Finding the good amid the chaos

November 3, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources, ,

On Jan. 1, 2020, the average person could not have predicted the levels of stress that would fall across millions of people this year. From COVID-19, economic difficulties and the charged political climate — culminating in Election Day today — this year has been nothing short of chaotic. 

However, as Jillian Dronfield, LMSW, faculty and staff counselor for the Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience, reflected in a previous episode of the “Short Takes” Reflect & Recharge video series: it may be helpful to compare life’s ups and downs to the ocean.

“When the waves of life become too much, we can find calm beneath the surface,” Dronfield said.

Rediscover inspiration

As the winter season approaches, people will spend more time in their homes than in previous years. 

With less daylight and colder temperatures and, yes, snow on the way, winters are typically rough on mental health. But this year, the effect is likely to be even stronger — as most people are already dealing with the stress caused by the pandemic. 

In the health care industry, it’s also possible that a majority of employees are burned out at work, or very close to it. This is why it’s important to rediscover your inspiration by taking the following steps:

  • Think about your strengths. What are you really good at? 
  • Find a hobby or foster a current passion project. 
  • Carry out burnout breathers as often as possible.
  • Be honest with yourself. Are their parts of you that you want to change?
  • Are you giving yourself grace and encouragement during these difficult times? 
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals for your career? 
  • What is your career purpose? (Remember why you started working in health care in the first place). 

Connect with your colleagues

The days of having coffee by the printer or outside a colleague’s office are a distant memory for some people. And for front-line staff, just having one minute to check in with a colleague to ask how their week is going may now be time spent working. 

However, Michigan Medicine is filled with resilient and innovative faculty and staff. There are other ways to connect with your colleagues during this time of uncertainty: 

  • Schedule a Zoom lunch date.
  • Share memes or articles of encouragement and inspiration.
  • Plan a virtual happy hour for the department or team.
  • Schedule a quick check-in. Ditch the Zoom meeting and opt for an old-fashioned phone call just to say hello. 
  • Offer to help with work projects if you notice someone is overwhelmed.

Calm after the storm

There will come a day when we all will rebuild, breathe, improve and smile. Teams will debrief and create better strategies, departments will adapt to the new ways of working and weight will be lifted off the shoulders of so many of our colleagues.

Until then, there are still ways to find beauty and meaning in everything you do. 

“With a little help, we can find validation, new perspectives and ways to cope from within ourselves,” Dronfield said. She then added another quote, this one from Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., a pioneer in the mindfulness tradition: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”


Resilience through grief and loss 

Coronavirus: How to cope with anxiety and self-isolation VIDEO

This is one in a series of wellness stories to be highlighted in Headlines this week. The first introduced the idea of burnout breathers. Stay tuned throughout the week for more!