Critical Incident Stress Management for People with Hearing Loss – Part 1
Presented by Margie English
This is part one of two parts.
Margie grew up in Washington DC. She graduated from Gallaudet with a degree in English, and then moved to Vermont to work in the mental health field. She experienced a lot of stressful situations, many of them related to communications.
Stressful situations can make or break relationships, whether employment or personal relationships. People often don’t handle stress well, and the result is often destructive behavior.
One common approach is to just ignore the stress, to ignore the signals our body is giving us. It’s really important to listen to your body and to realize when you’re under stress.
People who are under stress are often afraid to talk about their stress and the resulting emotions. Of course, it’s very unhealthy to have conflict with someone and not address it.
Each of us has a plan for our lives. It may be something that we’ve focused on a great deal, or it may be something that’s more in the background of our thoughts, but we all have one. Let’s call that “Plan A”. For many young women that plan is to get married, have children, be a stay at home mom, etc. But that won’t happen for some of those young women, so it’s important to have a “Plan B”.
We all know that communications is a huge challenge for people with hearing loss. Some of us are better than others at dealing with those challenges. And hearing people are sometimes hesitant to communicate with deaf or hard of hearing people. These issues can be especially difficult if you’re the only deaf person at your workplace.
On the way here our plane was stuck on the runway with no air conditioning for an hour. When we finally got off the plane, I didn’t know what was going on. So I felt a lot of stress and I went up and wrote a note to the guy at the desk. He wrote back that they were changing planes and we had to go to a different gate. And then I felt a lot better. So I guess I handled that pretty well.
When you use rough words, rather than kind words, people may not remember the words you used, but they will remember how you made them feel.
So how do you know when you’re feeling stress? There are a lot of signs. Physical signs include fatigue, nausea, chills, tremors, vomiting, and visual difficulties. Emotional signs include shock, denial, guilt, grief, depression, and anger. Cognitive signs include confusion, poor attention, hyper vigilance, and disorientation. Behavioral signs include a change is speech, inability to rest, withdrawal, and pacing.
Margie had a client back in Vermont who was having a hard time getting a job. He came by nearly every day and sometimes exhibited some strange behavior. At one point he got very angry at Margie. She became very emotional and went to her boss looking for a solution. They thought that having a job would be very good for him, so they hired him to clean the office. But then another worker became angry with Margie, because her client was already cleaning the office. So that situation added to her stress. She finally had to meet with her boss and suggest that the client be assigned to a different counselor, because she really couldn’t handle him.
Margie recently attended a presentation by a mental health professional who stated that each of us needs a support system of at least five people. Many people who hear that automatically think of five family members. But all family members together can only be considered to be one of the five people; the other four people must be from outside the family.
Listening is a very important skill, and a difficult one to develop. Good listening skills can really reduce the stress that a situation might otherwise cause. We need to really hear what other people are telling us if we want to have successful relationships with them.
If you’re the only person with hearing loss where you work, you probably miss a lot of information. If you’re in that situation, it’s really important to have a couple of people at work to fill you in on the office gossip you miss.
When you feel stress, it’s hard to focus on your objective. When that starts to happen, it’s important to take a mindfulness minute to get yourself back on track. Suppose you’re talking to a person and you start getting upset. If you can mentally walk away and reaffirm your goals, you can then get back to the conversation with a better attitude.
Here’s Part Two