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Leadership/Management

Book Review: Super-Charge Your Stress Management in the Age of COVID-19

As I was reading pages 22–25 of Super-Charge Your Stress Management in the Age of COVID-19, I thought, Wow, that’s the most EMS-friendly explanation of the brain I’ve ever seen. I also thought, Wow, I wish I could write like that, but let’s not dwell on my inadequacies. Let’s talk about why I think you should buy, borrow, or bid on a copy of this self-described “handbook for emergency services and healthcare professionals” by Mike Taigman and Sascha Liebowitz.

The Taigman-Liebowitz Pedigree

The first medical book I bought as a new paramedic in 1995 was Taigman’s Advanced Cardiology (In Plain English). The plain English part closed the deal for me and is what I anticipate from anything Taigman publishes.

What I didn’t expect from a Taigman production is Liebowitz’s psychic connection. Her whimsical, entertaining blog suggests why Mike and his wife shared this project. I have no way of knowing who contributed what to their handbook (Taigman modestly credits Liebowitz with the writing chops in the family), but I’d guess they’re equally responsible for the folksy, informative style I suspect so many of you will enjoy.

Payback

In a perfect world every book we read would make us feel we’d gotten more out of it than we put into it. Super-Charge Your Stress Management checked off that box for me by page 30 of 104 with a science-behind-the-stress summary that isn’t just a rehash of medic school. By then, SCYSM had already hinted at its worth with a comparison of explicit versus implicit memory, a chapter on crisis rehearsal (a habit I adopted long ago), and the review of brain A&P I mentioned above.

Here are other topics I found engaging:

  • Eat, move, sleep—Those are three…uh, two of my favorite things. Movement is more of a challenge these days, thanks to my high-mileage back.
  • Tactical breathing—I tried a different version of that regimen a few months ago. For some reason Taigman’s and Liebowitz’s approach works better for me.
  • GRACE (grounding, relaxing, becoming aware, centering, energize)—I was doing some of those exercises in the privacy of my home office when I realized privacy in one’s home office is a myth. I did manage to wiggle my toes in the prescribed manner before the cat clawed them.
  • Turning fear into excitement—This part of the book validated one of my longstanding practices. As a paramedic student, I had some success converting nervousness to anger. I’m not talking about “Somebody call 9-1-1!” anger; just determination to show strident preceptors I could manage whatever onerous tasks they dreamed up.
  • Can I/will I—This is a lesson about picking which battles to fight. I can’t imagine a subject more relevant to EMS.
  • Scheduling worry time—If only…
  • Leading others toward less stress—Is there a more noble goal than this? I don’t think so. Could we use a national initiative along these lines? Absolutely.

Not Just About Coronavirus

Although COVID-19 is part of the title, the book is more of a minicourse on handling generic stress. There’s even a final exam. I doubt the authors planned it as such, and I don’t want to give it away, so let’s just say if you handle “surprise” as well as Sascha did on page 60, you have mad coping skills.

Speaking of coping skills, I would have liked to see a discussion of the native kind versus learned ones, but that can wait for a sequel. Meanwhile, there’s plenty to like about Super-Charge Your Stress Management in the Age of COVID-19. I’m keeping my copy close.

Mike Rubin is a paramedic in Nashville and a member of EMS World’s editorial advisory board. Contact him at mgr22@prodigy.net.

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