4 min readHealth 07 September 2020
About six years ago, some colleagues and I published research that indicated that increased time on the social media platform, Facebook, was linked to depressive symptoms among young people. The studies, which served as the basis for the article, were, of course, not conducted during a major global pandemic. So even during the best of times when the economy is booming and people feel relatively safe, they tended to suffer from mental health consequences as a result of spending too much time on social media.
Thus, social media platforms represent people's window to the outside world; however, the views nowadays are a never-ending parade of social, political, and economic unrest.
During the pandemic, people are feeling isolated from others, so it is only natural to be spending more time on social media in order to connect with other people. In addition, according to a recent Pew study, the majority of Americans now get their news on social media as opposed to traditional print media sources. Thus, social media platforms represent people's window to the outside world; however, the views nowadays are a never-ending parade of social, political, and economic unrest.
The pandemic has spotlighted, and at times magnified, a multitude of inequities in America such as the widening pay gap between the rich and the poor, escalating racial tensions, polarized political factions, and gender inequalities. These factors in combination with partisan sources for news and the proliferation of conspiracy theories on social media have created what the World Health Organization (WHO) has termed an "infodemic"—the overabundance of information about a problem(s) that makes it "hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it."
The pandemic has spotlighted, and at times magnified, a multitude of inequities in America such as the widening pay gap between the rich and the poor, escalating racial tensions, polarized political factions, and gender inequalities.
The conflicting information and lack of clear guidance over what is the right thing to do have made even normally mundane tasks such as going to the grocery store or sending your kids to school seem like a high-stakes game of Russian roulette. Moreover, if left unchecked, these perennial flight-or-flight emotions related the chronic stress and anxiety of unlimited uncertainty can lead some people to experience severe anxiety, depression, and burnout.*** So, what can people do if they are feeling overwhelmed by these negative emotions?
- Limit your time on social media. Pick a specific amount of time (preferably not before you go to bed since bad news might keep you awake at night) to catch up on your social media feeds and stick to it! Set an alarm clock if need be. Consider taking a break from social media altogether.
- Find media sources that uplift or inspire you. Instead of reading the news, watch an action-packed movie, a romcom/bromance, or discover funny television shows to stream. Follow social media threads that highlight positive or inspiring content.
- Be self-compassionate. Be as kind to yourself as you would to others. Mindfully accept that life might be painful or stressful right now. Bad things are happening in the world that are out of our control and many of our support systems (e.g., churches, family, friends, schools, childcare) that we rely on are no longer fully in place. Although you may not be functioning at your optimal level, give yourself permission to lower expectations for yourself. For concrete techniques on how to integrate self-compassion into your life, check out noted self-compassion expert, Dr. Kristen Neff's self-compassion guided meditation and practices.
- Set realistic mini-goals. Along with accepting that you might not be able to accomplish as much as you would like right now, try to set achievable mini-goals. Breaking down large tasks into small, manageable chunks and checking them off your list can give you a sense of empowerment. Keep track of your progress and celebrate your little achievements.
- Engage in self-care activities. A lot of our normal go-to self-care activities such as having a massage, getting a pedicure, or going to dinner with friends may now feel unsafe or stripped away. However, we can still take care of ourselves by exercising, taking a long hot bath, or curling up with a good book.
- Take up a hobby that fulfills and restores you. Hobbies such as knitting, painting, building things, or playing a musical instrument not only can serve as a welcome distraction but can also be therapeutic. In addition, hobbies that can be done outside such as gardening will give you a vitamin D boost and help you de-stress, as well.
- Develop a routine. Simply having a consistent routine for waking, eating, and sleeping can help maintain a sense of consistency in an ever-changing world. Ditch the sweats and engage in the same daily rituals that you would have prior to the pandemic.
- Change your mindset by accentuating the positives. A well-validated psychological technique for dealing with negative emotions is to cognitively reappraise the situation or train your mind to think differently. For instance, if you are feeling trapped at home, take a step back and consciously recognize the effect that focusing on these negative emotions are having on you and instead, try to replace these counterproductive thoughts with more positive ones. For instance, think of this time as being an opportunity to catch up on projects that you have been putting off or having more family time. Take stock of the things that you are thankful for and practice gratitude.
- Explore the Great Outdoors. According to the Attention Restoration Theory, seeing ocean waves crashing on the shore, watching the sunset, or sitting in a lush green park, can diminish mental fatigue, alleviate stress, and replenish people's well-being. Immersing yourself in nature can drown out the noise and chaos of everyday life and operates as a restorative reset button, which then allows you to return more energized, focused, and determined.
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3 min read
"More grapes, please," my daughter asked, as she continued to color her Peppa Pig drawing at the kitchen table.
"What do you say?" I asked her, as I was about to hand her the bowl.
I shook my head.
I stood there.
"I want green grapes instead of red grapes?"
I shook my head again. I handed her the bowl of green grapes. "Thank you. Please don't forget to say thank you."
"Thank you, Momma!"
Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children?
Many of us are busy training our young children on manners on the other side of the Zoom camera during this pandemic. Reminding them to say please, excuse me, I tried it and it's not my favorite, I am sorry, and thank you. And yet somehow simple manners continue to be undervalued and underappreciated in our workplaces. Because who has time to say thank you?
"Call me. This needs to be completed in the next hour."
"They didn't like the deck. Needs to be redone."
"When are you planning on sending the proposal?"
"Did you see the questions he asked? Where are the responses?"
"Needs to be done by Monday."
Let me take a look. I didn't see a please. No please. Let me re-read it again. Nope, no thank you either. Sure, I'll get to that right away. Oh yes, you're welcome.
Organizations are under enormous pressure in this pandemic. Therefore, leaders are under enormous pressure. Business models collapsing, budget cuts, layoffs, or scrapping plans… Companies are trying to pivot as quickly as possible—afraid of extinction. With employees and leaders everywhere teaching and parenting at home, taking care of elderly parents, or maybe even living alone with little social interaction, more and more of us are dealing with all forms of grief, including losing loved ones to COVID-19.
So we could argue we just don't have time to say thank you; we don't have time to express gratitude. There's too much happening in the world to be grateful for anything. We are all living day to day, the pendulum for us swinging between surviving and thriving. But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?
If you don't think you have to say thank you; if you don't think they deserve a thank you (it's their job, it's what they get paid to do); or if you think, "Why should I say thank you, no one ever thanks me for anything?" It's time to remember that while we might be living through one of the worst recessions of our lifetimes, the market will turn again. Jobs will open up, and those who don't feel recognized or valued will be the first to go. Those who don't feel appreciated and respected will make the easy decision to work for leaders who show gratitude.
But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?
Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children? Remind them with flashcards? Bribe them with a cookie? Tell them how I proud I am of them when they say those two magical words?
Showing gratitude isn't that difficult. You can send a thoughtful email or a text, send a handwritten card, send something small as a gesture of thank you, or just tell them. Call them and tell them how thankful you are for them and for their contributions. Just say thank you.
A coworker recently mailed me a thank you card, saying how much she appreciated me. It was one of the nicest things anyone from work has sent me during this pandemic. It was another reminder for me of how much we underestimate the power of a thank you card.
Apparently, quarantine gratitude journals are all the rage right now. So it's great if you have a beautiful, leather-bound gratitude journal. You can write down all of the people and the things that you are thankful for in your life. Apparently, it helps you sleep better, helps you stay grounded, and makes you in general happier. Just don't forget to take a moment to stop writing in that journal, and to show thanks and gratitude to those you are working with every single day.