Resisting the COVID-19 Infodemic

Bigeye’s podcast with Dwight Bain of the Life Works Group, talking about mental resilience during the COVID-19 crisis and how changing our mindsets can help.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: How to combat ‘Pandemic Panic’ and boost personal immunity. Dwight Bain of Life Works Group explains why learning self-care is key to managing stress during the COVID-19 outbreak. Dwight offers practical tips for developing mental resilience – and explains why he believes many organizations will come out of the current situation even stronger. The show notes include links to online resources.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS: fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Today’s show marks the start of our third season of this podcast. When we launched in October of last year, we did so with the intention of reflecting Bigeye’s audience-first approach to marketing strategy. Our editorial plan incorporated stories that reflected emerging consumer behaviors, evolving attitudes towards brands, and regular updates on media consumption. Clearly, a lot has changed in a very short space of time. This past weekend, Pew Research Center reported that Americans are increasingly alarmed by the rapid spread of COVID-19. A majority of people now believe the outbreak poses a major threat to the health of the US population and the nation’s economy. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed by Pew said they or someone in their household has lost their job, suffered a pay cut, or a reduction in work hours because of the novel coronavirus. Here in Central Florida, we see the impact of the continued closure of the theme parks, resort hotels, restaurants, live entertainment, shopping malls, and all the other businesses that normally would be serving the millions of annual visitors to our area. Even for those who don’t have the virus, nor have been affected economically, stay-in-place orders and enforced social distancing have disrupted personal and professional lives – further blurring the lines between home and work. Domestic internet usage has increased thanks to a huge uptick in Zoom calls and video streaming, and traditional TV viewing is way up, especially among younger generations. While practicing social distancing, people are turning to social media as well as old-fashioned phone calls to stay connected with friends and family. To help us navigate these enforced changes in daily routine and learn how to remain resilient in what may be a sustained period of economic uncertainty, our guest this week is Dwight Bain, founder of The Life Works Group, based in Winter Park, Florida. Dwight has guided thousands of people through challenging times as an Author, Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Leadership Coach, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and former Family Law Mediator in clinical practice since 1984. Dwight is a best-selling author on the subject of creating change through his books, blogs, “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” stories as well as being quoted in over 20 books. A trusted media source, Dwight has been quoted by and featured in the Washington Post, New York Times, Orlando Sentinel and radio and television stations across the major networks. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Dwight!

Dwight Bain: Well, thank you Adrian. I’m very happy to be here and as you shared with those numbers, we can tell of course, your listeners can tell, these are very different times. If people are talking about the new normal and I’m calling it a new reality because we’re still in a rapid change cycle and for some people that’s recession. But for other people, I believe it’s not an economic recession as much as an emotional one. There is much to discuss.

Adrian Tennant: Could you tell us a little bit about the Life Works group?

Dwight Bain: This is a counseling agency. I founded almost 40 years ago. We’re a team of individuals, we’re faith-based, dealing with areas of mental health counseling, addressing issues of change, career repurposing, coaching people with communication skills and abilities, helping people develop creative ideas, and taking them to the marketplace. One of our counselors works extensively with the court system. People going through a change in their relationship sometimes after a divorce or custody issues. My focus in working with the community, working with the media is to bring a positive message about emotions and relationships because I believe there’s a lot of bad news, but if we can, we can change the perspective and change the focus. You can find the opportunity in the middle of the crisis.

Adrian Tennant: Now, before COVID-19, what did a typical “day in the life” look like for you?

Dwight Bain: That’s a great question. I work in the office four days a week and then I’m out either writing or speaking a day a week and it would mean a couple of days of clinical work in the area of mental health helping individuals past anxiety, loneliness. Sometimes, people feel overwhelmed because of traumatic episodes in their life. And the good news, things like PTSD, OCD, ADD, and other things that start with initials are completely curable and correctable. There are a number of new brain patterns that we can utilize so that it’s more about life skills and instead of more pills, speaking with corporations, with groups on the area of change, helping people change if it’s more of a mental focus that might be counseling Bates with clinical hospitals and psychiatric facilities, behavioral treatment centers. But if it’s in the area of change toward growth, those are coaching topics. And right now there’s some phenomenal opportunities for people that are paying attention and then have been able to turn off the fear. If we were a visual, I have a little model of a brain here, Adrian and I would show you the prefrontal cortex is the creative center of the brain. And when we’re in a panic, you know, fight or flight routine, that part shuts off because I don’t need to think creatively. When I’m running from the saber tooth tiger, I’m running for my life. I need to be able to utilize every bit of brain power for running and surviving. So we’ve got to calm people down so they don’t stay in that survival mode. Because if you’re in that fear-flight cycle, what happens is you’ll lose the ability to think creatively. You’ll, you’ll either break off connection with your core customers, vendors, and some people it’ll actually turn self-destructive. Their anxiety and panic will turn towards feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. And we’ve already seen that. And that’s why I think conversations like this are so important to let people know that we’re stronger together. We can get through this, but there are some steps that I want to see people taking for themselves, for their families, their staff, so that we get through it stronger together.

Adrian Tennant: Now with the 24/7 news cycle, COVID-19 coverage is immediately available to us all on our screens, our smart speakers. You know, the statistics we’re being presented with are often scary. How can we keep anxiety and negative emotions from spiraling out of control?

Dwight Bain: Adrian, we control our thoughts, get as much of the news media during a national catastrophe. You know, during the terrorist attacks of 9/11, during the economic recession, if people are old enough, they may remember the HIV AIDS crisis in the 1980s… Get as much news as you need about Y2K or some global event, Hurricane Dorian, and then turn the news off. Most of us, unless you work in the news media, most of us are not watching 24 hours a day of news. And so what that means is, unless you were watching that much news before, don’t watch it now. The more you focus, the more you’ll change your mood, right? Our mindset determines our mood. So there’s something I saw posted on social media today that I thought was really good. I don’t really know who the sources are, but it just simply said that during this episode with coronavirus lockdown, if you have not gained a new skill, if you have not learned something new, something powerful, your problem isn’t time – your problem is discipline. And I thought, “that’s a really good idea.” Because for many Americans, they’re shut down for a month. And if we could go on a time machine, Adrian, back 365 days to good old 2019, the number one thing that Americans have said they wanted in surveys the last several years, American said, I want more time. Okay, well now you’ve got more time. And what I’m starting to hear is that people spend a lot of time on Netflix and they spend a lot of time on video games and they spend a lot of time on Facebook catching up with people from high school. I’m not sure how many people have learned how to play the guitar. I’m not sure how many people have been very disciplined about moving forward and gaining a new skill. And for some people, maybe there’s a certification you can pick up. There are things you can do during this period of time to make you better, stronger, faster. That’s a mindset and when you change your mindset, you’ll change your mood. Here’s the other piece, you’ll also find motivation because if I’m learning a new skill, a side hustle, more knowledge, I’m reading the books that I want to read, I’m positioning my company for the future because this economic shutdown will end. This will not go on in perpetuity, but if you, if you finish this season, mentally strong instead of sheltering at home, you’re strengthening at home, you’re skill-building at home, you’ll be positioned to move forward very quickly. I think for many people when the economic shutdown stops, when individuals are able to kind of go back to work, the theme parks open back up. Adrian, I think they’re going to be some people that have gained five pounds and lost 30 days and that troubles me and that’s why I hope that that even now will spark them toward, “I need to use this time to build me, my staff, our company – so that we’re positioned for rapid growth and these rapidly changing times.”

Adrian Tennant: The World Health Organization has referred to coverage of COVID-19 as an Infodemic – highlighting concerns about the accuracy of information and reliability of sources sharing data about the novel Coronavirus across social media. I thought it was interesting, Facebook issued a statement in response saying that they want everyone to have access to credible information and to limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus. Dwight, what sources do you think we should trust at this time?

Dwight Bain: I’m glad you asked me the question because I certainly agree with the idea of information overload. One of the areas that we’re gonna ask people to do is to pay attention to what information do you need right before we even look at a trusted source? And by the way, that would be like – the Centers for Disease Control – or, or Johns Hopkins University. And it’s interesting, some of the spammers, I wish the spammers would work on a vaccine because some of them are quite clever. I almost clicked on a John Hopkins look alike and somebody thankfully was by my screen and said, “that one’s spam!” And I, it was an exact clone look alike. So we’re going to find some trusted news sources, but first Adrian, we’re going to pay attention to what information do you need? You don’t have to continually know what is happening in a part of the world where you don’t do business, don’t have family, have no connections. That information might make you feel very afraid. But it’s not going to make you feel better because you’re going to feel helpless. If there’s one word in the midst of everything that’s occurring that will change your emotional state. It’s the word control. You have to give up control of the things you cannot control. Now that may seem simplistic, but you can’t control the global economy. You can’t control what somebody in the White House says. You can’t control what happens with a disease and a part of the country that you’ve never visited or have no family members, but you can control your mood, your mindset, your attitude. You can control the information that’s coming in. You can control if you didn’t watch television five hours a day before, don’t watch it five hours a day now. Just spend time with your morning rituals and routines. I call those a daily dozen. They’re quite important because a daily dozen is being able to, when you wake up in the morning, first alarm, you get out of bed and you follow some routines, you follow some patterns and those patterns will do something remarkable. It will make you mentally strong and mentally tough. And that means as you go through the day, you go through the day feeling stronger, you go through the day feeling empowered. Instead of feeling weak. I want people to go through their days feeling kind of turbocharged of, “I know we can get through this together. I know what we can do about it.” And that starts with what you’re feeding, not just your body – because we all know we should eat healthy. I want to see people doing that with their mind and their information source. And one of the greatest ways is to simply put a timer on it. If you’re spending five hours a day on Facebook, I would challenge that individual to say, “how is that benefiting you? How is it making you money? How has being on a social media platform for five hours on Pinterest, what does that have to do with your responsibilities?” Because if it’s not helping you Adrian, I believe it’s hurting you.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm – so interesting to hear you talk about the importance of routine. Roughly three out of every four people here in the US are – or soon will be – under instructions to stay indoors as states and localities are trying to curb the spread of the Coronavirus before hospitals are completely overwhelmed. As the pandemic stretches into several weeks, maybe even months, are there any specific coping mechanisms or techniques that you think listeners can use to develop the kind of mental resilience that it’s going to require?

Dwight Bain: Even if you’re completely sheltering in place and you have no opportunity to go outside, I mean I hope that folks could go outside just for sunshine, for the vitamin D content and the vitamin D boost, but you can build routines. Think about Nelson Mandela in a prison cell, being able to just look out of a tiny window, but for 22 years he mentally focused on what his greater purpose was and then when he was released from prison, was able to change apartheid in South Africa. When you look at individuals who have been jailed or blocked or locked into a tiny space, they can come out of it much stronger. It’s a mental game. It’s mental, it’s emotional, psychological, spiritual. To be able to have a quiet time of meditation, a time of prayer to simplify everything in our life. And for me, a lot of that happens through reading, journaling. I’ve been told recently that it is very hard right now to find jigsaw puzzles because mentally it not only passes time, but it mentally keeps you sharp. If you’re doing something passive like watching television or playing a video game that’s passive, it’s not going to make you mentally tough or mentally stronger. People are going to have potentially a month in their homes and some will get weaker and stressed and worried and afraid, and they will create their own problems. Now this gets serious because the more you stay stressed, worried and afraid, the more you weaken your immune system. And the one great thing that you can have short of not being coughed on or sneezed on by someone infected, the greatest thing you can have is a strong immunity. And part of that immunity is mental and psychological. Of course, eat colorful foods and all the things that Dr. Oz talks about, but mentally and psychologically, you can make yourself stronger or weaker based on what you seed your mind. I believe something that Dr. Daniel Amen teaches, if you change your brain, you’ll change your life and people will have an opportunity to do that. And I believe in this type of an environment, we’re going to see some people, they’ll take the challenge, they’re going to read more, they’re going to clean out those closets. They’re going to stay mentally active at home and, and they’re going to help themselves now and likely prevent the onset of early adult dementia and 30 years. Because if you keep your mind strong and focused in this situation, you can stay mentally strong in any situation.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Karen Hidalgo: I’m Karen Hidalgo, Associate Account Manager at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising account professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect with your audience. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Dwight Bain of the Life Works Group about the impact of COVID-19 and coping through the crisis. Well, let’s talk about some of our youngest members of society. With almost all US states closing schools until at least the end of this month, new data from a company called SuperAwesome, which is a kids technology company, shows that many children ages six to 12, spending at least 50% more time in front of screens every day during this pandemic. What can parents do to ensure that their kids’ screen time is beneficial?

Dwight Bain: I like that question because it’s funny, parents who were just screaming six months ago, “get the kids off of screens!” are now in a situation where the schools have said kids have to go back to screens. And so what we can do is to set timers. If a child was at school, there would be science from this timeframe until this timeframe and then we would go on to the next task. It’s going to be important, I believe, for individuals, for parents to be able to not only set timers on some things, but to be able to get up and do stretch exercises. There are ways for us to stay active. Whether you’re six years old or you’re 60 years old, there are things you can do to stay mentally tough, mentally strong, mentally focused. And with parents, the greatest thing that you can do with your children is keep everyone on a schedule. Keep everyone on a routine set, bedtime set. Wake up time for everybody. We have breakfast time, laundry time, folding laundry time. The more we can keep those routines in place, the more we’re gonna prevent, not just cabin fever, but the more that the whole family is working together. And I believe, Adrian, we’re going to see some families come out of this significantly stronger and significantly happier because they learned what families learned during the great depression: they learned how to do life together. They learned how to get through a difficult time together and they learned how to partner together. So it wasn’t just the parents having to be Supermom, Superdad – it was the entire family becoming more resilient in the face of difficulty. And that’s why sometimes after a crisis, we’ll say, “you’ve seen the best in people, you’ve seen the worst in people,” and the worst tends to make the news. But I think we’re going to hear some remarkable stories of stronger families of stronger and new companies doing inventions, things that came out of the 2008 Great Recession changed our new inventions. While people will be doing that as well. If they can get to that creative side of their brain and we get there by calming, deep breathing meditation. The Navy seals teach something called box breathing. It’s very important. You can actually change your pulse. You can change your blood pressure by breathing differently, breathing stronger and breathing in a certain way and your body will actually calm down. You can watch blood pressure go down, resting heart rate go down. It’s very interesting. But the part that I know for, for you and I, and for your listeners, even though we may not ever have a chance to go see the Navy seals, we can learn one of the principles of the Navy seals. And in so doing we can control our next breath with mental focus. And I think as we do that, not only will COVID-19 just be a memory and I don’t know, five years and people say, “Oh yeah, I remember that.” We will get through this. But some people will get through it stronger, focused, resilient and better. And other people, it will just be something that they live through. And, and, and there was no benefit to them other than they survived it. And while survival’s not bad, I think that we can, we can take a crisis and turn it into an opportunity for growth, an opportunity for a family coming together for stronger relationships, for organization, for gaining new skills. There are opportunities, but we do have to be disciplined to put them into place. And some of that starts with a daily routine and a daily schedule.

Adrian Tennant: Dwight, your one of the leading national trainers in the field of community crisis management. I know you’ve helped rebuild stability after national disasters like the Columbine and Sandy hook school shootings, hurricane Katrina, and across the pulse nightclub, terrorist attack here in Orlando. And you also worked with a team helping first responders in New York city after the terrorist attacks of nine 11 in 2001 in what kinds of ways are the impacts of covert 19 similar or dissimilar from those situations?

Dwight Bain: Mmm, that’s a great, great question because the, the difference in this situation is we are still spiraling down with the terrorist attacks of nine 11. It was limited to Washington, DC, one area of Pennsylvania and New York city. When we look at Hurricane Dorian, Hurricane Irma, it’s geographically limited. Some of the wildfires we saw in California several years ago that just decimated thousands of homes. It’s geographically limited. And so in this situation, Adrian, we’re also seeing some geographic limitations. Some cities like New York City, New Orleans, Miami, Seattle, I mean, just at a catastrophic level of need for quarantine because the disease is just highly contagious and running rampant. Then you have other parts of the country, North Dakota is not as affected. And so the differences here is those were events over a period of days or even with 9/11, it was a day. And this one has gone on for weeks and is projected to go on for months. And so what we have are some of the similar dynamics of the cycle of pre crisis crisis and the crisis recovery, except right now the crisis is extenuating. We’re on day 20 and some cities day 30 in some cities, some parts of the Pacific Northwest, here in Florida where I live and where we’re recording, you know, we’re on a community lockdown, a statewide lockdown that’s projected for another 30 days. And so what happens is that the crisis exposes things that were there before, but that were either overlooked or people didn’t want to deal with. For instance, an example would be a relationship problem. If people are in a strong relationship, obviously they’ll come through this much better. But people are in a distant relationship, a struggling marriage, maybe there was a lot of tension in their home. This is going to expose those problems. And sadly for some, I’m afraid that it will escalate. And here’s the number one rule in a crisis: Don’t make it worse. There’s enough problems. Don’t make it worse. And I think for many people, a hope is that they’re going to hear this and Adrian, they’re going to say, “you know, those guys made sense. I think that I should take some, some steps, build some routines, build some schedules. I think that it’s important for us as a family.” You know what? We need to spend time working on the things that matter to sit down and talk with your family. And there are a number of resources that our team has put together. They’re community crisis recovery – they’re absolutely free. People can go to our website, I’ll give you the PDFs. Please share them with all of your listeners because I know that going through this together, if we talk to each other, we can get through it. If you talk through it, you can get through it. Nobody wants to be in the middle of this. But the good news is that together learning from each other, sharing ideas, being creative, opening up conversations just like this one, we will come out of it. And for many people, many organizations, many families, they will actually come out of this situation stronger. And it’s because of the choices that they made in the middle of the crisis – choices that they’re making right now toward mental wellness and resilience and strength instead of living in fear.

Adrian Tennant: Dwight, thank you very much for being our guest today and for sharing your advice on staying connected, calm and honestly managing the anxieties of our current moment. Really appreciate it.

Dwight Bain: I’m glad to be part of the conversation to bring healing and strength as we all recover better together. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Dwight Bain. You can find our show notes with links to the resources that Dwight mentioned on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” Consider subscribing to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.


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