Front Lines of COVID-19 – Podcast

By LifeStance Health on May 19, 2020

Dwight Thompson: (00:00)

Hi, welcome to Reset your Mindset by Life Stance Health. Myself, Dwight Thompson, and my cohost, Nicola Lianza, will bring you conversations with leading Life Stance Health professionals who will help guide you on your journey to positive mental health and wellbeing. At Life Stance, we believe in the three pillars of mental health, mental flexibility, mindfulness, and resilience.

Dwight Thompson: (00:33)

Welcome everyone. Thank you for joining us again. We are really excited to have two new guests with us today. Myself and Nikki Lianza are joined by Brian Manning and Dr. Eric Lane. So we really thank you guys for joining us today. Brian, we’re going to start with you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Brian Manning: (00:53)

Yeah, so, like he said, my name’s Brian Manning. I’m a licensed professional clinical counselor in the state of Kentucky. I practice at Beaumont Behavioral Health in Lexington at the Monarch location. I provide a variety of services primarily for adults and primarily in the substance abuse field. I provide an intensive outpatient program, the Suboxone Clinic, and then I do individual mental health counseling for adults with depression, anxiety, and anything from there.

Dwight Thompson: (01:27)

Awesome. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And Dr. Lane.

Dr. Eric Lane: (01:34)

Hello. Thanks for having me. I’m Eric Lane, MD, board certified psychiatrist, and I work at the Easten location in Ohio. I’ve been doing this about 15 years and just generally see adults and, of course, a wide variety of mental health diagnoses. And I [crosstalk 00:01:53]-

Dwight Thompson: (01:52)

Thank you. Thank you very much. So, yeah, so Nikki and I are really fortunate today to be joined by Dr. Lane and Brian Manning. If you listened to our previous episode, we were discussing COVID-19 and all of the stressors that have came of that as we’re all kind of learning about this together. Today we wanted to touch on some of the folks that are on the front lines of dealing with COVID-19, and discuss some emotional first aid for those individuals. There’s really nothing I don’t think anyone can do that can overstate how appreciative everyone is of all of the work that they’re doing. So we just feel fortunate that we’re able to maybe shed some light into what we can do to address some of those concerns and what we see just kind of as an overall bigger picture. So, Nikki, I’m going to let you kick it off with a couple of questions.

Nikki Lianza: (02:49)

Yeah. So I think it’d be great to kind of talk to both of you about, what do you hear some of your own clients saying, who might be on the front lines, who are health professionals in hospitals, or working with patients who do have COVID? What do you hear what their frustrations are? How about we’ll start with Brian?

Brian Manning: (03:12)

Oh yes. Yeah, there are many, without a doubt. For sure, just really trying to find a way to cope with the stress of it all, just with everything that’s happened so fast, just trying to adjust and just wrap your head around everything that’s going on. Definitely on the front lines, just the amount of stress, confusion, not quite knowing what’s going to happen, difficulty with getting supplies. So it really generates a lot of stress and anxiety and uncertainty for them on the front line. I know a lot of them, too, are struggling with your managing that stress and finding a way to balance their patient care and then their personal and family safety.

Nikki Lianza: (04:00)

Right, right.

Brian Manning: (04:01)

Yeah. Absolutely.

Nikki Lianza: (04:02)

Thank you. Dr. Lane, what about yourself? What are you hearing?

Dr. Eric Lane: (04:09)

Yeah, similar things. It’s interesting, because it’s kind of early on. I’m not hearing a lot of people overwhelmed with stress in the hospital yet. Of course, I don’t see a whole lot of people who are right on the front lines, but from what I’m hearing, the biggest problem is just disruption. I think it’s disruptive of people’s schedules, their sleep, their appetite. As I mentioned, a lot of what I do to try to maintain moods is to use medications. I find a lot of people have difficulty staying on schedule with their medicines and it’s a very important thing to keep in mind.

Nikki Lianza: (04:43)

For sure.

Dwight Thompson: (04:44)

Yeah. I think you bring up a good point, is it’s the disruption. I think with everything, when you’re looking at this pandemic is … it’s hour by hour, we’re learning new information and we are certainly at a point where we’re learning on the fly, which is something we talked a lot about just in the most recent episode, is everything sort of came at us in a way that there was obviously some indicators that this was going to be impacting us, but I don’t think anyone could really grasp the magnitude of it. So you’re right, and so there is just a huge feeling of disruption and interruption to sort of our daily lives and the care that we … especially as healthcare professionals, you’re trained to be just that, a healthcare professional. You are not trained to necessarily be ready to fight something like this, so this is new for a lot of folks. When it comes to … so you gave us some good insight to what you’re hearing just a lot of from healthcare professionals. What are some of the frustrations you’re hearing? So from a more … from that perspective, whether it’s with clients, whether it’s just within your social life, your social circle, what are some of the things that have people more frustrated than anything? And Brian, we can start with you again.

Brian Manning: (06:00)

Oh yes. Yeah, in terms of frustration … yeah, I think it’s really … has a lot to do with that supply. Yeah, in terms of the testing, the personal protective equipment, just really getting what they need to do their job is very frustrating. So, just having that constant burden on them, it’s immense pressure and causes a lot of disruption. Their whole system, their whole way of doing things flips overnight. So, like you said, just that disruption really leads to a lot of confusion and turmoil at times.

Nikki Lianza: (06:47)

Yeah. Let me add to that, with that disruption, the things people would usually use to help manage their stress, like those coping skills, are also disrupted. If you’d go to the gym to work out those frustrations, well, the gyms are closed.

Brian Manning: (07:04)

Good point.

Nikki Lianza: (07:04)

There’s just so much that are keeping people from being able to really, truly navigate their stress because of needing to abide by the measures to keep ourselves safe from it. So that’s another disruption I see.

Brian Manning: (07:18)

That is a great point.

Nikki Lianza: (07:19)

Dr. Lane, what about yourself? What do you think about all this?

Dr. Eric Lane: (07:26)

Well, you make a good point. I think one to keep in mind is that people will cope in whatever way they can. If some of the healthy coping skills aren’t as available, we’re vulnerable to unhealthy coping skills. This is a time to really pay attention to alcohol intake and [inaudible 00:07:45] as healthy as possible. So, I’ve heard many people bring up that being sequestered in their homes with weeks of food available is leading to binge eating. That’s probably the most common self destructive coping strategy I’m hearing people fall into.

Dwight Thompson: (08:00)

Is that right? That is interesting.

Dr. Eric Lane: (08:03)


Nikki Lianza: (08:05)

Which I think this would bring us to a good point, too, of what are you then recommending? This is again for a question for both of you, Brian and Dr. Lane, of kind of how to help with that? What are your suggestions?

Dr. Eric Lane: (08:19)

Well, you kind of have to get at the root of what is fueling the need to cope, which is generally things like anxiety. I think a lot of anxiety comes from a lack of information. When you talk about people on the front lines, they’re seeing a lot of helpless people, a lot of folks that want information and want knowledge and want to know what to expect, and I think a lot of times they don’t know. So, and of course we have to monitor our news diet. You can overwhelm yourself with negative thoughts and overwhelming news, so finding a sweet spot there is a little difficult. I find myself over and over bringing up to people that things like practicing mindfulness and meditation is worth considering because it’s a way to keep us a little more centered and less overwhelmed and scattered.

Dwight Thompson: (09:07)

Sure. Brian, what about you?

Brian Manning: (09:09)

Yeah, so I definitely come at it from the more cognitive and behavioral approach, using a lot of CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy to do what Dr. Lane said, just what’s the roots? And looking for those. Managing the negative thinking, of course, and then identifying the underlying cause there. So different strategies of getting to that. One of those being some of those cognitive distortions, in terms of all or nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions. Then just looking at, as well, maybe the more difficult thing is that loss of control and then just helping them maybe find and focus what they can control, that mindfulness, being present, and trying just to thread that needle of demands versus … we get stressed whenever we feel like we don’t have resources to meet those demands. So, just really re-centering and refocusing on what can I control in this moment? Just to give some sense of control and hope.

Dwight Thompson: (10:17)

Yeah. Thank you. You bring up a good point, is that all or nothing thinking. This is not something that’s very linear at all. It’s not black and white. There is just so much area to be filled in yet. There’s just so much gray area. So that can be just incredibly detrimental, so that’s an excellent point.

Dr. Eric Lane: (10:36)

I always think of the analogy of the airplane. If the oxygen mask falls down, you put your own on before you put someone else’s on. As a healthcare provider, you have to take care of yourself first. As I mentioned, I treat mental health disorders. The people I’m talking to are already under treatment, but I think there are a lot of people out there who aren’t already diagnosed or treated for which this is going to bring out symptoms.

Dwight Thompson: (11:01)

Yeah. That’s-

Dr. Eric Lane: (11:03)

Health issues.

Dwight Thompson: (11:03)

That brings up-

Dr. Eric Lane: (11:03)

They need to know how to reach out for help.

Dwight Thompson: (11:06)

Yeah, that brings up an excellent point, especially that’s a great analogy with the airplane and putting on your oxygen mask and making sure that you’re in the best state to do what you do, which is care for others. Is there any … when it comes to seeking that care, I think that there’s a lot, certainly, that even just us as a practice has rolled out to meet folks where they’re at when you look at our telehealth initiatives and recognizing that people are not necessarily able to be in the same space right now. So having that option, I think, has been really beneficial, but from your standpoint as providers, what is your, we’ll say advice, to someone who is currently on the front lines of battling this and looking to take that first step, or any step rather, in getting some care. What would your recommendation be? What would your advice be to that individual?

Dr. Eric Lane: (12:02)

Yeah, I think that it’s a point I wanted to make, that right now it kind of feels like you’re very disconnected from help, but actually we probably have more access than ever because of these changes to telemedicine. People may not recognize that they can likely reach out, connect with a provider pretty quickly, see them from their own home, and be covered by insurance in all likelihood, the same that you would with a normal visit. So, I think mental barriers are there. This is going to be hard, no one’s going to be taking patients, but really the help is there. Our website is a good place to start, with your own insurance is a good place to start.

Dwight Thompson: (12:39)

Yeah, great point.

Brian Manning: (12:42)

Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree with that. Yeah, going back to your point earlier, just one of the biggest things that I also ask about focusing on is that self care piece, and you’re putting your gas mask on. One of the things I hear and see is that a lot of times they don’t feel like they can. Maybe they feel guilty about taking care of themselves because they’ve got patients, they’ve got family, and so they’re constantly putting other people before themselves and not putting that mask on. So, really emphasizing that self care and just give themself permission to do that, to help them feel their feelings, express them, really encourage reaching out to others, friends, family, of course, and healthcare professionals is available, but to me, it really starts with them … coaching, helping them just give themselves permission to take care of themselves.

Dwight Thompson: (13:45)

Thank you, Brian. That’s really, really insightful.

Nikki Lianza: (13:53)

So Dr. Lane and Brian, you both brought up really great points. Hearing from some of my clients who are working in the hospitals with the patients, I’m hearing definitely some frustration and even anger, some anger towards people outside the hospitals who aren’t adhering to the safety measures. Then, also, because the health care professionals are so overwhelmed and so overworked, that I’m seeing a lot of anger and lack of patience, even with one another. With that, I think in helping reframe that and using those cognitive behavioral … that perspective of helping them reframe that we are all a team, that they’re working as a team at the hospital. It can probably feel very much like they’re on an island afte a nurse is on shift for 12 plus hours and is really dog tired. It could feel very probably lonely and isolating. So to reframe it, to look at she’s still part of a team, or he’s still part of a team, a medical team, and how important it is that they do remember that and stay connected and patient with one another, and compassionate. Brian, tell us your thoughts about that.

Brian Manning: (15:07)

Yeah, so that’s definitely very true. Again, going back to that supplies and just having what they need to do their job and do it well. A lot of frustration and no doubt a lot of anger at getting the resources or people who aren’t following the rules. So definitely, again, without a doubt, a lot of anger there. One of the first things to do is really validate it.

Nikki Lianza: (15:36)

Good point.

Brian Manning: (15:37)

Just saying, “Hey, it’s okay to be angry.” It goes back to that, giving yourself that permission to feel. You’re human too and you have a right to feel that way. So, just really encourage them to have that anger. Find healthy ways to cope as well, but as you said there, really just trying to connect them with other people, hopefully healthcare professionals who understand, who get it. I would just encourage them to reach out and express that anger, talk to others, just so that they know they are not there alone, and they are in that together.

Dr. Eric Lane: (16:16)


Dwight Thompson: (16:17)

I love that, Brian. I like the piece of just giving yourself that permission. Love that. Dr. Lane, what about you?

Dr. Eric Lane: (16:24)

Yeah. I think a lot of what he’s referring to is just the sense of … what we’re looking for is universality. We’re all in this battle, but yet feeling separated. This is the kind of thing that normally you might recommend someone go to group therapy, but right now group therapy isn’t really much of an option, at least in the traditional sense. So it had occurred to me recently that I hadn’t worked at a place before that had used software like Teams the way that we do.

Dr. Eric Lane: (16:52)

That’s a great example of a way to stay connected, to share information. So, thinking about tools, if you’re in the trenches with other people who are dealing with the same frustrations and the same fears, being connected, using our technology is a way to kind of have that universality support each other.

Dwight Thompson: (17:12)

Absolutely. Absolutely. I think there is … there’s something to be said for our ability to stay connected even though we are separate. Our ability to record this podcast is a good example. We’re all remote and in our own spaces. I think that when you are looking at … as Nikki said, in some ways you’re on a team … when you would use the hospital setting as an example, but the ability to communicate with your coworkers who are fighting the same thing, that does go a long way. It is important to at least recognize that, while we’re all separate right now, we are connected in so many ways.

Dr. Eric Lane: (17:51)


Dwight Thompson: (17:53)

You brought up something with … so some of these visceral responses some of our health care professionals are feeling, and they’re totally valid. As I said to start off, there’s really no overstating how valuable what our healthcare professionals on the frontline are doing. Is there anything you guys have any feedback on when it comes to providing that positive feedback, for them to find their … not their worth, but at least feel appreciated throughout these times. Is there anything you would say to someone who is feeling taken for granted? Any recommendations of how they can feel like they are valued and what they’re doing is appreciated?

Dr. Eric Lane: (18:37)


Nikki Lianza: (18:38)

Why don’t we start with Brian?

Dr. Eric Lane: (18:39)


Brian Manning: (18:40)

Yes. Yeah. I think, obviously if they’re talking to me, that they’ve taken that first step to reach out, to try to work through it in some way. Yeah, really going back to that validation of feelings and just getting them connected with that is essential. Again, for me, it continues to go back to that self care and just taking care of yourself. You’re going to feel that you’re taking care of yourself and that you feel loved and worthy of that type of attention, because so many people have requested so much of you during the day. We’ve got to recharge our batteries. That really has to come from that internal place.

Dwight Thompson: (19:29)

Right. Yeah. That’s great. You do … this is a situation where it feels like, in a lot of ways, sometimes you have to be your own cheerleader. Dr. Lane, any feedback on that?

Dr. Eric Lane: (19:39)

Oh, it’s tough. You guys, it just hasn’t been fair. You’ve given me time to think about these questions and you haven’t given Brian time, but …

Brian Manning: (19:49)

I wasn’t going to say anything.

Nikki Lianza: (19:50)

Sorry, Brian.

Dr. Eric Lane: (19:51)

No, and he’s hitting on all the right things. You do have to take care of yourself. I do think that interacting with other people who are in the same battle is very helpful. It’s just like anything. When you talk to someone who doesn’t really appreciate what you’re dealing with, it’s hard to feel validated from a person in that position. So, getting that validation from the people who are kind of in the same battle is pretty important.

Nikki Lianza: (20:18)

So Dr. Lane and Brian, as we wind down our time together, can you share with us just some parting inspirational words, thoughts that we can kind of use to keep ourselves moving forward, keep helping those healthcare professionals moving forward and navigating this pandemic in a way that’s going to be best for their mental health? So why don’t we start with Brian?

Brian Manning: (20:40)

Yeah, really, first and foremost for me is just holding onto that fact that you are not alone. We are all in this together. It’s okay to have those feelings and have those frustrations, but just really hanging on to that fact that you’re not alone. If you’re feeling it, somebody else is too, the person next to you most likely. So, just finding ways to stay connected, reach out, be open and honest with those around you, and let them know what you need. “Hey, I need to take a walk. I need to take a nap.” So just really keep those communication lines open, to get what you need, and just reinforce that truth that you are not alone.

Nikki Lianza: (21:28)

Great. Thank you, Brian. Dr. Lane?

Dr. Eric Lane: (21:31)

Yeah. I think it’s a very abnormal time and what we crave is normalcy. So, we’re kind of going through this desert, looking for a little oasis from time to time to keep us going. I think those are things like playing UNO with my daughters or taking the dog for a walk or these things that just kind of give a little break for your brain and a chance to recharge with some normalcy, so keep that in mind.

Dwight Thompson: (22:00)

Well, guys, we just really, genuinely appreciate you taking the time to join us. Just incredible insight and great information. I think that there’s a lot of healthcare professionals that can have some major takeaways from this, and more than anything, just feel validated and have some next steps as far as what they can do for their own self care, but I’m pretty sure I speak for all of us when I say that we just extend our deepest gratitude to everyone on the front lines facing COVID-19 and are just very appreciative for all the hard work of our healthcare professionals in the nation.

Dr. Eric Lane: (22:34)


Brian Manning: (22:35)

Definitely. Thank you for having us.

Nikki Lianza: (22:36)

Well put, Dwight. Thank you, Brian. Thank you, Dr. Lane.

Brian Manning: (22:39)


Dr. Eric Lane: (22:39)

You’re welcome. Pleasure to be here.

Dwight Thompson: (22:49)

So Nikki, I don’t know about you, but I certainly had quite a few takeaways and was just really impressed by all of the information that our team members here at Life Stance with Brian and Dr. Lane had to share with us. I don’t know. What were the pieces that stood out the most to you?

Nikki Lianza: (23:09)

Yeah, let me start, because there’s quite a few I have. I think Brian brought up a lot of good points. He brought up about validating the emotion. If someone is feeling angry or frustrated, to validate that, to allow themselves to feel that emotion, to give themselves permission to feel, I think is so key. Then, to reframe some of the thinking that might be fueling some of that anger and frustration too.

Dwight Thompson: (23:37)


Nikki Lianza: (23:37)

I think another point he brought up was that we’re not alone. It could definitely feel like that when you’re on that shift, that you’re feeling pretty alone, but we are all in this together. Then the last point that he brought was focusing on what we can control, which is something we forget. I think we get so overwhelmed, but we do have to focus it down in what we can control. What about you?

Dwight Thompson: (24:00)

That’s a good point. Yes. So I think the thing that stood out to me the most was the balance piece, which sounds … it sounds so simple, but it is so sought after and so hard to obtain the balancing, the taking care of yourself. A lot of times, our healthcare professionals are not just healthcare professionals, they’re moms, they’re dads, they’re husbands, they’re wives, they’re all sorts of different things. So, balancing those roles of taking care of yourself while also trying to take care of your family, trying to take care of your patients, that is just so difficult. I thought that both Dr. Lane and Brian gave some good insight onto how to do that and how to just spend some time on yourself. So the balance piece just truly was what stood out to me the most. Then the next piece that I thought was really important was the validation and letting yourself feel those feelings, not to try to block them out, not to try to suppress them, but to really own it and understand that there is no normal when it comes to this. This is, again, something we’re we’re taking on for the first time in a lot of ways. So yeah, I thought that there was some great pieces there.

Nikki Lianza: (25:11)

I agree. One other point, Dr. Lane brought this up, is the universe [inaudible 00:00:25:15]. Oh my gosh, you’re going to have to edit that all. Universality?

Dwight Thompson: (25:20)

I’m keeping it.

Nikki Lianza: (25:22)

And that in [inaudible 00:25:24] we feel separated, but the key, especially when you’re on the front lines, use our technology to connect. You mentioned kind of like that, wanting to go back to that normal. We’re craving that normal, but finding spots throughout our days to recharge. I think he definitely emphasized that as well. So.

Dwight Thompson: (25:40)

Agreed. Thank you everyone for joining us. We had a really excellent conversation with Dr. Lane and Brian Manning. Nikki and I are just very appreciative that we get to connect with our Life Stance team members located all throughout the Midwest. We are just trying, day by day, to continue to be a resource and provide support to anyone that needs it throughout this trying time. We appreciate everyone for listening, and until next time.