The last few weeks have been a challenging time. The uncertainty of not knowing what tomorrow will bring has been difficult for me. The truth is we all like to know what tomorrow will look like. We are wired to make plans and execute them.
I lead a mental health startup and we were in the midst of raising funds and launching our services before the pandemic hit. When COVID-19 first started to garner public attention, I honestly didn’t take it seriously. I am ashamed to admit that because I have a public health background and I have actually mapped the spread of communicable diseases before. I was stubborn because I had big plans and I wanted to execute them.
My sense is that I am not alone. Millions of people are sheltering in place and all of our plans have either been put on hold or modified severely. Early on, I convened our team and asked, “How can we be of service to the community at this time?” I am proud of our team because we quickly adjusted and created a thoughtful response to the pandemic by launching our #CopingWithCOVID19 campaign.
A few days after we coordinated our response, my son – who is 13 years old – missed a virtual class and his school sent me an absentee notice. In my home, we have developed a strong culture of academic accountability and my son quickly went on the defense explaining that the teacher has canceled the class and not communicated it to the administration.
Through his anxiety, I realized that I had made a mistake by asking my kids and my team to continue life as usual without taking time to adjust. I told my son that if he didn’t feel like attending a class, he didn’t have to attend. I have communicated the same thing to my team. We all need to take time to acknowledge the changes we are experiencing and adjust to what is happening around us. WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC.
Again, I sense that I am not alone in initially attempting to carry on as if everything was normal when it is not. Reflecting on this, I want to offer a few tips for getting through these challenging times with more grace.
1. Take time to acknowledge what has changed. I made the mistake of trying to be super productive while sheltering in place. I never acknowledged my anxiety or fear about what was happening. Once I began to admit my fear and anxiety, life became more manageable.
2. Define parameters for your work. It has been too easy to take refuge in my work. The problem is that I never leave it! I have had to make myself draw the lines to preserve my mental health. I treat my work as if I am going to it in the morning and then I leave it when I am done for the day.
3. Double-down on your self-care routine. All of us should have a self-care routine. If you don’t, now is a great time to develop one. Whether it’s a morning meditation, a bubble bath, or working in your yard, find that thing that helps you forget about your responsibilities and do more of it. If you need help, Henry Health is offering free wellness calls to help people make healthy adjustments during this time.
4. Eat and Sleep. When we are restricted to one place, we may struggle with losing our routines. We may want to eat more than we should or binge-watch TV. Planning your meals and meeting your bedtime is a means of preserving your health and mental well-being.
5. Limit your consumption of news. Much of my anxiety and fear has been created by watching too much news. The news is focused on how bad things are and how they might get worse. This creates immediate anxiety and stress. Knowing the facts is healthy but sitting in the bad news is bad. I now limit my news consumption to one hour a day.
It’s unclear when all of this will come to an end. The way we are wired, we will continue to try to find the answers. That may create some anxiety, but if we take good care of ourselves we can emerge out of this period with new ways of living and working. Perhaps the five day work week will be a thing of the past. COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on our way of life and culture. Let’s make sure that the changes are for the best.
Click the hashtag to learn more about our #CopingWithCOVID19 Campaign.
Kevin Dedner is the Founder and CEO of Henry Health Inc.