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How To Prevent Outside Stress From Interfering With Workplace Wellness

Jan 19, 2021 By Sherese Ezelle, LMCH
Person looking at computer screen for video conference

As a behavioral health therapist that often works with professionals in high-performing careers, a question I hear a lot lately from my patients is: “How am I supposed to focus on work when I’m so distracted?”

The constant stream of alarming news, from the tragedies of the pandemic to social and political unrest, violence and division, is not only distracting, but can also trigger feelings of anger, fear and even hopelessness. In my experience, these effects are being felt across the board among my patients, regardless of background, race or role.

Here are some tips that I share with my patients to help stay focused and well when outside stressors are infiltrating your work life.

For all of us:

Be proud of the resilience you’ve built

I encourage my patients to focus on the resilience that they’ve built through facing circumstances outside of their control. We can think of our resilience like a rubber band. The past year has pulled us in all these different directions, and forced many of us to realize we’re capable of stretching far beyond what we previously perceived as our limits without breaking. Ask yourself, what skills have I realized? What have you processed? How have I grown?

Acknowledge when you need a break

While we should all give ourselves recognition for our ability to adapt and build resilience in the face of things outside our control, it’s also important that you are paying attention to when you need to create space for healing. Listen to your body and take note if you are feeling physical tension, aches or fatigue, or noticing inability to complete your regular tasks. It’s okay to recognize when we’ve metaphorically scabbed our knees, and we need to wait for that scab to form before we can begin to run again.

Prioritize your self care

It’s not uncommon for patients to think that taking time for themselves, or seeking help from others, is a selfish act, especially in a time when so many are suffering. It’s quite the opposite - you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Give yourself permission to feel joy, be happy and feel at ease. You can’t help fill someone else’s tank when your own is empty.

For people managers and workplace culture leaders:

Create safe spaces for people to authentically show up

For many, recent events have brought up real fears that transcend personal and professional borders. Common questions among these patients are: how do I know that I’m protected at work? When I’m feeling afraid or angry, how do I show up? What face do I need to put forward? Can I express myself to coworkers?

Another common feeling among many patients is guilt. These patients are feeling like they want to help, but don’t know where to start. They are looking for reasonable or tactical things they can do in a setting that may feel charged.

Facilitate opportunities for connection and conversation

Feelings of fear or anger can also lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation. Employers can help their teams maintain a healthy work environment and connections with their colleagues by creating safe places for discussion and processing. These events can be held virtually, allowing people to meet others where they are, and have conversations from the comfort of their couches.

Educate yourself and your team

Spend time learning about the challenges your team may be facing and discuss them openly. Have courageous conversations to discuss team stressors. Discuss the impact outside events may be having on the team and their mood. Having a sense of control helps us to mitigate any challenges the team, and yourself as the leader, may be facing. Acknowledge that we don’t have all of the answers, but we do have the opportunity to support one another.

If your mental health has been affected by the pandemic, you’re not alone. Your primary care provider is a great place to start in order to create a plan to address your unique needs. Learn more about One Medical’s mental health offerings for individuals and employers.

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Sherese Ezelle, LMCH

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Orange County,Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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