“The central task of a psychologist is to help people live with uncertainty.”
This line from Dr Sarb Johal’s new book, Steady, struck me and immediately pulled me in. Indeed, in the duration of this pandemic, this has been our job as psychologists—trying to help the community deal with the uncertainty brought about by the novel circumstances surrounding the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In this book, Dr Johal poured his years of clinical and research experience and his scientific knowledge in disaster mental health into a concise but very informative book that I wish I had when this pandemic began.
This book is like a pocket pandemic/disaster psychologist. It is very comprehensive; it tackles a wide range of issues and problems of living that people experienced (or in many cases, continue to experience) during the pandemic. It addresses various concerns, from effective parenting during a lockdown to dealing with pandemic-related conspiracy theories, from coronavirus fatigue to existential anxiety. The book presents a general framework that individuals can personalise and contextualise to suit their specific circumstances. However, what I also found to be particularly useful are the specific tips and structured activities and exercises that the reader may follow. This may be particularly helpful when one does not know where or how to begin dealing with the overwhelming experiences associated with COVID-19.
Steady talks to you like how a disaster clinical psychologist would. Reading it is therapeutic for several reasons. First, it touches on the real experiences of individuals during this global crisis. It talks about the joys, pain, and suffering of people during these difficult times without being patronising. While it is grounded on human experiences, it also diligently backs claims and recommendations with science. Dare I say, it is a masterclass in science communication as well: it tells you what the evidence currently suggests and what the limits of our current evidence are. In other words, it also helps individuals be comfortable with the uncertainty in science. Needless to say, this book is informative without being overwhelming or intimidating.
Overall, Steady is a fantastic read for professionals, policy makers, and the general public. It works excellently as a self-help book but at the same time, may even be a brilliant addition to the reference texts of disaster psychology students (and teachers, too). This book provides structure in the face of chaos, but as Dr Johal repeatedly writes, structure should always be accompanied by empathy. This is what his book does. It helps you put in structure in your personal response to the pandemic stress but does so in a very empathic, non-patronising manner. It helps you frame and reframe these experiences in order to reduce psychological distress and optimise opportunities for growth, during and even beyond the pandemic. It is a good guide to being steady.
Buy this book from Amazon.