The Journal’s View: Keeping our mental health will require resilience, hope
~September 24th, 2020
As business, community, and family leaders, it’s more vital now than ever that we demonstrate to others that hope and resilience will guide us through these difficult times.
It’s been six months since Gov. Jay Inslee issued Washington state’s initial stay-at-home order, and the mounting stress on individuals and the community is staggering. In addition to the deadly virus itself, we’re dealing with an economic recession, racial and social protests, childcare issues, the start of a new school year, and most recently, dense smoke from wildfires.
The triggers of stress only continue to stack up with the current divisive political season and upcoming holiday anxiety, not to mention the annual onset of seasonal affective disorder that contributes to depression for many in “normal” years. And now there’s the threat that a second wave of the pandemic could hit before new vaccines or treatments are available.
With that as context, we must be watchful about how these crises weigh on mental health for ourselves and the people we live, work, and socialize with.
Experts with the state Department of Health Behavioral Health Strike Team, who track how people react to stress from large-scale disasters, say we’ve collectively entered a period of disillusionment, at least regarding the pandemic. This follows an earlier honeymoon period in which many people rallied around efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, they say.
What can we, as leaders, do now?
Put simply, we must be kind and be there to listen to and validate others’ concerns and show that we value what they do as important, representatives of the University of Washington Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services said in a recent presentation about supporting employees during the pandemic.
They said we must communicate with compassion and respect while sharing information openly and honestly.
We also must acknowledge reality. While no one can fix everything, we can concentrate on what we can control and solve small problems before they pile up.
Leaders also should promote healthy work, social, and self-care routines and encourage positive activities, which could include taking up hobbies, performing acts of kindness, and setting goals. Now is the time to brainstorm with colleagues about ideas for such positive activities.
We must guard against this period of disillusionment leading to widespread despair. And we should be aware of mental health resources to connect with those experiencing serious anxiety, depression, loss of reality, and suicidal thoughts.
Not every individual has the same ability to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression. Some stressors are bigger than one person can handle, especially in isolation. But once we realize and communicate that we’re all experiencing these difficult times together, we can help each other make it through these times with some resilience.
Resilience won’t eliminate the causes of stress, rather it’s the ability to address adversity. That’s what we must strive for as we adjust our expectations and come to terms with the weight of multiple and simultaneous crises.
Most importantly, we must instill hope in ourselves and others that we can adapt, learn, and grow to get through this.