Ep #166: COVID-19 Fears

Do you have patients coming to you scared and worried about the new COVID-19 virus? Are you unsure of how to ease their fears—and whether you even should? In this episode I discuss how you can talk to your patients and offer them reassurance while also validating their concerns.

Listen in as I cut through the noise contributing to the panic surrounding COVID-19 and discuss how the media is contributing to the hysteria. I’m also delving into how you can double down on your own mindset and re-frame your internal dialogue to ease any unnecessary fears surrounding the virus.

Listen To The Episode Here:

In Today’s Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • Why there is panic surrounding COVID-19.
  • How to cut through the hysteria and fear.
  • Basic sanitation principles to help prevent infection of any virus.
  • How to re-frame the conversation around COVID-19.
  • Advice for talking to your patients about the virus.

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Get The Full Episode Transcript

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Read the Transcript Below:

 Katrina Ubell:     You are listening to the Weight Loss for Busy Physicians Podcast with Katrina Ubell, MD. Episode number 166.

Welcome to Weight Loss for Busy Physicians, the podcast where busy doctors like you get the practical solutions and support you need to permanently lose the weight so you can feel better and have the life you want. If you’re looking to overcome your stress eating and exhaustion and move into freedom around food, you’re in the right place.

Well, hey there my friend welcome back to the podcast. How are you today? I’m so glad that you’re here with me today. If you are new here, then welcome, so glad to have you join us today. I know that there’s so many different ways you could be spending your time and energy right now and I truly appreciate that you’re spending that time here with me. And it just helps me to want to bring you just excellent help every single week.

I have a number of things I want to tell you about this week, the first thing is that in a couple of days, this Thursday, March 19th I’m going to be hosting a free training where I’m going to teach you all about how to lose your weight and keep it off, right? So we want to lose our weight for the last time, meaning we want to lose it and then actually keep it off. We want this weight loss to be permanent, which is not what the absolute vast majority of people who lose weight experience. In fact, the vast majority of people who lose weight will gain it back, which is not a surprise to us because just look around, look at yourself, look at your patients, look at anybody you know who struggles with their eating or with their weight pretty much for most people it ends up coming back. And that was my experience when I was practicing as a pediatrician, I was just gaining and losing, gaining and losing and gaining again could not keep that weight off for the life of me.

Until I figured out how to leverage my most wonderful and precious asset, my brain through life coaching skills. And through that I was able to lose the weight and I’ve been able to keep it off for years now. And that’s exactly what I’m going to teach you about on this free training, how to lose that weight and keep it off permanently. So the way that you can sign up for that, to register for it, is to go to katrinaubellmd.com/loseweight. So that’s L-O-S-E-W-E-I-G-H-T, so lose weight smushed together, katrinaubellmd.com/loseweight. And it’s going to be at 8:30 PM Eastern, 7:30 Central si6:30 Mountain and 5:30 PM Pacific. I always have to think it’s one of those things, just have to put a couple little more brain cells and energy into that to make sure I’ve got it right. So you for sure going to want to come join me live. This is something where I will dig into all the details, everything you need to know, and then I’m also going to answer your question so make sure that you join me live on that call.

Again, it’s next Thursday, March 19th at 8:30 PM Eastern, 5:30 Pacific and to sign up for that, go to katrinaubellmd.com/loseweight. So you can also find that if you’re not going to remember what that link is, then you can always go to the show notes page for this podcast as well. And you can always find the show notes pages by just putting in the number of the episode after the website. So it’s katrinaubellmd.com/166 for this one. Okay. Thing two that I want to talk to you about. So a number of months ago I did a whole podcast, well not a whole podcast, but I talked extensively about the issues that I’ve had with my hair. And I just want to give you an update because I have found something that I actually, when I realized that I hadn’t talked about this on the podcast yet, I felt bad. Because I always share with you guys when I find something that’s absolutely amazing and life changing and you know me, I love my chili pad and things like that, but this is even better than that.

And it is something that they don’t do any advertising and this is totally a word of mouth thing. And I also just really want all of you who are dermatologists out there to know about this. Because I had been working with my dermatologist for years as had my husband, and neither of us was really getting any real results and now I can’t even believe how remarkable the results are that I’m getting and my husband too. So clearly my husband and I both have different issues, right? I have more of the female pattern hair loss, he’s got the male pattern, hair loss. His has been going on even when I met him in medical school, he was already starting to get, the temples were getting a little bare there and things like that. And so he has tried Rogaine consistently for a long time without really any results. I tried it a little bit, I wasn’t really loving how it was feeling and I just didn’t feel like it really worked for me too well. I’ve tried some other serums or whatever you would call them.

I know a lot of you like the Grandelash eyelash serum and they have a hair growth product that I tried and just didn’t really notice any results. And so it was back in October, so a number of months ago that I just totally randomly heard about this company. Now I think I’m going to say it correctly, it’s called Harklinikken, which means hair clinic in Danish. And basically, this is a company that is a Danish company, but they work with people worldwide and they have figured out this way to help people to regrow their hair using natural products. Now of course as a physician, anytime people are like it’s natural, you’re like, arsenic is natural too, but come on. But seriously, it’s not like something that’s going to likely harm you in any extreme way. I think that they have a lot of research on their own about safety and things like that. It’s nothing that’s too crazy.

And so what it is is that well, you can go to their clinics if you live near one. I don’t, so I just did a FaceTime call with them. I think you can do Skype as well. And I thought how are they going to really be able to see my hair? But they totally can, they are very well versed in how to do this virtually so you don’t need to worry about it. And you talk to the person, and what I loved was you have this consult call and they promise their guarantee is that they will not offer to help you unless they are very confident that their product will actually work. So you’re not going to get somebody who’s just like, yeah, totally, let’s try it and deep down they’re like, this is never going to work for this person. So I did like that they had that as their forward facing going message that this is something that we’re only going to offer to you if we think it will help.

So I explained everything that was going on, how I’ve had periods of hair loss for all different reasons, different trauma to my body. Always when I had a baby, losing weight, I lost some hair, I’ve had some ferritin issues, just all the different things and I just could not get my hair to really start growing back then I felt like it was just thinning all over, but particularly in the temples and the little triangles on the side. It was just always in stages of falling out. And the woman that I worked with was like, absolutely we can totally help you. She explained the whole process and I remember her showing me some pictures of this woman’s transformation. I think it was either eight months or a year that she had been using the product. And she showed me what her head looked like before and after using it and then she said, and these are typical results. And I was like, wait, come again, because you know how usually when people show you things it’s like results not typical.

That’s usually what people are offering and in this case she was saying no, these results are typical. And I thought well heck if that’s typical, I’m for sure signing up because that’s amazing. And I’ve never been someone who has been very blessed from the hair front, but for sure it used to be better than it was. So what it is, is that they custom blend based on what’s going on for you, they custom blend these basically, it’s like this liquid that you get and you get a different one every month and they have a whole process, they’re all numbered. So right now I’m on month five and so when I’m finished with this, I don’t move to seven I move to six, right, and you finish the whole month before you move on to the next one. And for a woman, you draw perform Ls and you have a little applicator tip and you basically apply it to your scalp. She had described it to me as putting it where a baseball cap covers your head, so all in those areas.

You put it all in there and then you massage it in and then you let it dry, which takes about 30 minutes and then you do it one more time, so form Ls again. Now some of you are going to be like, are you kidding me? You do that every night? And the answer that I have for you is yes, I am not kidding you. I do that every night. And so here’s the deal, I was like, well, I’m going to go all in on this and I am really going to work on making sure that this fits into my schedule so that I can see if this stuff is really working and if it’s not working then I’m totally going to stop of course. But even after a month I started seeing all these little baby hairs coming and I was like, Oh my gosh, this is working, I’m totally going to keep doing this. So now I’ve built it into my schedule where I put the kids to bed and right away I go put the first dose on.

Or sometimes even right after dinner I go upstairs and make sure I get the first dose on so that’s dry because then of course you could put the second one on and go straight to bed. So there are some elements where you have to work it in. If you work an overnight schedule or things are a little different in terms of that, I’m sure you could talk to them about how they would suggest that you apply it to make that work for you. And then they suggest that you use their shampoo and conditioner and that kind of thing. And so they recommend ones that they think you should use based on what your scalp is like and what your hair is like. And then they actually request that you wash your hair every day, which is very different than what so many different hair specialty people are talking about.

People are like, it’s so bad for your hair to wash it all the time, they’re like, no, you have to prep your scalp to be able to actually take in the product. And so even that has sometimes been like, Oh man, I can’t even skip a day. But I really do try to make sure that I get a shower every day and I am telling you what, I mean, it is remarkable what is happening on my head right now. I can’t even really believe it, it’s so amazing. My hair is growing back and it’s growing back like normal hair. Not like these little baby hairs, although it did start as that at first but it’s definitely coming back. I mean it really looks as dense as it would have probably looked when I was a child, it really is that remarkable. And so my husband started using it too and I mean he’s had some missing hair for quite some time and it’s totally growing back on his head too. Like really seriously, Oh my gosh, it’s coming back, I can’t believe it.

So this is without surgery, without plugs, without all kinds of things that you have to make sure that you’re like, don’t touch your children after, anything crazy like that. And so I do want you to know, I didn’t mention like I get no kickback on this at all. Okay, they don’t even know I exist except for being a client. So just so you know, it’s not like I’m an affiliate or anything like that, but I do want to let you know, just if you’re somebody who struggled with this, if you’re somebody who’s struggling as you’re entering into menopause or post-menopausal with a lot of hair thinning and it’s a problem for you, there are solutions and I would highly recommend that you check this one out. So the way you spell it is a little different, but I do think that if you Google it, anything like remotely close, it will still come up. It’s still a Google smart and it knows, but it’s spelled H-A-R-K-L-I-N-N-I-K-K-E-N.com Heart Clinic.

And so it’s basically like, if you thought about being Danish, right? It’s like hair clinic except you changed around a little bit. So H-A-R-K-L-I-N-N-I-K-K-E-N.com. For sure check it out, I’m telling you what, I wish someone had told me about this years ago. I just am a devoted fan now and I wanted you to know. Oh, also I believe that if you decide to sign up with them and you mention that you heard about it for me, I might get a free shampoo or something. So you also don’t have to do that, but if you want to pay it forward, you’re welcome to do that as well. Okay. Now, what we’re going to talk about is COVID-19 I think this is very timely. This is something that I’ve been getting tons and tons of calls and emails and texts about and I’m sure that you are too. And I wanted to just talk with you about how I’m approaching this, how I’m coaching my clients about it and how I’m talking to my friends and family members who are not physicians about it as well, so of course the coronavirus.

So a couple things have come up for us now, I think that we as physicians in general don’t get as worked up about things as the general public for the most part. Usually like the general public is worried about some issue and we’re like, well, hold on, let me look at the data. Okay. I feel like I’m pretty dialed in on what’s going on here and finger on the pulse and I can look at everything with clear judgment to decide what I think about it. But what I’ve been noticing is that there’s such a hubbub about this and there’s such relative panic in many communities about it, that it’s starting to affect even the physicians. And then there’s some other thoughts about like how much are we really at, how vulnerable are we? How much of a threat really is there to us in taking care of patients who have this are being around people who have it. So I just want to talk to you a little bit about different ways of thinking about it.

And I do want to point out that first things first, what you have to recognize is that the existence of COVID-19 of coronavirus is a neutral fact. Okay? It is a circumstance, it exists, okay, this is not good or bad, it just is. And then we get to decide what we want to make it mean. Now what the media outlets are doing is they’re making it mean that something really horrible is going to happen. And our brains are wired from way back to pay attention to when there is a threat. Now, the other thing you have to remember is that media outlets are paid by the number of eyeballs and ears that hear, by the number of eyeballs that land on their materials, right? How many clicks they get, how long people are watching videos? That is how they get paid. So when they can take advantage of people’s fear and worry and panic, they make more money. Now, I’m not saying that this is like a conspiracy thing or anything, but 100% is how it works. It’s just what the industry is like and so you have to take that into consideration.

They are going to try to get you very concerned so that you keep coming back to get more information from them because then they get paid more. Now, I am not saying that every journalist out there is like a money hungry, horrible person, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But every industry has a way that they get paid money and that is how the journalism industry gets paid, it’s just how it is, right? And so of course journalists are trying to offer good information, but it’s also designed to take advantage of that part of our brains that is very concerned about safety and very concerned about avoiding a threat. And they know exactly how to play on that, similarly to how the food manufacturers know exactly how to light our taste buds up so that our brains are releasing tons of dopamine and our reward centers in our brains are totally lit up and then we go back and want to eat a lot more of that food. The news industry knows how to do the same thing so that we keep coming back and keep coming back and keep coming back.

We’re rewarded for getting more information and then we tell ourselves that we’re safer or something is better like we’re avoiding the threat in some way because we have more information. Of course, so much of the information that we get is what we’ve already heard or is inaccurate and it’s just filler, right? It just fills up space on webpages and space on television stations and what we listen to. So I want you to know that it is 100% possible for you to decide how you want to think about the existence of COVID-19 and you can 100% decide how you want to feel about it. Now, what I am hearing a lot of is people feeling panicked and remember that it’s not the virus that’s making you feel panicked, it’s always your thoughts about it. So when you think this is going to get me, we’re all going to get sick and die and you feel panicked, that’s because of the thought that you have. Now, it’s also possible that you’re going to be completely healthy, but your brain’s like, no, but looking at the news and hearing everybody talk, I think the threat is really serious.

And so I do want to just mention that when you’re getting information about maybe best ways to prevent getting, contracting this virus, of course, it’s helpful, it’s useful to you. Understanding proper hand washing technique, understanding whether hand sanitizer works to kill it or if it doesn’t. Understanding best practices for when you should be around people or not, if you should be using a mask or not. All that information is very useful but if you take that information and then spin a whole story about how worrisome it is, then it creates a lot of negative emotion for you and that negative emotion is optional. I just want to make sure that you recognize that you don’t have to think about it the way most other people are thinking about it. You are welcome to, but I want you in that case to own the fact that you’re creating the negative emotion, you’re creating the fear and the worry and the anxiety because of the way you’re thinking, not because of what number of people are hospitalized or in isolation or might possibly have COVID-19, okay, it’s all in the way that you’re thinking.

I recently coached a client who was taking, because she’s in the epicenter of everything, she was taking care of patients who have it and she was feeling really anxious and guilty and her main thoughts were, I’m in harm’s way, right? So she feels very anxious. Well, I find that so interesting because anytime we take care of another patient who has some sort of contagious illness that requires isolation, we aren’t typically thinking, I’m in harm’s way, right? We do the things we need to do to gown up and mask up and glove up and do all the things that we need to do as required, and we just walk in there, but we don’t think I’m in harms way. Right? We’re thinking something different so we feel differently. But it’s interesting that when the circumstance is COVID-19, because of the hysteria that so many people are experiencing, then we are thinking that there is this higher risk that we’re putting ourselves in harm’s way, which makes us very anxious.

She also had a lot of thoughts that she didn’t want to take care of this person and that she felt really guilty because she was thinking that she’s putting herself at risk, she was potentially putting her family at risk. And even though she knew that she’s healthy, her family’s healthy, that they likely, if they contracted coronavirus they would be completely fine, she still was feeling bad that she wasn’t basically going against what she thought a doctor should be thinking. Like a doctor should be very committed and dedicated to helping this person who is sick and suffering and instead she’s going like, I want to run, I want to get out of here. And then she was feeling so guilty about having that thought. And so what she was finding herself doing was isolating herself, trying to change the circumstance, get away from all the people, the ones who were talking about everything and the ones who actually have coronavirus and just wanting to hide and not wanting to do anything. And that’s also changing the circumstance, right?

There’s a patient I’m supposed to take care of that as coronavirus. Well, that’s the circumstance, that’s a neutral fact. Of course, there are so many things you can do to prevent the transmission of it to you and that’s what we do. Right? So she also has the option, let’s just say for instance, that she was on chemotherapy and immunocompromised. Then we could all argue that she would have a really good reason to say, hey, I’m at much higher risk than the average person even with isolation procedures I would like to not take care of these patients. And she could lobby and advocate for herself within our organization to be able to do that. But of course, when you don’t have that situation, you can choose to think whatever you want. So what I offered to her was, right now you’re safe, right now you don’t have coronavirus and you’re healthy and your family’s healthy, and so why not walk into the patient room all gowned and gloved up and everything and believe I’m totally safe. I’m totally able to prevent the transmission of this to myself.

Because here’s the thing, it’s just as possible, it’s actually probably even more possible, but it’s just as possible that that’s true and that she’s safe and avoiding transmission of it as it is true that she’s putting herself in harm’s way and that she might contract it. I would argue that she’s less likely because she is doing, she’s aware and doing everything she can to wash afterward and be very careful with what she touches and things like that. But that is also possible, it’s just not going to come to you naturally because your brain again is perceiving this threat and is like, hey, let’s think about the threat and talk about the threat and worry about the threat. But don’t forget the Eckhart Tolle quote, that worry pretends to be necessary. You worrying about getting coronavirus is not going to prevent you from getting coronavirus. It won’t prevent your family members or your loved ones or your patients even from getting it. Okay. Worry will not create anything good for you, it’s an indulgent emotion, just like guilt is, right.

She feels bad that she’s putting her children potentially at risk, but I would argue if they’re going to school, they’re in way higher risk, right? Or daycare or something like that. So it’s really important in a situation like this where there is some new outbreak that you manage your mind, most of the people around you are not going to manage their minds. Okay. Even saying, well, we have a lot of unknowns and it’s scary, that is a thought, having unknowns is not scary. It’s the fact that you believe that having unknowns means that there’s bad things we don’t know yet. It could be that the unknowns are that there are a lot of good things that we don’t know yet. Do you get to decide? So if you want to feel scared then you can believe that we have a lot of unknowns and that’s a bad thing and then feel scared. I would argue, why would you choose that when it’s not required?

You can also decide, I know how to take care of myself and I’m not worried. This is what I’ve been telling so many of the people that I know, I’m like, listen, I was a professional in not getting sick while I was up close and personal with person after person, after person who was contagious and very ill. And children don’t turn their head when they cough. Right? There’s very often times I was checking a baby’s ears and they would just turn and literally sneeze snot all over me, they just do whatever it is that they need to do. And I almost never ever got sick. And the way that I didn’t get sick was I had a couple of basic principles that I always adhered to and if I did get sick, I could always trace it back to a time when I didn’t adhere to one of my principles. So I’m going to share with you what those are and there’s just a few.

So of course you’re washing your hands before and after every patient, we used hand sanitizer, but I never ever touched my face or mouth with my hands unless I had washed with soap and water. Hand sanitizer was not good enough, soap and water. I did not eat unless I’d washed my hands with soap and water. It actually really helps you to not snack when this is your role. And then if possible, I would eat with utensils, even if my hands were clean, I would try to eat with utensils. I mean some food you just don’t, you’re not going to eat chips with utensils. Of course, you shouldn’t be eating chips that was back in the day when I ate chips. But you get the point that using utensils is very helpful because again, it’s just more distance between your hands and your mouth. And it worked like a charm, so there’s really, even thinking about flying, people are so worried about flying, but it’s not like you have to think about how contagion works. It’s not like there’s these viral particles that are just invading you, chasing you down in a cloud.

If you’re using basic sanitation principles and being smart about it, could you get it? Of course, but the chances are very low. It’s way higher that you’re going to have a problem if you don’t wash your hands properly. And even then, right, it’s going to be okay. And so then I just choose to believe again, because we are lucky enough to not have anybody who is severely immunocompromised or has any kind of longstanding pulmonary, respiratory issues or cardiac issues or anything like that. We can really look at it like, you know what? If we do get it, we’re going to be okay. It’s going to be fine and we’re going to feel bad and we’re going to get through it. Just like when you get influenza. And again, I just do want to reiterate, if you have someone in your home who does fall into one of those categories, you probably have to think about it differently.

But I do want to offer to you that even if you do have those people in your life, you don’t have to feel panicked or anxious or worried or obsessed with the news, or trying to convince your family members to not travel or anything like that. You really can decide to feel and think however you want to about this. Okay, so I know that there’s also a lot of you out there who are like, yeah, I’m not really worried about that, but let me tell you the influx of people in my clinic to be seen who are worried about it is my real problem. And of course then we want to manage our thinking about them as well. They are also, their human brains are also at the effect of the messages that the news media is sending out. They are not aware that their thoughts create their feelings, that COVID-19 is neutral and is a circumstance. So of course they’re feeling very scared and nervous and they want to be seen.

And as physicians, that’s one of the best things that we can do is offer them reassurance and help them to know what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate in terms of who they’re around and maybe newborn babies or things like that. So I do just want you to know that this is something, this is one of those times where it’s such a good example of how well are you managing your mind. How skilled are you at really keeping your brain in check? I know many of you think like, Oh yeah, I totally do models, I totally I’m able to manage my brain, I totally got it covered, and then something like this comes up and how are you handling it? If you’ve really been struggling, this is a good opportunity for you to double down on your thought work and really recognizing how you are creating your experience with the way that you’re thinking. This is the best news ever, you don’t have to have this horrible, fearful, panicky experience of having this virus out in your communities, in your hospital, in your office or anything like that. Okay?

It really is optional and it’s the best news that I can offer you. All right, I can’t wait to have you join me on my upcoming training. Again, Thursday, March 19th at 8:30 PM Eastern, 5:30 PM Pacific and we’re going to talk about how to lose the weight for the last time. I’m going to give you all my secrets, you can ask me all your questions. Can’t wait to talk to you then and have a wonderful rest of your week. Bye. Did you know that you can find a lot more help from me on my website? Go to katrinaubellmd.com and click on free resources.


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