Lincoln Absence Advisor

Mental Health in a Time of Crisis

March 31, 2020 Lincoln Financial Group Season 1 Episode 3
Lincoln Absence Advisor
Mental Health in a Time of Crisis
Chapters
Lincoln Absence Advisor
Mental Health in a Time of Crisis
Mar 31, 2020 Season 1 Episode 3
Lincoln Financial Group

With so many abrupt and significant changes in our current lives, it’s not surprising there’s a lot of discussion not just about our physical health, but also about anxiety, stress and our overall mental health. Dr. Glenn Pransky, Lincoln’s Scientific Advisor, talks about what we can do to take care of our mental well-being in the current environment. He covers topics such as how to stay informed with reliable information, how to stay connected while we learn and work from home, and how to establish the routines that promote good mental health. He also provides some useful online destinations that can help people manage stress, help their homebound children and keep up to date with the latest news and developments.

For more information visit: https://www.lfg.com/public/covid-19guidance

LCN-3016500-032720

© 2020 Lincoln National Corporation. All rights reserved.

Show Notes Transcript

With so many abrupt and significant changes in our current lives, it’s not surprising there’s a lot of discussion not just about our physical health, but also about anxiety, stress and our overall mental health. Dr. Glenn Pransky, Lincoln’s Scientific Advisor, talks about what we can do to take care of our mental well-being in the current environment. He covers topics such as how to stay informed with reliable information, how to stay connected while we learn and work from home, and how to establish the routines that promote good mental health. He also provides some useful online destinations that can help people manage stress, help their homebound children and keep up to date with the latest news and developments.

For more information visit: https://www.lfg.com/public/covid-19guidance

LCN-3016500-032720

© 2020 Lincoln National Corporation. All rights reserved.

Karen Batson:

Hi everyone. This is Karen Batson marketing manager for leave and disability at Lincoln financial group. There is a lot of discussion about anxiety, stress, and overall mental health. In the current environment we find ourselves, we can't help but feel those things at varying levels. So today I'm joined by Dr. Glen Pransky, an internationally recognized researcher, physician and expert in work and health. We're going to talk about where this stems from and as a workforce, what we can do to ease some of that anxiety. Welcome Dr. Pransky.

Karen Batson:

Recently I've been starting every podcast with the question why? Why is it important for us to talk about this now? Why is it important to share information about mental health? What do you think?

Dr. Pransky:

Karen, we're so focused on taking care of our physical health now, avoiding infection, that we often neglect to also take care of our mental health, and this can be as important both for ourselves as well as our families.

Karen Batson:

You know, I also think finding ways to keep calm can help reduce the spread of anxiety. I've read a few articles lately that talk about the fact that anxiety can be contagious. Some of the guidance you're going to provide in this conversation today maybe helpful in spreading that calm.

Dr. Pransky:

Yes, I agree.

Karen Batson:

I think it's important to start with where our anxiety is at and how we are being triggered. So in general, what are we hearing about people's anxiety and stress levels?

Dr. Pransky:

There are so many things now that are stressing everyone, changes in work and family life, daily routines, living arrangements, family finances. You know, these are different for everybody and often in very significant and sometimes undesirable ways and there is so much unknown and a lot of it misinformation out there that makes these concerns worse. I don't know anybody who isn't more anxious and worried now than before this whole pandemic started.

Karen Batson:

And you know, everyone like you stated, is effected by stress differently. What kind of reactions do people have?

Dr. Pransky:

Well, these types of situations often make anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders and other mental health issues worse or may even bring out these symptoms when they didn't exist before. Sometimes there's more conflict at home as a whole family are confined together. Maybe just a little bit, but this can build up over time.

Karen Batson:

What are we hearing for suggestions to maintain mental health.

Dr. Pransky:

Karen, there has been a lot of research on this and past epidemics that I'd like to share with you as well as what I've learned from my own experience. First, I think it's really important to acknowledge that this is a very stressful time and it's affecting everybody's mental condition. Take stock of how this is affecting you. Many, many people are experiencing similar feelings and emotions. For me, the main issue is insomnia. For others it's something different, but everybody, is experiencing some mental health effect. We know that it's important to take care of yourself physically, but that's not just avoiding infection, a good diet, regular exercise, getting outdoors as much as you can safely, and good sleep habits. They all have a positive impact on mental health.

Karen Batson:

It's one of those areas I've been thankful that I have a home gym. How have you been getting your physical exercise Dr. Pransky?

Dr. Pransky:

I try to get out on my bicycle every day and it's been great.

Karen Batson:

Now I feel like I get bombarded with messages on social media that definitely impact my anxiety. What should we do about kind of those instances.

Dr. Pransky:

I'm getting bombarded also, in addition to a flood of medical information. I think it's important to limit our exposure to news and social media. Much of the online material that I see now is sensational. It's repetitious and it's designed to engage and arouse rather than inform and reassure. So it's important to get information from trusted sites like a state health department and the centers for disease control. Personally, I've turned off all my news alerts and I've set aside a specific time each morning to read the news and review medical updates and then I leave it alone and you know, I find I'm sleeping a lot better as a result.

Karen Batson:

Yeah, I think that that point is really important. I hadn't thought about scheduling time for those, getting those updates until I was really observing how I was digesting information all day and it's just a really good point to say, okay, check it at this point, but make sure you take a break from it. So at this thing, that's very good. Good, good point.

Dr. Pransky:

Yes. A lot of my doctor colleagues are doing the same thing. I think it's important to keep our focus on what we can do and improve and control. Not on all the things that we're powerless over that can generate more anxiety. I know it's hard to stay in the present, but staying occupied with something useful is a good way to stay focused. Some meditation, even just a period of short relaxation can be very helpful.

Karen Batson:

Now you've looked at a lot of people working from home. What challenges do they face?

Dr. Pransky:

Well, loneliness is one of the most common complaints of people who've had a transition to working at home. So it's important to stay connected, to engage your family, your friends, and your coworkers and community. These contacts are important for everyone and really can decrease anxiety. Take advantage of video chat software if you have it. There are several apps that are now available at no cost. Some of us are even having a virtual dinner with friends and family most every night,

Karen Batson:

You know, my family actually just discovered group FaceTime and so I got to see all of their faces over dinner just the other night. And it was, it was nice just to see other people and communicate that way. So it's very important.

Dr. Pransky:

And my family enjoys the fact that they can see me at dinner but they don't have to eat my terrible cooking. So yeah, these connections are a great source of support and it's also an opportunity to help others who are isolated or anxious.

Karen Batson:

Now, one of the things, we talked about it in a work environment, in one of our earlier podcasts were having team huddles where you just connect and talk and catch up with people, people that, you know, you did talk to five days out of the week, but now you're not in the same room with them. And I thought that's another way that we all should be remembering to connect. And another important factor,.

Dr. Pransky:

Yes, you know, several of my coworkers have set up a daily video check in about how life is going, what challenges everybody's facing, how they're coping with this. And we do all this before we start work. It's important to share your feelings with the people you trust. It's much easier to face these challenges when you find out that you're not alone.

Karen Batson:

Totally. Totally agree. So I know that, um, you had some thoughts on practicing parent skills. I mean, I think everyone is starting to spend a lot more time with their kids. What kind of advice do you have there?

Dr. Pransky:

Well, yes, you're absolutely right. It's a great time to practice. Good parenting skills. I think they're more important now maybe than ever. We know that children do better when parents listen to their concerns, calmly answer their questions and reassure them that they are safe. We can set an example by calm and reasonable behavior. The experts who've studied this say that we should establish a normal routine that includes study and homework, exercise and staying in touch with friends, not only for our whole family, but for us as well. If possible, it's a good idea to avoid using screen time for babysitting. Later I'll share two really great websites on managing family stress and anxiety during the COVID epidemic that many people have found helpful.

Karen Batson:

Yeah, watching all my parent friends on social media, posting all these activities that they're doing with their kids, people are getting pretty creative keeping them busy, having a schedule, keeping their education going. It's been quite impressive to observe.

Dr. Pransky:

Yes. People are doing a great job with this.

Karen Batson:

Now, Dr. Pransky, do you have any other thoughts on work?

Dr. Pransky:

Yes. Uh, going back to working at home, I think it's important to separate work life from home life as much as possible. By this I mean setting up a separate place for your work specific hours where you will and won't be working and taking work calls and emails away from the family. Personally, I'm finding it's just too easy to be working 24-7 at home without drawing these boundaries. And I know it's been a difficult transition for many people who suddenly find themselves working at home. So try to focus on the positive aspects of moving to working at home. There's no commute, there's no dress code. You can eat what you want, you've got more flexibility, you can take care of your kids. So try to focus on the positives. I'll share with you later some excellent websites with suggestions about how to set up and use a home work area.

Karen Batson:

What about people who are just really not doing well, that are having a hard time coming out of that anxiety moment and finding some calm moments for themselves?

Dr. Pransky:

If your anxiety or other mental health problem is interfering with your ability to function, that's the time to seek help. You really want to get some help before it gets worse. Fortunately, there are more mental health professionals available online and through telemedicine now than ever. A good place to start is your company's EAP program or your doctor's practice or community mental health services. We've learned in past epidemics that these services are very effective when people use them when they need them, and they can really help lower anxiety and help people cope.

Karen Batson:

That's a very good reminder for everyone. So where do you go, Dr. Pransky, to get your resources to help people during this time?

Dr. Pransky:

So for people that are asking me for advice, I have a couple of sites that I find very useful. So get your pencils ready and I'll give you the search terms that'll get you what you want. So the Centers for Disease Control has an excellent webpage on managing stress and anxiety related to coronavirus. Just put those terms in--CDC, coronavirus, managing stress, anxiety, and you'll get it. In this era of social distancing, the American psychologic association has a great website on how to keep yourself mentally healthy during this challenging time. You'll find that by just searching APA research social distancing. In terms of children at home, the C S T S fact sheet on helping home-bound children. Just put those terms in and you'll get an excellent sheet there. In terms of the most up-to-date facts on what really is known about coronavirus, go back to the Centers for Disease Control and just search coronavirus share facts. These are the real facts and they're updated every day. And then finally, if you're working at home, I really like a recent article from PC magazine, 20 tips for working at home.

Karen Batson:

You know, for everyone listening, we also have a great resource hub up on lfg.com we'll include the link in the description. We're updating that continuously with new resources so be sure to check it out. Dr. Pransky, thank you so much for joining us. I enjoyed our conversation today and hope you'll join us again soon.

Dr. Pransky:

And thank you very much for the opportunity. My pleasure.

Karen Batson:

To everyone listening. Thank you for joining us. We will continue to cover topics that help employers and their employees navigate through this new environment. So be sure to subscribe to Lincoln Absence Advisor on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Speaker 4:

Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates, the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Lincoln Life and Annuity Company of New York, Syracuse, New York, and Lincoln Life Assurance Company of Boston, Dover. New Hampshire affiliates are separately responsible for their own financial and contractual obligations.