ALMOST A YEAR—IT DOESN’T SEEM POSSIBLE that when we were notified in mid-March that schools would close for a few weeks and non-essential businesses would shutter as many of us moved to remote work, that we would be at this point. A few weeks, even a couple of months were what many of us envisioned—no one thought we’d be staring at the one year marker in 2021.
Living through a pandemic wasn’t at the forefront of most of our minds back then. Yet, as we sank deeper and deeper into this throughout the spring, my thoughts returned to the Leadership Empowerment Program I was engaged in with then-Clinton County Health Department Director, Paula Calkins-Lacombe, a dozen years ago.
She invited me to partner with the Department to create and implement a comprehensive Leadership Academy for current as well as up-and-coming leaders. I look around the department now and so many of those people are in the positions of their former bosses as our Baby Boomer generation retires. I learned something from the first module: the History of Public Health and pandemics. What resonated in my mind this past spring was, “We knew this was coming.”
What I have observed throughout this year is the difference among us—those who have been and remain Resistant to dealing with the pandemic and those who have found their Resiliency.
As humans, we have a natural tendency to ‘bounce back’ from many adverse events, but the more adversity we experience, the harder it is for some to tap into that Resiliency. And so much has happened in such a short time. Those of us who have been able to call on our Gratitude skills have remained Hopeful as we remind ourselves of what we can and can’t control.
Here are three daily habits you can begin to use to reduce your Stress and move toward building up your Resiliency.
Set your intention. Before you get out of bed each morning, think about your ‘main theme’ for the day. This puts you in control of your day. Maybe it’s a specific project or perhaps self-care or to be present for your partner or children. This allows you to stay mentally focused. As Brene Brown (researcher. storyteller, New York Times #1 best-selling author, podcaster) has said recently, “By focused on hopefulness, I mean I’m focusing on the things that I can actually influence or change. They feel small sometimes, but, in my experience, a critical mass of small changes makes a big difference.”
Move your body. Schedule 15-30 minutes for physical activity, preferably outdoors. When you’re outside, you feel more optimistic and sunshine can help your release of serotonin giving you a brighter mood, contributing to being more focused and productive when you get back to your desk. Listening to a podcast, a comedy skit or your newest audiobook will allow your mind to relax. Physical exercise also breaks down our stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, by releasing endorphins. You’ll have a ‘glow’ from those endorphins for a while!
Practice gratitude. At the end of your work day as you walk to your car or as you get into bed, specifically think of one or two things for which you are grateful. “I am grateful for this space” may sound trivial, but whether it’s your driver’s seat or your bed, it is like a sanctuary – a space where you can be creative and think. This will help reduce your stress.
Of course, if you have tried these but your stress level still seems high, it is important to reach out for help. The goal is to increase our individual Resiliency throughout this pandemic.
There are a variety of apps which have guided many during this pandemic: Calm, Headspace, Relax Melodies and many more. There are emotional support lines such as NYS Project Hope (nyprojecthope. org) or the Textline 741-741 (type in Got5 to connect with a NYS advisor).
If you have EAS as a workplace benefit, we are always available to schedule an appointment at no charge. There are also other community resources to which you can reach out. You’re not alone.
Don’t be Resistant – Let’s Build Your Resilience!
Bonnie Black is the Director of Employee Assistance Services at Behavioral Health Services North.