Mental Health Tips from Dr. Rob
At last week’s Leaders Connect Zoom Breakfast we had an enthusiastic crowd of over 75 leaders participating in a presentation on “Maintaining Positive Mental Health During the Time of Coronavirus”. In the blog today, I am including the summary of the ideas from some the presenters and participants. I think you will find the suggestions useful as we continue to deal with the stress of this crisis.
Throughout this continuing crisis, I’m trying to provide programming designed to help you cope and lead to the best of your abilities. I am also available for individual consultation at Rob@robpasick.com. Furthermore, I am eager to hear any suggestions you have for additional services I could provide through Leaders Connect.
Here are two additional programs that are scheduled for this week:
On Tuesday April 21 Professor Elliot Soloway, co-director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Digital Curricula, and his colleagues will present on how they are effectively supporting our teachers and children transitioning to teaching and learning at home – digitally. Professor Soloway is one of the world’s leading experts on digitizing the classroom. He will present on a platform to help deliver education material to elementary school students and others. You can get your ticket HERE.
On Friday, April 24 I will host a presentation on Embracing the Opportunity: Leading During the Time of Coronavirus. Presenters will include Dr. Bob Merion, David Haviland, and Kim Stricker. You will be receiving an invitation to this event tomorrow.
Here are the suggestions for maintaining positive mental health:
JOSEPHINE JOHNSON Clinical Psychologist
In some ways COVID 19 has become a great global opportunity to recalibrate our lives. As with all major shifts in life there is concomitant stress. Here are some things you can do to mitigate stress:
CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE: A negative attitude make healthy coping more difficult. Be mindful of the words you use. Catastrophic words like “horrible”, “terrible”, “disastrous” exacerbate feeling of sadness, anger, or fear. Challenge your negative feelings. Amp up your practices of expressing gratitude. Don’t focus only on what is missing—attend to all that you have. Meditation or deep breathing and praying.”
EXERCISE: Take a walk: Stanford researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat. A person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking. A person walking indoors – on a treadmill in a room facing a blank wall – or walking outdoors in the fresh air produced twice as many creative responses compared to a person sitting down. Consider having a walking meeting with your staff, even with the 6-foot distancing. (Steve Jobs was known for his walking meetings)
UNPLUG: Go on a media diet. Limit your intake of news. (Media blood type is “B negative”). Even though we have to rely more on telecommunications, allot a certain amount of screen time. Eyestrain is real.
COME INTO THE PRESENT: Oversimplifying—anxiety comes from trying to live in the future, depression from living in the past. If you are feeling particularly stressed, engage your senses to get out of your mind and into the present moment. Identify:
5 things you can see; 4 things you can hear; 3 things you can touch; 2 things you can smell; 1 good feeling you can remember or one small thing you can do to positively impact your situation.
Then breathe deeply. (Breathe in on a count of 6 and out on a count of 6)
REMEMBER YOU: Do something for yourself.
- Take a virtual class.
- Listen to music (try the music you liked as a teen).
- Find a new hobby.
- Make a schedule to stay active with things you enjoy like reading a book.
- Access your spiritual resources.
CELEBRATE small accomplishments. (I organized my closet)
- Be patient with yourself.
- Be kind.
- Know everyone is struggling, and together we will get through it.”
HUMOR: As they say, it is “the best medicine”. Find something to laugh about every day–maybe even yourself! There is so much creative funny stuff being shared these days—cartoons, musical parodies, jokes, puns, and tweets. Here’s your start:
Coping with the changes going on today make me wonder if I “need a frontal lobotomy or a bottle in front o’ me!”
State of MI has launched a statewide, peer-run warm line for Michiganders living with persistent mental health conditions during COVID 7 days a week from 10-2, 888-PEER-753 (888-733-7753)—It helps people living with persistent mental health challenges including anxiety, depression, and trauma.
Disaster Distress Helpline: 800-985-5990
Suicide Prevention: 800-273-8255
A great book is being written. Think about your page in the story.
- What would you have written on the pages of time?
- What did you discover about yourself?
- What did you discover about other people?
- What new skill did you learn?
SYLVIA VAN MEERTEN Psychotherapist and Coach (email@example.com)
Ideas for personal coping during a stressful time:
- Use the “3 M’s” to change your mood or help someone else change their mood. The 3 M’s are: Move (walk, stretch, exercise), Make (art, music, food, reorganize, decorate…) and Meet (talk to someone you like on the phone, zoom etc.).
- Acknowledge your fears, anxiety, depression and notice the early signs of them – Do you get irritable? Retreat? Resort to vices? Forgive yourself. There may not be a really pretty way to do a difficult thing.
Ideas for Leaders:
- Let your team tell you their stories. Many leaders are doing a good job communicating down the org chart, but not doing a great job listening. Even 90 additional seconds of listening can make a big difference. You don’t have to fix everything, just listen calmly and acknowledge what people are going through. The returns on those 90 seconds will astound you.
- Slow down in your own head. Build in a tiny pause between your thoughts and your actions and you will be able to access your compassion. This will allow you to communicate in a way that is better-received.
- Show extra appreciation to your team. This is not the time to put “Meets Expectations” on a review. Many people (including your loyal C-Suite execs) are working much harder than usual, and making sacrifices in their family. If you aren’t actively showing how much you value them, they probably resent the lack of acknowledgment.
- Get a coach or a therapist if you don’t have one. This is a complicated time and having someone to talk it out with can be invaluable.
DOUGLAS LYON Founder and Chairman of Lyon Software
The focus of the panel seemed to be the challenges of working at home, professional and personal. There were some interesting thoughts that I wanted to share, in case any of them resonate at all for you. Randomly, in no particular order or grouping, here are my personal take-aways:
- Exercise a lot.
- When we get back to working in the office, try occasional “walking meetings” (in addition to our walking for health walks).
- When choosing our words to make a point, try to never “catastrophize” (her word), e.g., limited use of: destroyed; decimated; worst possible outcome; unbelievably horrific; etc.
- “Missing Tile” allegory – when you walk into a room with one ceiling tile missing, try hard to focus on the rest of the ceiling, the perfect part.
- Don’t yell at your daughter when she tries to help by putting dishes in the dishwasher, but not the way you would. Never say “why are you doing it that way?”. (There’s a lesson there for all of us as we supervise.)
- Keep a daily journal. It may help with combating your boredom/loneliness, and it may prove interesting to you or your kids, years later.
- Take breaks every 1 to 2 hours at home.
DEVEAUX GAUGER Creative Improvement and Sustainable Planning Coordinator
- Focus on what I can control and let go of what I can’t. Good practice in “normal” times, but critical right now. I don’t watch news on tv, and stay away from most sources. The few that I do, try to think critically to sift through all the hype and do my best to process the facts at the time and apply that to everyday living.
- Be thankful that I still have a job. That may change, but for now I’m good. Working remote and doing all the adjustments are a blessing, not an inconvenience. If this had happened a decade ago, few people would have been able to make the adjustment, and it wouldn’t have been seamless. 2 decades ago, it would have been impossible. We’re extremely fortunate for the technology and resources to provide the flexibility to keep it going.
- Thankful that I work for people of strong character and are doing their best to look out for everyone. I had to jump off the conversation as we had to furlough 11 people, which is around 20% of our company. We did our best to balance the needs of the company, the needs of employees, all against the reality of significantly reduced cash flow. Depending on how long this goes, may be another round, or that in conjunction with salary cuts. Nearly everyone furloughed understood as we have been transparent on the financials. The business can’t currently support everyone. We reinforced that this is a temporary furlough, that they retain their benefits, and everyone will be recalled when things pick up.
- Taking care of myself so I can take care of others both personally and professionally. Key part of making that work is establishing a routine, and a key part of my routine is fitness. So, I still get up at 5am and do a heavy workout 3 times a week, and then yoga 3 times a week, sometimes 4. All using online resources (and I’ve found some incredible free fitness and yoga sites!). Plus, daily walks with my wife that are usually around an hour. Then focus on work when I’m working. Being a good leader because I’ve built a foundation where I’m stable and can serve others that need help. The people we lead need to see stability and confidence so they aren’t freaked out. Trying to find a balance of hope and reality. This seems to be working. We’ve always cooked most of the time, so this isn’t a big adjustment. Trying new recipes. Then for me, it’s allocating plenty of time for music and other creative pursuits. It helps keep the mind focused and is a pleasurable routine.
- Check in with people you know. For me, it’s a mix of personal and professional. Since we’re all remote at work, I call people in other departments to see how they’re doing. Not specific to work, but just saying “hi” and genuinely seeing how they’re doing. With so much isolation, people are longing to connect, so it’s a good way to listen to someone and share common challenges. Same goes for personal relationships. I called a friend I would normally see at the Y several times a week. He was so thankful that I reached out with a phone call. He’d been communicating with others via email, but was glad that I called. These types of conversations have been extremely valuable.
And here are a few more mental health tips from my wife, Dr. Patricia Pasick
- Remind yourself daily of ways you’ve positively coped in other situations.
- Avoid an obsession with the news; check at regular intervals, but not just because you feel anxious.
- Manage anxiety through activities such as mindfulness, meditation, cognitive coping (stave off unwanted thoughts and substitute positivity), and breathing exercises. Headspace and Calm are both good apps to use.
- Avoid common thinking traps. Catastrophizing takes us to the worst-case scenario in a given situation, and overgeneralizing makes us think that terrible outcomes are much more likely to occur. Ask yourself, “Is this thought based in fact, and is it helpful to me right now?”
- Keep to regular routines, even if you have to make adjustments as the news changes. Make a daily plan, and include soothing, fun, or distracting activities.
- Stay with at-home hobbies. Working, puzzles, reading, listening to books, organizing your music, playing instruments; creative endeavors are very soothing. So are cleaning and organization projects you’ve been putting off. This is the time to add movies to your television package.
- Remind yourself that this crisis, like all crises, will pass, and life as we know it will return.