day security of our nation.
Another large group that must continue onsite work are those in the intelligence community. The critical work they carry out every day, often unseen and unheralded, must continue regardless of pandemics, natural disasters, or other events. This work goes on in secure facilities and on secure networks that keep the information safe and to prevent such events as those faced by HHS. As noted by Thomas Muir, the Pentagon’s acting director of administration, and director of Washington Headquarters Services, “You will not have the capacity, obviously, to log on to a classified system from your home, you will be required to perform those duties at the workplace.”
However, with these challenges comes an opportunity for our IC leaders. How much of the work conducted in our nation’s most secure facilities must be classified? Gen Hyten, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was addressing this question even before the pandemic by saying, “In many cases in the department, we’re just so overclassified it’s ridiculous, just unbelievably ridiculous.”
Case in point, at the agency I support, I needed a parking pass for the visitor’s parking lot. This would allow me to park my vehicle a little closer to the building until my permanent parking pass became available. I searched the unclassified or “low side” systems on the building’s operations site but could not find an option to request or print a pass. I asked a colleague if they could point me in the right direction, and she pointed me to the classified or “high side” system. I must have had a perplexed look on my face because she just rolled her eyes and shrugged. Keep in mind, this pass would not allow me access into the building, I would still need to pass multiple other security measures before I could get to my desk.
The path of least resistance in the name of security has caused simple items to become overly secured. The still secure networks of the unclassified systems provide adequate security for mundane administrative tasks such as parking passes and numerous other similar items. While this is a small example and only represents a minor inconvenience to me, it is indicative of a larger problem across the IC to default to classifying all information out of routine, on the side of extreme caution, or in some cases, simply convenience. Of course, the challenges with over-classification are not new and have been documented in the past.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way?
With the explosion of publicly available information, there is more data available today than ever before and growing at an exponential rate. Leaders and organizations are no longer looking for needles in haystacks, they are looking for specific needles in mountains of other needles. Sifting through this data requires the assistance of computers through machine learning and artificial intelligence to find patterns and insights that were previously only available in the most classified environments.
This is not your father’s open-source intelligence or OSINT. The days of the Early Bird emails and newspaper clippings are long gone. The data available includes everything from shipping to industry financials to overhead imagery. All of this is available to commercial companies that are able to pay subscriptions to data providers. Hedge funds, insurance companies, and other industries that are assessing risk use this data on a daily basis to make financial decisions. Our adversaries have much of the same or similar data available to them and are using it to make informed decisions about us.
Not only is this information readily available, but it is also accessible from outside secured classified environments. Work in the open-source community continues unabated as long as there is a reliable internet connection with sensible security precautions enabled and information from data providers.
Many long-time IC members will immediately scoff at the use of OSINT and say that it does not meet the rigor of the classified environment. That may have been true years ago – however, with the speed of social media and availability of technology, events that used to take weeks to assess are now unfolding in the public eye instantaneously, and in some cases, real-time. One only has to look at the Iranian shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 as a good example. Iran denied the aircraft was shot down and challenged Western governments to provide proof. Within just a few days, a Twitter user shared a video of what was clearly a missile hitting the plane, and the Iranian government quickly backpedaled and admitted they had made a mistake.
This type of definitive proof was not something that was widely available even 10 years ago, yet is nearly ubiquitous today. There must be a change in culture in the IC as new methods are adopted to supplement traditional methods and sources. In his article “Open Sources for the Information Age,” James Davitch succinctly captured these challenges, “As breaking the current paradigm is difficult, but essential, if the IC is to assume a more proactive posture. Barriers to this goal include organizational inertia, the fear of untested alternative methods, and the satisfaction of answering simpler questions, no matter how illusory their utility.”
In addition to the cultural challenges, there are logistical and financial considerations that must be addressed. A recent RAND study titled “Moving to the Unclassified, How the Intelligence Community Can Work from Unclassified Facilities” addresses many of the pros and cons of the tactical considerations and how leaders might address them. Perhaps the most significant advantages are the intangibles that the RAND authors noted, “The advantages of remote-work programs include greater access to outside expertise, continuity of operations, and increased work-life offerings for recruitment and retention.”
While OSINT is not the panacea for all intelligence challenges, it is a worthwhile tool for a leader to exploit this INT to its fullest potential. As we adapt to the new realities of telework and ways of operating, it is a good time for our IC leaders to advocate for a new way to operate outside of the secure environment.
On the most basic level, havening means hugging or caressing yourself, sometimes while voicing positive affirmations. On a more technical level, it’s using self-soothing to induce “amygdala depotentiation,” which essentially means reining in and retraining the emotional part of the brain that kicks us into fight-or-flight mode and causes anxiety. There’s not denying it’s touchy-feely stuff. But it’s got the backing of real science and enthusiastic experts. Here’s why.
The Brain on Anxiety
To get what havening is and how it works, it helps to first understand what’s happening in the brain when we experience anxiety. Because whatever the root cause of anxiety — whether a phobia, childhood trauma, generalized anxiety disorder, or fear of contracting COVID-19 — scientists theorize that what’s going on in our heads is essentially the same.
Each of us has an “emotional brain” and a “thinking brain.” The emotional brain, ruled by the amygdala, is primal; it exists to gauge threats and react quickly to avoid danger. “The amygdala is designed to keep us safe,” says Kate Truitt, Ph.D., a psychologist and certified practitioner of the Havening Techniques. “It’s not very bright — it doesn’t think; it just operates on ‘safe’ or ‘not safe.'” When sensing a real threat, the amygdala activates the sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight-or-flight mode. Whenever we’re in this state, we feel unnerved and anxious.
Fortunately, the thinking brain also kicks into gear upon perceiving a threat, albeit four times more slowly than the emotional brain, says Truitt. It introduces reason, allowing us to react more intelligently and appropriately, which might mean not reacting at all.
“We’ve all experienced some version of walking down the road, seeing a hose or a stick, and doing a stutter step,” Truitt says. “The brain is saying ‘is that a snake?’ because we are biologically designed to look for snakes because we know they can kill us. In a healthy system, the amygdala goes, oh, that’s just a stick, and the thinking brain says, cool; we’re OK then.”
Trouble is, many people’s brains are not so healthy, especially right now. In that case — as experts believe is the case for people with generalized anxiety, phobias, or post-traumatic stress disorder — the amygdala hijacks the thinking brain and runs the show, trapping us fight-or-flight mode, even when there’s no threat present. The result: persistent, sometimes crippling, anxiety.
“Attacking or running is what we do acutely in extreme situations, but otherwise, we’re not supposed to be in sympathetic mode,” says Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City. “We should be in our parasympathetic nervous system, where we stay calm, present, and open to connection. This is the only time where the body rests, digests [information], and repairs, so parasympathetic is where we want to be.” Many of us, though, are stuck in sympathetic.
Interestingly, as Holland writes in her new book Good Chemistry (Harper Wave, 2020), feeling disconnected, isolated, or lonely also activates the sympathetic nervous system. “Humans have to be social to survive, so anytime we are cut off from society or feel isolated, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode,” she says, adding that this response traces back to our early ancestors. “On the savannah, if you strayed from the tribe, you wouldn’t get help building shelter, gathering food, or finding mates. Isolation, literally, meant death. We still carry that genetic code today—we are hardwired to feel unsafe when we are alone.”
Holland says feelings of isolation and loneliness were already super common pre-pandemic, thanks to our increasingly digitized world. But now that COVID-19 has closed schools, canceled social events, and forced us to work from home, these emotions — and therefore anxiety — have become rampant.
How Havening Helps
Havening (more specifically, the trademarked Havening Techniques) was developed by neuroscientist Ronald Ruden, Ph.D., about a decade ago as trauma therapy. It uses gentle touch of the upper arms, hands, and face, along with constructive messaging, to ‘depotentiate’ or rewire unhealthy neural pathways that have developed due to stressful experiences, putting healthier responses and emotions in their place.
But havening is also a powerful stress-busting technique that anyone can learn and practice at home on themselves or their kids. You basically cross your arms, place your palms on your shoulders, stroke your arms downward to your elbows, and repeat. While doing this, you can recite a simple mantra like “calm and relaxed” over and over, sing a song, or, as Truitt suggests, play a distracting brain game such as thinking of band names starting with letters A through Z. (Check out the official Havening Techniques website for lots of videos demonstrating applying havening to specific situations.)
On a neurological level, havening helps shift the brain into parasympathetic mode. It does this in part by boosting oxytocin, a hormone that is normally conjured up by human touch and bonding — something many of us are sorely lacking these days.
“Havening harnesses the brain’s ability to heal and build itself,” Truitt says. “Use this technique whenever your nervous system starts to feel dysregulated. As soon as you notice a stressful stimulus, such as text messages coming in or CNN popping up on your phone, do havening to bring the system back to a state of calm.” The more you do this, she notes, the more resilient your amygdala becomes and the more easily you can access this calming state in the future.
Havening can also help if you’re anxious about something specific, such as delivering a work presentation on Zoom. “Sit down and do self-havening and ask yourself how you would like to feel,” Truitt says. “If you’d like to feel confident, reflect on a time when you felt confident. Because you have that memory, you can imagine going into the speech with that confident energy instead.”
Parents can also use havening with their kids when they get anxious. “Parents are the nervous system for their children,” Truitt says. “When they regulate their nervous system, the child starts to regulate right along with them. For kids, we teach the ‘don’t worry massage.’ Kids apply touch and the whole family sings songs and applies touch together, which brings the family together.”
Content warning: the following article features an open and frank discussion about suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) There’s not a damn thing wrong with asking for a helping hand when you need it most.
Times are rough right now. We’re at the brink of a global pandemic, schools and places of work are closing and people are panic buying things that aren’t usually in short demand. But the factor that is hitting the closest to home for most folks is, well, everyone staying home.
This is what is known at social distancing. It’s an important step in ensuring that the most vulnerable of our population stays away from anyone who may have contracted the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s a drastic measure that’s annoying to most, but it’s going to save lives in the long term. And that’s not something that should ever be understated.
Yet, there’s also an unseen side effect that could potentially harm another group if it’s not handled properly. The disruption of a daily rhythm, potential loss of work and social isolation could impact a vast number of people already fighting through depression and that ever present thought of suicide: veterans.
The Centre for Clinical Interventions lists two determining categories for depression – biological and psychological. Genetics, hormones and neurotransmitters all play their part in making someone more likely to be genetically predisposed to depression but loss, stress and a sense of unfulfillment can hit anyone. At this moment, there’s plenty of that going around.
Even going back a few months before COVID-19 took the world stage, finding a steady paying job wasn’t that easy. Bills can pile up and somehow it feels we’re always just one paycheck above water. But at least some of us had a handful of buddies we could go out to drink with or to see a movie with. Now, it feels like all of that was swept away and we also have to worry if we’ll have enough toilet paper to get through the week.
Right now, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut drastically. Even if you haven’t, you’re probably working from home without seeing anyone but the ones you live with. You might be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn’t go to the grocery store before it turned into a scene from The Walking Dead. Thankfully, this isn’t the end times and the internet can still connect us while we’re standing more than six feet from anyone.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=298&h=e86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20&size=980x&c=744452975 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D298%26h%3De86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20%26size%3D980x%26c%3D744452975%22%7D” expand=1]
Quick sidenote: toilet paper is something that is typically used at a set rate. Unless you’re planning on hiding for months or TPing your neighbor’s place, you don’t need to stockpile TP.
(Photo by Ingrid Cold)
I urge you, please keep in regular touch with anyone you love who’s been hit hard by this social isolation. Chances are they’re not doing so well. Check up on them. Call to see how they’re doing.
Depression is a real disease and the final symptom could be suicide.
This advice goes for everyone but us in the veteran community already had compounding factors before the outbreak. The “22 a day” is still thrown around, albeit those often-cited numbers come from a 2012 study and they’re more accurately at around 17 a day after a much needed cultural shift within our community. That’s still not great; it’s still far above the national average. Often, we’ve been able to find the one ember that kept our flame burning. But for a lot of veterans, that fire could be extinguished with social distancing.
Don’t take this out of its intended context. Social distancing is crucial at this moment. We just need to adjust to the shift in how things are done. Hotlines are still open. The VA Mental Health facilities are still open. And if you’re concerned and feel symptoms of the coronavirus, there are always video conference calls available to connect you with a mental health specialist or doctors.
For health and safety reasons, the hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. For good reason.
(U.S. Navy photo by Diana Burleson)
I say all of this… because I found myself in that dark place. The part where I wrote about how people are feeling is mostly pulled from what’s going on with myself.
I recently attempted to end my own life. I’ve been fighting through my own depression for some time now and it reached its boiling point. It probably wouldn’t be wise to go into details, but I will share the thought that got my feet back on the ground. It was the thought that no one would ever be able to explain to my cat why I’m never coming home. Make of it what you will, but thoughts like that can help pull you out of an irrational moment.
I mean, I love my family and friends. But I wouldn’t ever want to hurt this good boy.
(Picture by Eric Milzarski)
It was through the help of my buddy from the Army and my loving wife that I was able to come back. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still in that damn tunnel. I’m now seeing a mental health specialist at the VA regularly and I can honestly say that it was the right choice. No judgement. No negative consequences. And I feel silly for hesitating this long. Just open arms –metaphorically speaking, of course. I kept my six feet of distance and sanitized my hands, because the VA also houses elderly and immuno-vulnerable veterans. And if need be, they’re still doing video calls for anyone feeling any symptoms.
If you know anyone who’s in that dark place, reach out to them. Go in person if you have to, but there’s always the phone. There are always online video games. There’s always a meme you can tag them in. Anything will help. It may not feel like it while we’re self-isolating until things go back to normal, but we are never truly alone.
Spooky season is here, but it feels a bit different this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many places to cancel time-honored Halloween traditions, such as haunted houses and trick-or-treating this year, in following CDC safety guidelines. This means that families will have to come up with creative (and safe!) approaches to celebrating the beloved holiday this year.
Now here’s the good news: we’ve already thought of some fun ways for you and your family to celebrate!Here are some cute crafts and fun ideas that will make you forget that you can’t trick-or-treat this year:
Boo! your neighbors
If you want to spread some spooky fun around your neighborhood, consider putting together some Boo bags with your family!
Some items you can include in your “Boo” bags are:
The best part about this you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to spread some Halloween love in your neighborhood. You can find all of the items you to make my “Boo” bags and bucket at the dollar store or the Dollar Spot at your local Target.
Make some scary treats
Making desserts is a fun way to spend time together and get in the Halloween spirit. Try to come up with ways to make your favorite desserts a little more spooky – or, you can be like me and search Pinterest for ideas. My kids and I made these spooky monster cookies together and we had a blast doing it. You can make this activity even more fun by seeing who can make the spookiest monster cookie! Be sure to save a few and add them to your boo bags, too!
Flashlight scavenger hunt
No trick-or-treating? No problem! Let your kids get dressed up while you hide candy all over the house (or in your backyard!), turn out the lights, give your kids a flashlight, and let them hunt for their Halloween treats! They’ll have so much fun, they won’t even miss going door-to-door, and you can still collect your “parent tax” after.
Have a scary movie marathon in costume
After the scavenger hunt, get the family together on the couch to wind down and watch your favorite (family-friendly!) scary movies. They can eat some of the candy they found and the treats they made with you as movie snacks. Who knows, this may become your new family Halloween tradition. Win-win!
Make some spooky crafts together
Crafting is an essential part of every holiday – at least, in my house. My kids love any excuse to make something that they can proudly display and say, “I made that!” If you have little ones, you can do something as simple as purchase a small canvas and some paint from the dollar store and make something cute (and spooky!) with their hands and/or feet, or you can bust out the watercolors, the glue, some salt, and construction paper and let them make these awesome watercolor spiderweb crafts. Your family can also carve, and even paint, some pumpkins together. The possibilities are endless, and you can participate in the fun, too!
Not being able to trick-or-treat doesn’t have to mean that Halloween is ruined. Take this opportunity to create new traditions and memories with your family and close friends. Who knows, this could be the best Halloween season yet!
As the United States continues its efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19, the U.S. Army has seen early success treating infected soldiers with an anti-viral drug designed to treat illnesses like Ebola.
The drug, which is called remdesivir, attacks the coronavirus in patients by imitating the enzyme within the virus that controls replication, according to a peer reviewed paper published why the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The virus then absorbs the imitation enzymes, preventing it from actually replicating.
“These coronavirus polymerases are sloppy and they get fooled, so the inhibitor gets incorporated many times and the virus can no longer replicate,” Matthias Götte, University of Alberta’s chair of medical microbiology and immunology, told EurekAlert.
Two U.S. Army Soldiers that had been diagnosed with the coronavirus were given remdesivir and saw promising results, bouncing back fairly quickly. Of course, two recoveries does not make for a very substantial statistic, but Army medical professionals see these early results as promising.
“Two soldiers diagnosed with coronavirus were given an antiviral drug used to treat the Ebola virus and successfully recovered,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy was quoted as saying in an Army release. “They’re up and walking around. Obviously, that’s not that substantial of a sample size, but it shows that it can work.”
Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy visits a Walter Reed National Military Medical Center facility at Fort Belvoir, Va., to observe the health care guidance implemented to handle COVID-19, March 20, 2020.
These two results are not alone. In another limited clinical study, 36 of 53 patients that were hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus also saw marked improvement after being administered remdesivir, according to another paper published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
“During a median follow-up of 18 days, 36 patients (68%) had an improvement in oxygen-support class, including 17 of 30 patients (57%) receiving mechanical ventilation who were extubated,” the article reads.
Put simply, that means more than half of the patients that had been using a ventilator to breath prior to the treatment were healthy enough to be taken off the ventilators after. Seven of the patients within the study ultimately succumbed to the coronavirus, with the remaining 25 seeing full recovery.
Again, 36 patients is also a statistically tiny sample size, and much more research will need to be done in order to assess the efficacy and any potential side effects of using remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19, but these early signs are positive.
Daniel O’Day, chairman and CEO of Gilead (the company that produces remdesivir) posted an open letter speaking to that point, saying that multiple trials are underway to determine how safe and effective the medicine can be as a treatment for the virus that has rapidly spread around the world in recent months.
“In the broader efforts to determine whether it is a safe and effective treatment, we have some way to go,” O’Day said. “Multiple clinical trials are underway across the world to build a complete picture of how remdesivir works in various contexts.
Almost everyone agrees that being preparedfor the worst while hoping for the best is the ideal way to get through life. It’s balancing optimism with action, which makes perfect sense right? On one hand, optimism without action is just being blindly oblivious to reality. On the other hand, being laser focused on inevitable trauma robs you of a fulfilling life.
In theory, we all agree on this. But where are the lines drawn? How can you tell when you’ve slipped from Boy Scout to Doomsday Prepper? How do you know if you’re teaching your kids to be thoughtful and self-reliant, or creating mini-balls of crippling neuroses?
The world – especially right now – isn’t exactly helping matters. Coronavirus is public enemy number one. But then there’s also the fact that climate change has nature erupting into fits of destructive insanity, healthcare is still a privilege rather than a right in far too many places, and school shootings are a bi-weekly occurrence. It is not a time to be even mildly anxious, so it’s understandable if the state of things has you teetering on the edge of a full-on panic room scenario.
We all want to protect our families and ourselves, so let’s try and find the happy medium that allows us to consider stepping outside once in a while.
The Healthy Way to Prepare for the Worst
“Preparedness not only makes sense from a practical standpoint, it is, I believe, a responsibility that every parent has,” says Dr. George Everly, Jr., a professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and author of When Disaster Strikes: Inside Disaster Psychology.
In his work, Everly often uses a different term when discussing the concept of being prepared: Resilience. Not only does this choice of word carry with it significant connotations – it makes you think of someone who is resourceful and strong, not worried – it also sits at the core of a very important psychological trait.
“Preparation does bring not only reassurance but a sense of self-efficacy,” says Everly. “Self-efficacy lies at the root of self esteem.”
“Self-efficacy,” Everly points out, was coined by Canadian-American psychologist Dr. Albert Bandura, the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. In the 60s and 70s, Dr. Bandura conducted a number of studies on this concept, which essentially boil down to a person’s belief in their ability to alleviate their own phobias. It’s not so much a belief that you can avoid problems by being prepared, it’s that you are confident that you can overcome them when they plop on your doorstep.
This is an important distinction. One is having an almost talisman-like belief that your emergency kit will ward off danger; the other combines action with self-reliance and a form of optimism. In a Psychology Today essay “Preparing for Bad Things,” Everly calls this “Active Optimism,” which he defines as the belief “that life events will turn out well, largely because one believes she/he possesses the ability to assist in making things turn out well.” That’s the sweet spot.
In addition to a strong sense of self-efficacy, Everly believes that confidence in previous success is vital (locking the doors and avoiding all dangers won’t actually prepare anyone for anything), as are encouragement and self-control. Learning to keep stress levels down and emotions in check can do a lot to help you overcome problems or handle unexpected emergencies. After all, panic leads to doubt and confusion and, ultimately, a much worse situation.
The Unhealthy Way to Prepare For the Worst
There’s a big difference between preparation — and Everly’s idea of Active Optimism — and pure paranoia.
“Can one worry and prepare to an excessive degree? Of course, as one can eat too much chocolate cake or exercise too much or even drink too much water,” says Everly. “The bottom line, I believe, is prepare as best one can for the highest probability ‘worst case scenarios’ then leave it alone. Move on.”
However, Everly is more concerned about the other end of the spectrum, where parents lean too much into optimism to the point where they seem to actively deny the existence of real world concerns.
“Repression and denial can be effective ego defense mechanisms and are certainly the prerogative of any given individual,” he says. “But I believe that prerogative must yield to a higher responsibility one has to one’s children.”
To Everly’s early point about action being a necessary component of preparedness and resilience, Dr. Clifford Lazarus offers a succinct distillation of the idea in his essay “Why Optimism Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health.” In it, Dr. Lazarus explains the difference between types of optimism that echo Everly’s beliefs.
“The difference between false optimism and rational optimism can be captured by two different statements,” he writes. “‘There’s nothing to be concerned about, everything will be just grand.’ That’s false optimism. The second statement reflects realistic optimism: ‘We’ve got a real mess on our hands, things don’t look too good, but if we tackle it step by step, we can probably do something about it’.”
While both Everly and Lazarus preach the perfectly reasonable idea of action along with resilience and optimism, even those concepts can go too far. All you have to do is see the deeply unnerving lack of Purell at the store in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, or the mad, panicky rush to stock up on water and essentials when a severe storm is on the horizon. This is action, for sure, but it is action robbed of realistic optimism and, in many cases, credible information.
A lot of the psychological problems that fester alongside attempts to prepare for disaster come from a lack of information mixed with speculation, imagination, and outright lies. Being able to sift through the social media Chicken Littles who declare the end of the world with every sneeze is vital for not only true preparedness, but for passing on a sense of resilience and emotional strength to your children. A constant barrage of misinformation can make any form of action seem pointless, which is counterproductive.
“People who exhibit pessimism with limited self-efficacy may perceive psychosocial stressors as unmanageable,” says Everly. “And are more likely to dwell on perceived deficiencies, which generates increased stress and diminishes potential problem-solving energy, lowers aspirations, weakens commitments, and lowers resilience.”
So where does that leave us?
There’s the simple truth that we’re never going to be prepared for everything. The world is a Whack-a-Mole game of problems and tragedies, and something will catch you off-guard at some point. Locking yourself in a well-stocked bunker also isn’t a viable option for anything remotely resembling a life. What is, is to cultivate a sense of self-efficacy in yourself and your children. The optimism of “I didn’t see this coming, but I can overcome it.” So, prepare. Have contingency plans in place. Be ready for the worst. Practice resilience. And help yourself — and your family — understand that things will be under control. And maybe buy a 30-pack of batteries.
With an abundance of data points on COVID-19 — the news, your friend from high school who has turned into a respiratory and infectious disease expert on social media despite never going to med school, your family, your neighbors, that group text — it’s difficult to discern what is relevant and what is truthful.
Finally, here’s one source that absolutely nails it. Three-year-old toddler “Dr. Big Sister” Hannah Curtis delivers a spot on briefing from her very own White House.
If you have a smart phone and Google, you can take photos of various animals in your house and it’s basically the greatest thing that’s ever happened in quarantine (and if we’re being honest, maybe outside of that, too).
Using Google’s AR (augmented reality) technology, kids and adults alike can spend an unbelievable amount of time seeing animals up close and personal, and, the best part? To scale. There’s nothing like seeing a Great White take up your backyard to understand how large these creatures are. With a few clicks on your phone, your Tiger King selfie is mere moments away.
To get started, open Google on your smart phone’s browser. Type in any one of the animals currently featured (they continue to add, so if your favorite isn’t listed, keep checking back!). Currently, they have:
Once you’ve googled the animal, scroll down a tiny bit until you see “Meet a life-sized (animal) up close.” Click on the “View in 3D.”
Once you click the view in 3D, you’ll have the option for AR or Object. The object will just be the animal. AR is where it’s at. Move your phone around until you see the animal’s shadow and then touch it until it appears. Then, enjoy having your children pose with an interactive, 3D, life-size animal in your house. Quarantine just got a million times better. Thanks, Google.