Kansas City, Kan- The numbers of COVID patients at The University of Kansas Health System are holding relatively steady with 19 patients with the active virus being treated, down from 23 Friday. Seven of those patients are in the ICU, down from nine on Friday. Four are on ventilators, up from three on Friday. There are 12 other patients who are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, down from 19 Friday. HaysMed has 13 active and five recovering, for a total of 18 patients.
Today’s program focused on the people’s mindset during the pandemic. According to a Gallup poll, 82 percent of Americans are happy with their life, which is down from 90 percent in 2020. Dr. Gregory Nawalanic, Clinical Director of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The University of Kansas Health System feels like those numbers are high, especially given the burden the pandemic has had on people. He said that the impact of social media on the psychology of people is really impacting mental health.
“Social media has an immense potential to bring people together, but unfortunately, it has an equally potential to shift people into really nasty arguments,” Dr. Nawalanic said. It can really devolve into magnifying self-esteem issues and insecurities we have. He also mentioned that seeing the “perfect life” posts about vacations, fitness and more, it can leave some people feeling like their lives do not measure up.
Positive psychology is one way to help keep a positive mental outlook. This involves moving from “passive avoidance” to “active engagement.” Simply “avoiding” the problem – by going back to sleep, not talking about it, not addressing it – does not eliminate the problem. And it can lead to depression. “You are better off going and facing the fire,” Dr. Nawalanic said. “Go deal with whatever the situation is. What we resist, persists.”
Dr. Nawalanic suggests five ways to be more positive.
- Start with daily meditation in the morning – Take few deep breaths, hold it for four or five counts, then slowly exhale. Identify a positive intention for the day.
- Seize the day at work – Remember why you are there and why that is important. Even if it is just for income, this is providing support to you and your family. And having a job is an accomplishment. People sometimes forget that.
- Pause electronics, be present – Years ago when we left work, we typically didn’t check email. But now there is an expectation for some workers that they are always on email. Set limits. Focus on yourself and your family when you are home.
- Find something to be grateful for each day – List out the great things that happened during the day. They may be overshadowed by things that did not go well but focus on the positive.
- End the day positively – Put the phone down. Spend 10-15 minutes reflecting on the day and thinking about the good things that happened. “Bookending” your day by starting and ending with some time to yourself can make a big impact.
Steve Stites, MD, chief medical officer of The University of Kansas Health System also added the importance of sleep and making sure you get proper and restorative sleep. Dr. Nawalanic also reiterated that people need to set boundaries for using electronic devices away from work, especially before going to bed, even if you are using it to find positive news.
Questions from the community included what people who are retired and/or live alone and are high-risk should be doing. Dr. Nawalanic said that we may have some social awkwardness or apprehension about going out socially due to the pandemic, but vaccinations, masking and social distancing can still help us be safer. Volunteering with reputable organizations can have precautions in place for people to still connect while being protected.
A question about singing in choirs was asked, especially as holiday programs may be happening this season. Singing without masks is essential, so Dr. Stites said that vaccinations and spacing can help make this activity safer for everyone.
One person asked if the Pfizer pill treatment for COVID would work on transplant patients. Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control, said that the data is very compelling for success for the public overall, but there has not been any data specifically for transplant patients yet.
Another question was asked about people who get “stuck in your own head.” Dr. Nawalanic suggested making a list to get these items out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Then take that list and ask yourself what you can do to address the items on the list. For the items you can’t take action on, cross it off the list and focus on the things you can control. Taking those things off the list can help you not focus on them.
Dr. Nawalanic reminded people that happiness is a goal. “You’ve got to want it and you’ve got to work for it.”
Tuesday, November 23 at 8:00 a.m. is the next Morning Medical Update. Dr. Elizabeth Silver, Managing Director of the Poison Control Center, will be the guest to talk about a more stress-free Thanksgiving.
NOTE: Journalists should rejoin the Morning Medical Update at 8am as doctors are growing too busy again for individual interview requests. Please bring questions or send to firstname.lastname@example.org until further notice. Thanks for all you do and helping to keep the community safe with your reporting.
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