Jim Kendall offers recommendations for resilience practices for all employees who are facing stressful situations during COVID-19.
Rosemary Cope: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness wellcast. I am Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections. I'm here today with Jim Kendall, who is the Manager of the Work/Life Connections-EAP. You know, Jim, I've been thinking about the needs of our Vanderbilt employees in this highly-stressful time. Our medical center employees have a strong sense of duty for performing their jobs and may feel guilty if they think they aren't doing enough, they may also be feeling the strain of being isolated from family and friends because of the roles in the hospitals and not wanting to possibly infect someone else, and all of our Vanderbilt faculty may be challenged by things such as remote teaching. Our university, our medical center staff, have to manage facilities to ensure they have been disinfected. Some of our employees on the medical center side and the university side have future worries about will there be a reduction in force. So, self-care for all of our employees is key to balance and resilience. Jim, what kind of behaviors should we practice for good self-care and what behaviors should we avoid?
Jim Kendall: Thanks Rosemary, I think that good self-care during this time means being appropriately informed but not obsessed with the media, and I appreciate that Vanderbilt has an excellent web resource that provides all the evidence-based information that you need, and I use that as my one resource for information. Self-care also means being safe and following the guidelines that we all hear about - hand washing and appropriate protective equipment so that when I'm out in public, I wear a mask, and I try to stay the proper distance from people, and of course, if we notice any symptoms like fever, coughing or sore throat, we get appropriate help. But, you know, practicing our resilient skills and paying attention to healthy lifestyle is within our new reality. We have to do things that allow us to take a little breather from thinking about COVID all the time, so, I think things like mindfulness, and by that, I mean just focusing on the moment, not what might happen, but here and now, and that might be going outside and taking in a little fresh air and appreciating the scenery, appreciating some of the beauty that's out there, and it may be setting boundaries. A lot of times, people ask you questions because you work in a university or hospital, and they are saying, "Well, you know, let's talk about this," and you might be ready to take a breather from that, and so we may need to just say, "You know, let's talk about something else; I need to have a boundary there." Our bodies and minds need a break from that. I guess, the other thing I would say is, that one of the beauties is that we breathe, and tactical breathing can be very powerful when we start to get keyed up. It's just taking that deep breath, thinking, inhaling one, two, three, four, hold for four, and then exhale, and then wait four ... all those things that we have heard about when we talked about building resilience, but this becomes so key now. We need sleep, exercise, and we need to connect with our support people, yet keep the physical distance. I also think it's important to share your feelings and vulnerabilities and pay attention to the good moments.
Rosemary Cope: That's excellent advice and it keeps us centered, it keeps us grounded, and it keeps us in the moment without all that anticipatory anxiety that a lot of us are experiencing at this point.
Jim Kendall: I think worrying is normal under conditions of the unknown.
Rosemary Cope: Absolutely.
Jim Kendall: But it's so key to focus on what is really in your sphere of control, what influence do you have, and I just say - do what you can do and don't focus on what you can't. I think many of us are used to helping others, and think about the ways that you can actually help each other. That can be a wellness champion. It can also mean being a buddy to a co-worker, help them with some technology, reach out and teach others. One of the things that I've started doing is going through my phone and looking for people that I haven't talked to in a long time and just try to make one connection with somebody each day. So, basically, we've all got to put on our emotional raincoat, because this is a storm, and we need to be intentional about the breaks that we take and take a walk or pay attention if you have pets or kids, find a new interest, play with them, and it's vital to do a daily self-check on your own wellness pulse.
Rosemary Cope: Great suggestions, Jim. If I'm feeling overwhelmed, even if I add these resilient skills in, who do I need to call?
Jim Kendall: Well, we always suggest that you give us a call at Work/Life Connections-EAP. Give us a call at (615) 936-1327 and we can set up a time to talk. And right now, we are using our Connect Care remote services where we can connect virtually through Zoom or through the phone and we have that way of reaching out and you have somebody that you can talk with.
Rosemary Cope: Great, thank you so much, Jim. Appreciate it.
Jim Kendall: Thank you, Rosemary.
Rosemary Cope: Thank you all for listening. If you have a story suggestion, please use the "Contact Us" page on our website at www.vumc.org/health-wellness.