Maintain your emotional well-being during COVID-19

March 16, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

As Michigan Medicine continues to provide the highest quality of care to patients and families, the emotional well-being of faculty and staff remains a top priority.

“During times of heightened stress and change, it is natural to experience worry or anxiety,” said Kathleen Robertson, M.S., R.N., director of the Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience (OCWR). “At the same time, we also acknowledge the incredible resilience and coping skills of our Michigan Medicine faculty, staff and community.”

There are several resources at Michigan Medicine available to help faculty and staff navigate the professional and personal stressors related to COVID-19.

“Our dedicated and compassionate faculty and staff are committed to fighting disease each and every day,” Robertson said. “We can find strength in the Michigan Medicine values of caring, teamwork, innovation and integrity by connecting to the powerful work and relationships that sustain us.”

Reacting to stress

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. The emotional impact of an emergency on a person can depend on the person’s characteristics and experiences, the social and economic circumstances of the person and their community, and the availability of local resources. (CDC)

The Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience is open and available to provide support to faculty and staff. As members of the Michigan Medicine community, OCWR recognizes the extraordinary commitment that individuals and teams make to provide healing and hope.

The team offers no-cost counseling for individuals struggling with stress and crisis. Faculty and staff can contact OCWR at 734-763-5409 for information, resources, and brief support services. In addition, OCWR will provide on-site support to work teams.

How to connect during social distancing

One of the most prominent ways individuals are asked to help mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic is to practice social distancing. That means remaining out of places where people meet or gather, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others.

“In times of crisis, many people seek connection and comfort from others,” said Kelcey Stratton, Ph.D., program manager for resilience and well-being services, and a clinical psychologist. “It is important to find creative ways to maintain those connections. We might also find some comfort by remembering that we are not alone, and that we are all in this together to protect the health and well-being of our communities.”

Among the ways to stay social in a time of crisis include:

  • Call a family member, friend or coworker.
  • Send a text message, direct message or email.
  • Use FaceTime or other video formats to communicate.

Compassion and flexibility

Everyone at Michigan Medicine is working hard to protect patients, families, learners and colleagues.

The significant changes to both professional and personal routines require everyone to be more flexible and to consider the interconnectedness of the health and well-being of people everywhere.

“People are working long hours and doing everything they can to make sure our organization provides world-class care in a time of crisis,” said Robertson. “During this time, we recognize that many are also balancing their commitments to family and community.”

Compassionate practices include recognizing the increased stressors and demands on both yourself and your colleagues, and trying to remain flexible and patient with quickly-changing information and guidance. Checking in to connect with colleagues could mean something as simple as waving hello from across the room or asking them how they are doing.

“We can all try to be a little gentler with ourselves and others,” Robertson said. “Empathy goes a long way toward helping everyone maintain strong mental health — and it will keep our team members resilient while managing an unprecedented situation.”

Other tips to increase your resilience

There are several other suggestions OCWR offers that will help protect yourself over the next few weeks or months (or at any time):

  • Take breaks from the news. Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.
  • Focus on what you can control in terms of disease prevention and day-to-day life balance. Keep in mind these guidelines, which you can practice daily. Kirk Brower, M.D., chief wellness officer for Michigan Medicine and professor of psychiatry advised: “Our control resides in taking reasonable precautions and avoiding unnecessary risks. To protect our emotional well-being, we can pay attention to reputable sources of information and adhere to the prevention guidelines of Michigan Medicine, the CDC and the World Health Organization.”
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, meditate. Try to eat relatively well-balanced meals, move your body regularly, get plenty of sleep and limit alcohol and drugs. This will boost your immunity — and your resilience.
  • Remember the things that are going well. Despite the current situation, there are likely things that are going well. Maybe you’re able spend more time with your kids, or reading that book you’ve been meaning to read or learning to cook.

Other resources

Want more information or support? OCWR is available with in-person and remote options, and can help connect you with additional resources. If you would like to talk to a professional counselor, please call 734-763-5409. 

You can also find these external resources that can help you cope:

CDC Mental Health and Coping During COVID

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network Factsheet

Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event

Emergency Responders: Tips for taking care of yourself

Feeling Helpless About the Coronavirus? 10 Things You Can Do

Finally, Michigan Medicine Headlines will continue to provide regular updates on COVID-19.

Thank you for taking steps to mitigate the ongoing situation — and for protecting your health and the health of everyone around you at Michigan Medicine.  

The Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience provides confidential, compassionate, evidence-based counseling, consultation, and debriefing services to all Michigan Medicine faculty and staff. To learn more about our many services and programs, please click here.