Monday, April 27, 2009

Rule Number One - Don't Panic.

Long ago when I was teaching computer courses, I ran an introduction and then made a couple of points before we started. I pointed out that software (and technical) classes run fast, and you might get stuck or lost. I'd been in it long enough to lay out these rules:

Rule Number 1: Do not panic.
Rule Number 2: Breathe. If necessary, take a deep breath.

Then I went on to assure my students that I was pretty sure I could fix anything that happened in class, and that if I couldn't someone else on staff could, for instance if the computer started smoking or melting. This was their day to make mistakes, in fact, and learn from them. So we practiced getting unstuck and recovering from messes they created.

They loved it. I took all their fears, at least most of those related to the class, and dealt with them up front. We did great classes together. I told them it was my job to fix things, and I did.

Ironically the Diane Rehm Show had a two great segments this morning, related to the latest world-disaster. Melt-down du jour. It was very helpful to hear two top doctors from Johns Hopkins and NIH discuss the swine flu. The next segment, on dealing with anxiety and stress, was an interview with the author of the book, One Less Thing to Worry About.

It was very informative to hear an expert confirm what we already know. Some people handle stress well, some don't. Those who obsess or run/hide from stress are in the latter group. People who do something about it, are "healthy".

I once told a boss, after he let over 200 contracts gravitate to my desk, in my second week on the job, that if his arm got cut off, I'd stop the bleeding first. Then I'd identify what happened.

It's the approach of a medic, not a soldier. I'm fairly sure a soldier would do a better threat assessment. Now all good medics do one too, if with less emphasis, or they don't last.

Your Responsibility
So whether you are a healer or a fighter, or both, let's start with, Don't Panic.

Shutting down your ability to assess the risks, and act accordingly doesn't help.

Secondly, breathe. Take a moment and decide what you can and cannot do.

Sensible precautions make sense. Wash hands, eat well, exercise, avoid things that stress you out, stock up on healthy vitamins and foods. You do this not ony for stress relief, but to prepare in case you do get sick, or someone in your family needs you.

I once had a great reflexologist, in Charlotte, a Chinese man. He had some serious issues, but was a great healer. He pointed out that colds are floating around all the time, and many people don't get them. In fact, most people don't catch colds. His advice was to keep your system healthy, and you'd be immune. Of course science has borne this out over and over again. We don't know why some people catch the rhino (cold) virus and others don't.

We do know that using alcohol "washes" or sanitzers, does not kill viruses, but only bacteria. And we do know that the AIDs virus can be easily killed with hot soap and water.

In the midst of our economic crisis, there are many who aren't ready for more bad news. I'd suggest you get ready. That means doing what needs to be done.

Separate what you can change from what you cannot. Then take one simple step on something you can change. Then do the next step. That's it.

It's not rocket science, thank goodness.

Corporate Responsibility

During the avian bird flu scare I heard (on NPR) that the federal government expected businesses to take all necessary precautions to protect their workers in the event of a pandemic. I asked my then-boss, the firm administrator about this, and she didn't know anything about it. Firm employed about 250 - 300 people.

I'd bet that most companies have the same approach - willful disregard. It's willful because in most companies, especially now when they have an excuse of just trying to stay afloat, no one wants to take responsibility for disaster planning. I used to work in this field, and it's important, as all risk management is, but often overlooked.

If you work at a corporation, or even small company, you may want to ask if they have a plan. If not, help make one.


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