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Embracing wellness from a distance

Aaron Wolowiec, CEO of Event Garde and Founder of Healthy by Association, recently sat down with Kiki L’Italien, Host of Association Chat, to discuss the current pandemic and its effect on the health and wellbeing of our families, staffs, members and clients. Following is a recap of their discussion.

Through countless studies, human touch is known to:

  • Inspire positive thinking;
  • Help us maintain an optimistic outlook;
  • Generate feelings of compassion;
  • Expand trust among people/teams;
  • Reduce social anxiety and stress;
  • Boost our immune systems; and
  • Lower heart/blood pressure.

But enter COVID-19. As a result, we’re quarantined. The recommended social distancing guidelines have greatly reduced our access to human touch. In some cases, particularly for those who live alone, human touch may have been altogether eliminated.

Prior to the stay-at-home orders, social norms likely included handshakes (and even hugs) upon greeting and departure. But that physical contact is a thing of the past – at least for the foreseeable future. As a result, we’re missing out on many of these important health benefits due to the necessary curtailment of human proximity and touch.

As an introvert, that’s shown up for me in a number of different ways:

  • Feeling sad/down from time to time.
  • Increased stress related to work and the uncertainty of the future.
  • Feeling drained — sometimes shutting down completely from emotional or physical exhaustion, particularly when serving as a confidant to team members or clients.
  • Not sleeping consistently and feeling like I should “sleep when I can.”
  • Bummed out about travel/birthday plans getting postponed or canceled.
  • Demoralized from the new routine centered around living and working from home 24/7.
  • Retreating into quiet and solitude to reflect, rest and recharge.

Conversely, I’ve noticed many of my extrovert friends craving virtual meetups. They’re doing anything they can to stay active, busy and connected. And while talking with others is good, they derive much of their energy from in-person contact. So, the video chats alone aren’t filling the void. That’s why you may notice some of your extrovert friends sending up distress signals right now. It’s important to check in on them and lend support as you can.

In reading many articles on this range of responses, there seems to be some agreement that the emotion we’re collectively feeling right now is grief. And the different stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – are manifesting themselves in different ways.

While there’s no easy solution to overcoming these feelings of grief, following are just some of the tactics you might explore:

  • Name the emotion. Sometimes knowing what you’re dealing with is an important first step to addressing it.
  • Recognize the difference between working from home and being at home during a crisis trying to work.
  • Remind yourself this is only temporary. Adjusting your routine in the short-term is better for everyone in the long-term.
  • Engage in virtual connection to the extent that it fills your bucket. Professionally, this might include team projects or happy hours. Personally, this might include check-ins and games with family members and friends.
  • Create work/life balance and boundaries — both in terms of the times of the day and the sections of the home where work is permitted.
  • Be patient with ourselves, our partners, our children and our pets.
  • When possible, communicate with others how you’re feeling and what you need. No one will know how to help unless you’re open and honest.

As you consider ways to take care of yourself (Remember: We need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others.) and your families during these unprecedented times, reflect on the following ideas and how you’re currently incorporating them into your day/week. Notice what could use more or less attention right now. For example, you may want to minimize news consumption and feelings of perfectionism, but you may need more self-care and your family may need more meaningful mealtimes.

Self Family
  • Gratitude
  • Meditation
  • Movement/exercise
  • Music
  • Nutrition
  • Self-care
  • Sleep
  • Fun/unique experiences  
  • Learning opportunities
  • Making memories
  • Mealtimes
  • Outdoors
  • TV shows/movies
  • Virtual play dates

 

And if caring for ourselves and our families wasn’t enough, our staff/team members and our members/clients deserve extra time and attention during this pandemic crisis, as well. Following are some ideas to inspire connection and wellness of all forms within your professional networks:

Staff/Team Members Members/Clients
  • Plan teambuilding activities for remote workers
  • Care for their emotional wellbeing; be a confidant or connect them with mental health resources
  • Share resources relative to basic needs (e.g., food and shelter)
  • Provide access to local, state or national financial resources
  • Create opportunities for people to stay busy on meaningful projects
  • Give the team leeway relative to personal time off
  • Be honest about employment status, possible salary reductions and the organization’s future
  • Demonstrate compassion
  • Lead with mission/values
  • Extend memberships and subscriptions, as appropriate
  • Offer flexible payment plans
  • Modify policies (e.g., refunds, cancellations, administrative fees)
  • Develop a COVID-19 clearinghouse of industry-specific information
  • Create new and relevant just-in-time resources (e.g., checklists and webinars)
  • Choose words and graphics for communications carefully
  • Give back/engage with the community, where possible

Should you have additional ideas for embracing wellness from a distance, be it for our families, staffs, members or clients, please share them with us in the comments below. In the meantime, sending you high fives from a distance. Keep doing the best you can. Each day presents a new opportunity. Stay healthy, my friends.

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