A Wellbeing Orientation is vital for helping people and communities cope with disruption. In our April 2020 Newsletter, we share resources and tools to help people and systems adjust and make sense of this time of uncertainty and stress and discuss why we need wellbeing to be well as a country.
I share in the emotions and questions that most people have during this uncertain time, at least those I am surrounded by. What is this? Where did it really come from? How do we stop it? How do I protect myself, my loved ones? What happens if I get it? How long will this last? So many thoughts and questions.
Having trained numerous people about the principles of a wellbeing orientation and the Five Domains of Wellbeing, I sat down to reflect on my own wellbeing during this crisis.
As a single woman, I was very proactive in gathering the essential items my household would need in the event I am unable to leave home for an undetermined amount of time. I was disturbed, as many others were, to see the mania arise as people began to realize the very real possibilities and outcomes that threatened our lives following the entry of COVID-19 into our American borders. We thought we were safe … we were safe, until a few weeks ago.
Once sheltered in place I began to take stock. I am fortunate to have already been a remote employee so there was nothing required to rearrange my physical space to sustain working from home. I only needed to add in some back-up office supplies and acclimate myself with a few new tech platforms. Or at least one would think. Truth is, this couldn’t have happened at a worse time. But that’s life right? Full of transitions — good or bad. Some we plan. Some we never anticipate, let alone have the opportunity to prepare for.
I don’t think I mentioned: I am also a grandmother. One who, during this time of sheltering in place, went unexpectedly (but willingly) from living alone to full-time occupancy with several little people. They are all under the age of nine. Four of the eight members of my household, myself included, are immunocompromised. That simply means we are at a higher risk of a more unfavorable outcome should we contract the virus. But the added anxiety of “not contracting the virus” is ever looming. We feel completely safe in our house. But outside of these walls are people, young and old, against whom we must protect ourselves. Our necessity to strongly implement social distancing is not optional. And though we are blessed to have been able to obtain the things we need, I am still overwhelmed with all that is happening. Mostly because I am still juggling the many hats of being a single, female head of household.
I continue to process, and think through, and figure out, and plan how to, and make adjustments for, and reach out and respond to, and this is just the beginning. But actually it doesn’t feel like the beginning because this pandemic comes right smack dab in the middle of the already existing continuum of crises I was already trying to handle. So, as I struggle to find my balance and reach deep within for all that my grandmother instilled, I remind myself constantly that this can be done. It has to be done. All is and will be well.
My list of gratitude evolves as I realize I am more fortunate than some because I have access to meaningful and relevant resources that matter to me. Starting with employment. I work for an organization that has appropriately responded to our national crisis, to say the least, and has been extremely supportive as our entire organization succumbs to the global impact of COVID-19. Next, I am fortunate to have stable and adequate housing. Though I sometimes feel crowded as an ex-empty-nester-now-caregiver-of-six, at least we all have a bed to crawl into at night. Finally, I have working utilities and enough food and supplies to get us by. I am sure my granny would be so proud! One thing she for sure taught us as a family of women is how to survive. My moment of mastery.
But when night falls I struggle to sleep. I still can’t help but worry about the many, many individuals who don’t have access. And though I am hopeful that this global crisis will somehow bring down the walls of racism, inequity and greed in our midst, I am forced to watch its ugly head rear from the chaos of fear and uncertainty. In other countries we see unity and a joining together of humanity. We can’t seem to get it together. Or at least our leaders can’t. So once again the responsibility to figure it out is put on the backs of the people. People are without food, needed supplies, babies without formula and diapers. This is America. My America. Our America. And I am heartbroken.
As I find myself completely overwhelmed and unable to fight back tears, I wonder if my granny ever felt like this. Like it was all too much. I wonder if she ever felt scared. I never saw fear or worry in her face. And that’s the beauty of parenting, the amazing grace of grand-parenting: to shield your babies as much as you can from worry and fear.
So I reach a little deeper and there it is: the strength, the resiliency that I will draw from yet again to manage my way through another crisis, or two, or three. The courage that will carry me through to the other side of the storm. I know all will be well because I’ve weathered challenges many times before. While my stability has been disrupted in this crisis, I have connectedness with my family and friends. I am safe in my home. I have meaningful access to relevant resources. And I feel a sense of mastery to see us through.
The women of faith in my community often speak about “going through” when we are faced with different trials and tribulations as an individual or family. On our way through this, we will laugh and we will love and we will eat. Even if it is syrup sandwiches, hunny we will eat! Because that’s what grandmothers do. We show our children — and our children’s children — the way to the other side of through.
For teens to get through these challenging times, it’s essential that they are able to meet needs for social connectedness and mastery. These are critical for wellbeing — the needs and experiences universally required in combination and balance to weather challenges and to have health and hope. Here are some questions you can ask yourself or a teen you know to help navigate the harmful impacts of COVID-19.
Working remotely can be a monumental change. This video from the team at FFI explores a few key tips to centering wellbeing while your office goes virtual.
Spread the word about these 3 tips to help you keep your cool with COVID-19. Check out the companion infographic as well!
COVID-19 is disrupting work, life and everything in between. When we pay attention to our wellbeing — the needs and experiences we all require in balance and combination to have health and hope and to weather challenges — we are more likely to succeed in times of rapid change. While leaders and employers can’t stop the progression of the virus, they can support staff wellbeing by adopting key strategies to mitigate the tradeoffs of change.
A Wellbeing Orientation is vital for helping people and communities cope with disruption. Some initial guidance is featured in our March 2020 newsletter. In the days to come, we will roll out a deeper dive into a Wellbeing Orientation in times of crisis.
At first, I wasn’t concerned at all about the spread of COVID-19. In fact, as the news started to roll in, I was a bit smug about the rising anxiety. But as the global community rushes to meet the challenge of this unforeseen health crisis, I’ve found myself chewing on a fundamental question: with all the threats that our communities face on a daily basis—the ravages of institutional racism, gun violence, addiction, rampant homelessness, pervasive domestic and sexual violence—what is it about this particular threat that feels different, more terrifying to those around me?
The anthropologist in me drew the easy conclusion. We’re contending with a basic instinct here: fear of the unknown. We humans have a well-cultivated, more-or-less successful strategy: fear what we don’t understand and overreact to unfamiliar information. This tendency is only amplified by our formidable ability to imagine so many unpleasant scenarios using our limited data.
But I’ve been at FFI for a few years now, and I’ve learned to dig down beneath fear, knowing that it is often driven by our need to hold on to our assets in the Five Domains of Wellbeing while we navigate the tradeoffs—big and small, voluntary and involuntary—that are required of us as we live our lives. FFI may be most well-known for demonstrating the ways that this operates on an individual and family level, but in the news I’m watching a live case study of how threats to our collective assets in the Five Domains of Wellbeing play out on the community level.
As I grounded myself in a wellbeing orientation, my perspective began to shift. Suddenly, my slightly smug dismissiveness was swept away by the realization of how deeply we will be impacted in each of the Five Domains:
Safety: Clearly, on the individual level, this is a direct threat to our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Will our friends, family, and co-workers of Asian descent be targeted by dangerous rhetoric? Is it ok to go to spaces that we have taken for granted as safe? Markets, places of worship, workplaces are all markedly more risky. Is anyone putting precautions in place to stop potential spread in these places with screening protocols or information on quarantine procedures? A casual cough by someone nearby now feels more dangerous. Can I trust other people to care for themselves appropriately if they start to feel ill?
Stability: An appropriate public health response on the scale required to stem the spread of a viral disease disrupts the patterns of our lives. If we’re required to work remotely to help flatten the curve, what will it be like to work in an unfamiliar space, to miss out on saying “hi” to our coworkers as we fill up our coffee, to establish new rhythms of work that we’ve relied on to keep our days on track? Will our travel options remain reliable? On any given day, what routines related to work will be disrupted? School? Childcare? If this escalates, will our bakeries and coffee shops open? Will our polling places be safe and accessible in November?
Social Connectedness: We are suddenly faced with the realization that even touch—a cornerstone of human social connection—is something that we should avoid. As we adopt various modes of social distancing, how will we stay in touch with our colleagues beyond an email, our friends outside of social media, or our faith communities as events and “extra” meetings are cancelled? Will we be able to give and receive care to our loved ones if the disease spreads to our doorsteps? And what if (may it never be so!) we contract COVID-19 and then recover—what stigmas might we face during our illness and upon recovery?
Meaningful Access to Relevant Resources: Our communities are not self-sufficient. We rely on trade–inter-city, inter-state, and international—for the goods and services that make our lives possible. It’s not just Baby Yoda toys and other mass-produced commodities that are at stake here. In the case of quarantine, will we be able to access food? Will we have access to the medical supplies we need to move through this? If we find ourselves scrambling to hoard supplies, are we protecting ourselves or are we exposing the most vulnerable people in our communities to increased risk? If public institutions scale back services or staffing, what segments of our populations will lose access to the help they need for housing, food, and other necessities?
Mastery: Are we collectively up to this? Are our systems strong enough, organized enough, resourced well enough to meet this challenge? Will testing kits and medical supplies be made available when and where we need them? Will public institutions that have so far struggled to produce clear guidance manage to do so in time? In the absence of this kind of guidance, do we feel like we can have an influence on our environment? If not, how might we act out individually and collectively to give ourselves even the illusion of that control—hoarding food and medical supplies; obsessively refreshing the news on our phones?
COVID-19 feels like a different type of threat because the best practices that are needed to stem the spread of the pandemic require us to make major tradeoffs—all at once—in each of the Five Domains. Taken individually, these may seem like minor inconveniences or small adjustments. Taken together, it’s overwhelming.
I feel like I can at least wrap my arms around the fear I see now.
So I’m not as smug about the rising panic. I’m approaching it with less eye-rolling and more hope: hope that when we stop and view this crisis—and our response to it—in the full-frame, we open up new pathways for a strong community response. Hope that as our public health officials issue guidance and move into action they will consider the tradeoffs that people will have to make, in order for that guidance to be successful. Hope that we’ll design a response that protects the people at the margins of our society just as much as the people at the center. Hope that we can find the path forward that preserves our collective wellbeing–and even contributes to our wellbeing after we successfully contain this microscopic terror called COVID-19.
This staff perspectives blog was written by Matthew Leger-Small, Special Assistant to the CEO on Tuesday, March 10, 2020.