We’re entering the sixth month of the declared COVID-19 pandemic. And, speaking for myself and my International Foundation colleagues, our sixth month of working from home. For me, personally, it’s my sixth month of social isolation, seeing in person only those people in my “bubble,” with occasional forays to the grocery store and local restaurants for carryout. At work, it’s all about video meetings. I miss seeing my colleagues in the hallways and kitchen of our headquarters building.
If there were ever a time when we need resilience, it’s now.
I recently had the opportunity to listen again to our webcast Resilience in Crisis: Tools for Employers to Help. Dr. Ryan Todd discussed how stress impacts our minds and bodies and shared ways employers can help their workers build resilience skills. There were many key takeaways that I found useful; here are three tied to self-care that really resonated with me.
Identify Your Emotions
Dr. Todd stressed the importance of understanding our top stressors and triggers and how we respond to them both physically and emotionally. If we can identify a stressor and how it makes us feel in time and place, we can identify ways that will work to ease that stress and those emotions.
For example, if the pandemic quarantine is causing the stress of isolation and the emotions of loneliness, fear and/or depression, some ways to combat that are video meetings with colleagues, video chats or game nights with friends and family, forming and getting together with individuals in your bubble, adopting a pet, rediscovering a hobby, taking walks in nature and listening to music you love.
Dr. Todd explained that, in the workplace, managers—and indeed colleagues—can experience this phenomenon, defined as “the physical and emotional exhaustion experienced when engaging with someone in difficulty.” Of course, this happens outside the workplace as well. Dr Todd offered these three self-care tips to help those of us who provide assistance or even just an ear:
- “Stay on your side of the river”: He reminded us that we are not going through everything experienced by the person who has turned to us for assistance. We must be present and kind. At the same time, for our own well-being, we need to keep some boundaries to create a little emotional distance.
- More discipline with the basics: He urged us to take better physical care of ourselves and to keep to a schedule. This includes eating healthy meals, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.
- Lean on your “personal board of directors”: He asked us to figure out whom we can trust and rely on. It may be many or a few; it may be friends, family members, neighbors and/or colleagues. But know who they are, and make sure to reach out to them when you need someone to talk to.
What happens if a colleague comes to you with a problem? Dr. Todd explained how to have an easy and effective two-way conversation when someone is reaching out for help.
- Create time and space: Make sure to set aside an appropriate length of time and have the conversation in an appropriate place. For example, don’t have this conversation in a hallway where you can be interrupted. Move into an empty conference room or, in this virtual environment, use a video chat feature.
- Attend: Pay attention and listen; don’t try to fix anything. Validate their concerns and emotions by saying things like “That sounds very difficult” or “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
- Respond and refer: Work with the person to plan next steps. Say something like, “Thank you for coming to me. If things don’t get better, where can we go from here?” Make a plan to refer this person to your EAP or to a professional counselor or advisor.
- Earmark time for followup: Make sure to arrange to speak again the next day, week or month, as appropriate.
For more resilience tips from Dr. Todd, check out the webcast.
The Foundation has a wide variety of helpful resources on mental well-being in light of COVID-19, spanning blog posts, podcast episodes, videos and webcasts.
And check out our upcoming virtual conference, Mental Health Impact of COVID-19 on Workers and Their Families, September 15-18. Topics to be covered include access to care, addressing issues at work, cultural influences, caregiving and grief.
In these uncertain times, stay well.
Julie Stich, CEBS
Vice President, Content, at the International Foundation
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