News and Events

COVID-19: Behavioral Health Blogs

Dr. George Vergolias, PsyD, CTM & Dr. Tyler Arvig, PsyD
May 19, 2020

 

 

Welcoming Telehealth for the Long Run

 

By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

 

With winter further in the rear-view mirror and warmer seasons upon us,  many of us now get to enjoy seasonal activities — grilling, boating, golfing, or just enjoying the heat of the sun — that we’ve missed for the past several months. For most of us, concurrent with the seasonal change is a change in our activity related to coronavirus. Restrictions are easing, at least for now. With that comes the long list of things we deeply want to revert back to pre-pandemic, and soon.

 

But what about things we do not want to be as they were before? It seems as if we have learned a few things in this time we may not want to unlearn. As unnatural as it may seem, great ideas and initiatives often are borne out of disruption, due to stark necessity. For example, nuclear technology now powers much of the world but would not exist without the previous military applications during WWII. Also arising out of the war came penicillin, jet engines, helicopters, and the beginnings of the computer.

 

It’s worth asking: What have we been doing recently out of necessity that we should keep long after it is a necessity? In the medical world, one practice that stands out above the rest is virtual treatment and evaluations.

 

Telehealth (virtual) treatment was not developed during this pandemic. It has been researched and used successfully for assessment and treatment—in behavioral health and medicine—for many years. However, in the past three months, it has quickly evolved from an option to a necessity. And as the use of telemedicine has increased exponentially, so has the comfort level of providers, patients and payers.

 

What telehealth pioneers have known for a long time is now being widely accepted and used. An important thing to note is that telemedicine is not a new service, it is simply another way to deliver the service. There is no objective or subjective clinical difference between telemedicine and an in-office visit. Telemedicine also allows for more choice as people are not limited to a provider who is within walking or driving distance from their home or work. This allows individuals to choose the right provider, regardless of geographic limitations (albeit within the same state or jurisdiction).

 

Full disclosure: I’m not an early adopter of technology. In my garage are three cars with manual transmissions, because I like to do things myself. One of those cars is nearly 60 years old. Professionally, providing virtual services would have been frowned upon when I was in graduate school, or throughout my clinical training. But much has changed since that time. And it’s not just the early adopters or early majority who are taking advantage of virtual capabilities. Telemedicine has even been adopted by some who previously were “never-tele” crowd. With necessity demanding the innovation of telemedicine, it  has in some circumstances become the only way to serve providers’ patients and evaluees. And what many have discovered is that their stance of calling telehealth “better than nothing has evolved to just calling it “better—period.

 

Even as offices reopen and in-person services restart, telemedicine will continue to have a strong showing—and should. The pandemic has all but assured this. In the years to come, it is conceivable that in-office visits become a thing of the past. There will continue to be a place for in-person treatment and evaluation, but that place will be smaller than before as we take advantage of the new freedoms, efficiencies, and flexibly that telehealth solutions offer.

 

How many of us have traded our smartphones back in for flip phones, or rotary phones? How many have traded in a car with Bluetooth capability for one that only has an FM radio? In behavioral health treatment and evaluation, going backward is also not an option.  We may have been forced into adoption by the pandemic, but now that the initial shove is over, it turns out this is the direction we wanted to head all along.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.

For security resources, behavioral health solutions and real-time front lines information, visit us at www.r3c.com, email us at info@r3c.com or call us at 866-927-0184

 

 

When Unemployment Rates Hit Close to Home

 

By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

 

At R3 Continuum, where we’re dedicated to supporting healthy work environments, especially when facing crisis, we have spent a lot of time lately talking about the challenges of working during COVID-19. But the question many are facing right now: What about the challenges of not working?

 

The news flashed a rather scary statistic this morning: Nearly 15% of Americans are currently unemployed (and that number jumps to 22% when the underemployed are considered). One in five. While this was to be expected, it is nonetheless shocking to consider. That is the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, and may climb higher as time goes on.

 

As I consider what this means, one very famous political quote comes to mind. It comes from another time of economic downturn, the late 1970s and early 1980s.

 

“Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours,” Harry S. Truman profoundly said.

 

That line resonates with many of us now, because it is not just people on the news who are unemployed, it is our friends, our family and maybe even us. The sheer numbers alone make that a reality. The effects of unemployment are hitting us all, directly or indirectly.

 

And the term “depression” is more appropriate than ever, as it encompasses not only the economic phenomenon but the mental state of the impacted individual. To be sure, many who are unemployed are being supported financially during this time, and that helps. Money is, after all, important. It’s why we work. But it’s really not the only important part of work.

 

Beyond a means to a financial end, what makes work important? Everything that comes along with it: the sense of meaning and productivity; the satisfaction of solving a problem; the ability to engage with colleagues; and how it fills our day with purpose. For many, work offers an ability to be seen as a productive member of society and have a professional identity.

 

We know this, in part, because of research on retirees, particularly early retirees who are financially well-off. Many initially struggle when work is removed from their lives, and it has nothing to do with money. A change in working status has an effect on our mental state when such a huge part of life goes away.

 

Thankfully for many, unemployment will be a temporary situation that resolves as COVID-19 restrictions ease and workplaces reopen. But for millions, the road to employment may take longer.

 

As communities, it’s important that we support one another – through recession and depression, by all definitions of the word.

 

How can you support others?

If you have a co-worker or employee who is currently not working, consider how you can be a true support for them, realizing that job loss means so much more than loss of income.

 

  • Stay in touch—Keeping connections is important, especially for those co-workers who are a big part of our daily lives. Conversations don’t even need to be about work.

 

  • Provide encouragement—Hope is really important. Provide encouragement and keep people hopeful that the situation is temporary, even if the conclusion date is unclear.

 

  • Share information about returning to work—particularly if you are a manager. If you know of plans to start to bring people back, this can provide at least some hope for an end.

 

  • Share opportunities for other work—If returning to work is not possible and the layoff is not temporary, then keep an eye on other employment opportunities. Consider even helping your colleage network – in your current or new industries.

 

  • Most importantly, empathize—Not sure how to support someone who is unemployed? Answer this question: What if it were me? If you were in that spot, what would you appreciate?

 

Just because the unemployment situation may be temporary, it does not make it less impactful. For us all to get through this together, we must do our part to support those who have lost work, remembering that they have lost much more than a paycheck.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.

For security resources, behavioral health solutions and real-time front lines information, visit us at www.r3c.com, email us at info@r3c.com or call us at 866-927-0184

 

 

Preparing Mentally for the Lift of COVID-19 Restrictions

 

By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

 

It seems as if we are entering a new phase of COVID-19. Now, in many areas, there are discussions and concrete actions regarding reengaging in society. One would expect this to cause a sense of relief, and, in many ways, it does. But more change also raises more questions. Under a shelter-in-place order, the expectations were clear, albeit unpleasant. As we start to dip our collective toe in the water, this can cause a new wave of feelings. Is it safe? Can I do it? Should I do it? There are countless “what ifs” to consider.

 

As humans we like to think of things linearly — with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Life seems to make more sense that way. As we have seen, however, that view does not apply to the pandemic. Instead, we are talking about curves — where we are on the curve, what the curve looks like, how we change the shape, etc. While the curve is shown as a smooth line, in truth it is quite jagged. We also have discussions of a second wave. If a second wave, or peak in the curve occurs, it is apt to be smaller than the first, but nonetheless is challenging to think about. Just when we think we are out of the woods, more trees appear.

 

Moving Forward

Managing an everchanging situation requires some mental skill. If we anticipate and expect some waves, they are easier to navigate. Keep the following in mind when it comes to how you navigate forward:

 

  • To state the obvious, protect yourself: Despite things being allowed that were not previously, we can protect our wellbeing the same way we always have. The decision regarding whether an activity is safe or unsafe is ultimately still a personal decision to make. The adage of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” seems to fit here.

 

  • Take a long view: We are all better served by making decisions that fit within our overall worldview and sense of self. In times of disruption, tapping into our core values is a great way to stay centered. Being centered on values vs. fears tends to lead to more appropriate decision making.

 

  • Balance safety with life affirmation: If life is solely focused on isolation from the pandemic, we miss the opportunity to enjoy life. Joy is critical, especially in times of hardship. Balance the two needs so that neither are neglected.

 

  • Stay informed: In previous blogs, I have discussed the need to limit over exposure to the news media as a way to help manage anxiety. This is still the case. But staying informed is important, especially when things change rapidly. Information has the power to allow you to feel secure in making decisions.

 

  • Accept things that are outside of your control: These days, it has become painfully obvious that many things are outside of our control or sphere of influence. Having the ability to accept that this is true prevents a needless internal battle. Trying to control the uncontrollable is, after all, impossible. This does not mean we cannot be intentional or have plans. On the contrary, planning is very important. While things may not go fully according to plan, we should strive to focus on what we can control and remain flexible to roll with changes that are inevitably going to occur.

 

  • Listen to your gut. I have a mentor that told me this regarding driving a racecar: “If you think you’re going too fast, you probably are.” If you have a gut sense that “I’m going too fast to make it around this corner,” you are probably going for an off-track excursion. The same principle applies to COVID-19. If something seems like a bad idea, it might be, even if it seems to be true logically. If you’re not trusting your gut, run it by a trusted friend and get their input.

 

As we enter a new phase of the pandemic in many parts of our country (and the world), we need not be victim to the uncertainty. The uncertainty may be challenging, but through it all we will learn and grow.

 

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.

For security resources, behavioral health solutions and real-time front lines information, visit us at www.r3c.com, email us at info@r3c.com or call us at 866-927-0184.

 

 

 

5/5/2020

Delayed Mental Health Effects of the Pandemic

By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

 

Times of great transition are upon us. Many states are easing restrictions and re-opening some business, which provides a mix of relief and apprehensiveness. What we are starting to see now, is how the pandemic has taken its toll on our collective and individual psyche — something about which we need to be keenly aware. It’s important to be looking at not only the primary effect of the virus, but the secondary and tertiary effects, including those on mental health. These will be present not for weeks, but months and years to come.

 

Think about this for a moment: Economic devastation and job loss both have been associated with increased incidence of suicide. This is not surprising. The 2008 financial collapse was suggested to be a factor in thousands of suicides in America and Europe. Yet, that economic downturn will likely be considered mild in comparison to the current situation. Unemployment has impacted millions within a matter of weeks. While some of this may improve in the near term, rebuilding our economy will take some time.

 

Consider some other examples: Relationship problems that were set aside out of necessity during the shelter-in-place may now come to a head. Returning to work will be great, but may be more demanding than it was pre-pandemic—requiring more work with less resources. Some, during the pandemic, may have used alcohol as a go-to stress reliever, and the dependence on it may become uncontrollable. These are but a few examples of what are surely hundreds that we will navigate as we recover from the pandemic.

 

Regardless of what you may be facing, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

 

The distance between the pandemic and the after-effects may be greater than we imagine. Think about it this way: If I stop making car payments today, will that negatively impact the situation immediately? Likely not. It may be months before my car is repossessed.  After a flood, the water recedes, but the damage done to a home may not be evident until long after. Trauma symptoms are, likewise, typically not evident immediately after the event. It can take days, or sometimes weeks, for trauma related symptoms to truly take hold. In the same vein, we should not assume that because everything appears to be over, it truly is. This is important to remember in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us.

 

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself struggling even when you think things are getting better from an objective standpoint. To some extent, this should be expected. COVID-19 and its after-effects touch us all, to differing extents. Nobody will come through unaffected. Some may have the internal resources and skills to manage, but many of us may need some external help. Use it if you need it. Those resources are there for times like these.

 

For those around you, remember that outside appearances may not reflect reality. You may not understand the individual issues going on in the lives of friends, co-workers or even family. Be patient and understanding. Provide support as you can. Encourage seeking professional help if it would be appropriate.

 

The last point I want to make relates to suicide. We have seen, sadly, some recent COVID-19 related suicides. There are many resources for you or your loved ones who may be having thoughts of suicide, but one that works for anyone, any time, is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. You can call 800-273-TALK (8255) or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

 

We need to get through all of this together—not just the shelter-in-place, or even the virus itself, but everything that comes after. Support yourself and those around you—today, tomorrow and for the long haul.

 

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.

For security resources, behavioral health solutions and real-time front lines information, visit us at www.r3c.com, email us at info@r3c.com or call us at 866-927-0184

 

 

4/22/2020

Maintaining Balance In An Unstable Time

 

Today, let’s talk about the concept of staying balanced. COVID-19 and all that entails can be dizzying. Yet we must stay balanced in order to move forward.

 

Airplanes have a multitude of gauges, most of which are too complex for my brain to understand. One gauge that easier to understand is the “artificial horizon”. This allows the pilot to know the planes orientation to the ground (whether the plane is level, climbing, or heading toward earth). Even when visibility is poor or the pilot becomes disoriented (which can happen more easily than you’d think), the pilot knows where “level” is. A similar concept is seen in a race car; you will often see a red band of tape at the 12 o’clock position of the steering wheel. This is an easy way to know if the front wheels are pointed straight ahead. Because in a spin or out of control situation, the driver can more easily regain control of the car if there is a clear understanding of where “straight” is. Both the artificial horizon and the red tape serve to help orient the pilot/driver.  In clear conditions, they are less important. In hazardous conditions, they become vital.

 

The current situation we find ourselves in, this pandemic, probably represents the latter. No matter our individual circumstance, we all are experiencing a sense of disruption…and need to act in order to stay balanced. What this looks like will be highly individualized. But regardless, it should be something that helps us keep a sense of balance, and keeps us pointing forward. We all have the power to act against the destabilizing aspects of COVID-19.

 

Whatever helps you to stay balanced, it should meet some basic criteria. Balancing activities should be:

 

  • Meaningful—If something can truly help us to stay oriented, it needs to be meaningful, personally.

 

  • Accessible—As our current situation is ongoing, we will need to be able to orient ourselves often. Once a week is not enough. Once a day may not even be enough. Pick something that can be accessed as needed.

 

  • Healthy—By definition, something that helps keep us balanced should not negatively impact our health, physical or mental.

 

  • Longstanding—The things that help to keep us balanced now are the same things that have kept us balanced pre-COVID-19. Those things that have long roots in our lives have kept us standing before and will do the same now.

 

  • Enjoyable—It’s probably fair to conclude that the balance we need during COVID-19 means bringing back some joy. With that in mind, keep it positive. If it’s something enjoyable, you’re more likely to use it more often.

 

Staying balanced does not happen by accident, so be intentional in your actions, and help those around you to do the same.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

 

 

 

4/21/2020

Managing Employees During COVID-19

Part 3 – Managing Performance

 

By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

Welcome to the final part of this blog series. So far we have discussed manager self-care and being emotionally aware with employees. Now, let’s delve into managing performance expectations. On the face of it, this would appear to be the easiest of the three since it is what you are used to doing every day. But, as with all things COVID-19, what used to be straightforward is now more complex.

 

Allow me to state the obvious for a moment: Every employee is paid to do a job. That job has requirements that were outlined when the employee was hired, and performance is evaluated based on how well those duties are completed. If one cannot complete those duties, the employee is likely put on a performance improvement plan. Should that plan not lead to an improvement in job performance, the job is not a good fit.

 

Simple, right? Well, maybe not.

 

Managing Effectively During a Pandemic

Let me ask you this: Have you ever had a serious family problem or other unexpected stressors that led you to physically go to work but ultimately not get much done? Maybe you attended meetings, completed the most basic of tasks, but did not get much meaningful work completed. This is called presenteeism. The employee is physically present, but mentally absent. Maybe you have not done this more than one to two times in your career, but it has happened to us all, including those that work for us. Except now, during COVID-19, everyone has some element of personal distraction. The entire workforce (managers included) is balancing competing demands. Yet, the demands outlined in job descriptions remain unchanged. For many, they have become even more complex as the virus is changing how work is being done in ways that are more labor intensive. In short order, both work and personal lives have become more complex, at the same time.

For most of us, it is more critical than ever to get it right, get things done, and do it in a timely manner. As a manager, you are probably seeing many of your employees meet this challenge. Congratulations! These people are easy to manage. But what about those who are really struggling to get the work done? How do we address the performance issues in a way that also acknowledges the inherent difficulty of the current situation?

First, be clear that the expectation exists. If an employee needs to complete eight tasks per hour, and they are completing five, let it be known that the expectation has not changed. The key to this conversation is in the delivery. Consider the two examples below and think about which is more likely to be productive.

  • “Why are you not meeting the eight calls per hour standard? This has always been the goal and it has not changed. You need to do better.”

 

  • “I’ve noticed that you used to be hitting eight calls per hour, but recently have struggled to hit that goal. Many of us are struggling with the changes going on right now. I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to support you so that you can meet the eight calls per hour.”

 

What’s the Expectation?

Following this, ask what barriers exist in terms of the employee meeting the expectation. We need to understand what is getting in the way in order to help the employee make changes. Do they have four young kids at home and are struggling with interruptions? Is it that they are distracted by excessive worry about getting sick? Do they have an ill relative? All these things would have an understandable impact on work production. That is not to say these things excuse poor performance, but knowing about them allows for a conversation to take place about how to best achieve performance goals in the context of such issues. Having this conversation with the employee shows understanding of the challenges and that you are not solely focused on performance metrics. Creativity helps here. There may be things you would not normally consider, but now is not a normal time.

 

With employees who are struggling, focus on the most important tasks and think flexibly. It may not be reasonable to expect everything to be done the same way now. For example, it may have been expected for employees to punch in at 8 a.m. and punch out at 4:30 p.m. Now, this schedule is made impossible by having school-aged children that need help completing schoolwork each day. By allowing employees to extend work hours to account for family needs, the daily work gets done at a time when they can focus. Does it matter that some work occurred “after hours”? It depends on the nature of the job. In most instances, getting the work done is what matters more than the exact time the work was completed. Similarly, if you have an employee who struggles with anxiety due to dealing with the public, out of fear of exposure to COVID-19 (despite all reasonable protective measures), allowing for more frequent, brief breaks may help the employee and have a positive impact on their work productivity. Instead of fighting through anxiety (and having productivity decrease as a result of the mental distraction), they can use the time to manage the anxiousness and return to work refreshed and more productive.

 

With all that said, there are going to be employees who are not good performers. They probably struggled before, and still are now. They may not have the ability, desire or motivation to do the work. Maybe you tried the above suggestions, but even then, work is still not getting done. This is an arena that is not new for most of us, and the steps required to deal with these employees are largely the same as they always were. However, it never hurts to consult with human resources if you need to go down the road of more significant action. It is possible alternative steps may be now required secondary to changes in the work environment or changes in policy/regulation related to COVID-19.

 

Evaluations

As you evaluate employee performance in this constantly evolving landscape, it is perfectly fine to hold firm on performance expectations. As a leader, however, do all you can to investigate, support, and problem solve with your employees during this pandemic. You are likely to be pleasantly surprised by the capacity, dedication, and work ethic you uncover in the process.

 

This blog post concludes the three-part series on managing employees during COVID-19. I hope you found useful bits of information that will help in managing and supporting your employees during this pandemic.

 

In closing, I sincerely hope you, your employees, and your families, are safe, productive, and happy.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.

For security resources, behavioral health solutions and real-time front lines information, visit us at www.r3c.com, email us at info@r3c.com or call us at 866-927-0184.

 

4/17/2020

Managing Employees During COVID-19

Part 2

 

Unless you received some in-depth management training on how to tap into and manage your employees inner psyche (my guess is probably not), this may be a challenging time. Employee challenges right now, in the midst of COVID-19, may have more to do with emotions than actual abilities. That’s not what you signed on for, but here it is. Fear not, you’ve got this. Add mini psychologist to the resume!

 

Have you ever had the experience of asking a benign question and getting an earful in response? What should have been a simple answer turned into a rant of sorts, perhaps even with crying or yelling. Where the heck did that come from? Welcome to the world of emotions. Often not seen, but always present. Emotions can make simple things complex, and complex things really complex.

 

Now, think about the state of the world today and how you feel. Odds are, there is a fair amount of anxiety, fear, and maybe even sadness. Worries at home bleed into worries about finances, work tasks and other stressors. Ask yourself, have your emotions about COVID-19 affected:

 

  • How you do your work, or how you interact with others at work?
  • How you are completing tasks?
  • How you manage problems?

 

Now, think about your employees. Are you attending to your employees? Can you detect their emotional state? Do you understand the myriad of demands they may be trying to manage, both at work and at home? Can you hear what is being said between the actual spoken words? Attentive to what is said, and what is not said.

 

Consider the following situation:

 

  • A retail associate comes to you stating that someone has apparently stolen the remaining masks that were being provided for public facing employees. A new shipment comes every week, but it’s 2 more days until the next shipment arrives. She asks what to do, since there will be no masks for anyone after the next shift is complete.
  • You respond that this is unfortunate, but you have no ability to get the shipment of masks expedited. There are still gloves and hand-sanitizer, so you suggest that people just need to “do the best they can” until the next shipment arrives.
  • The associate quietly nods, indicates understanding, and walks away looking somewhat defeated.

 

If you left the conversation thinking the main problem was the masks, you missed something. Sure, the masks were stolen and that’s a problem. They are a critical layer of protection for the wearer against COVID-19 and nobody wants to get sick. That’s obvious. However, for some that mask may mean the difference between life and death. And for the children, family and others in that employee’s life, that mask may be the one thing that prevents widespread sickness, or worse. There is a whole mental and emotional pathway that follows the lack of a mask, and for many, it’s scary. It also sends a message, intended or not, that employee safety is not the priority. One simple conversation just got very complex indeed.

 

Now, how could that situation have been handled in a way that makes the employee feel supported? First, express genuine concern, not over the masks being stolen, but for employee safety. Showing you care about the situation matters. If you are struggling to do this, think about if it were you in that situation. What kind of response would you want to hear? Second, try and problem solve. Taking actions (even if they are ultimately unsuccessful) to resolve the situation shows that you understand the concern and are taking it seriously. See if you can obtain masks from elsewhere, but if that’s not successful, perhaps there is a way to improvise face coverings of some sort. Actions speak loudly. As a manager, you may not be able to solve all problems, but effort shows. Lastly, maintain open communication and check in with your employees. While you may have a lot on your plate, don’t fall into the trap of “out of sight, out of mind.” Just because it is no longer on your mind does not mean it’s not on the mind of your employee.

 

One last thing, and perhaps this is the most important. Do not hesitate to share with your employees some of your own struggles, fears, and anxieties. This may not be a normal managerial thing to do, but again, nothing about business today is normal. If an employee shares a fear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing a similar fear that you may have in your own life. We all may be afraid of bringing the virus home to family; worry about elderly friends or family; or struggle with massively increased personal demands. Sharing these things can help an employee to see that their experience is not unique, and that you can understand their struggles as a person, and not just an employee.

 

Be attentive to your employees, particularly during this pandemic…and when you think of the phrase we will get through this together, make sure you are keeping your employees in mind.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

 

 

 

4/15/2020

Being Okay With…Being Okay

 

Of all the things I have learned throughout this pandemic, the one that sticks out the most is this: the standards that have been present most of my life have been lowered, if not thrown out the window completely. For the first week or two of shelter-in-place, it was just a matter of doing everything possible to get through. Now that my wife and I are working from home, my son is doing virtual learning, there is a semblance of a routine some days. Some days. But things are still not normal.

 

If I’m brutally honest, more days than not, I feel guilty. Because for all of the “things” that do get done in the day, some of them don’t get done well, and other things don’t get done at all. As I sit here, there are dishes piling up in the kitchen, floors that need cleaning, and laundry that needs washing. Not worried about those things. Conversations with my wife are often about work…who has conference calls when…who gets the office and who is going to work at the dining room table…and how to manage the unique demands that come from doing everything remotely. Hardly the stuff you thought would occupy your conversations when you got married. And there is my son, who, praise be, is a smart and independent kid who can get schoolwork done independently. This helps immensely when we are both working. That said, I wish it didn’t have to be that way. Never would I have considered the bar for a good parent to be: is he alive? Yes; Has he burned the house down? Not yet; Has he had lunch today? Probably; Was that lunch real food or Pop-Tarts? Not sure, but probably the latter. It goes on and on. Based on my conversations with friends and colleagues, my experience is hardly unique.

 

The thing is, it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to do things differently, or sometimes not at all. It’s okay if the previous standard is too high for right now and we need to settle for good enough. And the sooner we accept that reality, the easier it gets. In fact, it may make it easier to meet those higher standards after all. Why? Well for one, beating ourselves up mentally is hard work, and draining in itself. Ruminating takes time and energy…time and energy that could be put toward something productive. Rumination is chewing on the past. What we want to be doing is thinking forward, because this is where we can actually do something positive. And in thinking about our future, set reasonable expectations. Making dinner is reasonable, making a five-course meal is probably not. Doing a chore or two is good, but don’t plan to clean the whole house at once. And engaging with a spouse or child is absolutely a great thing, but don’t expect a Hallmark movie experience every time.

 

This does not mean that we can, in all things, do away with higher standards. There are going to be tasks at work, within our family, or within our communities that require our A game. Particularly when it comes to COVID-19. These things are critical, and must be separated from the myriad other non-critical (albeit likely important) issues the day brings.

 

The current pandemic is unlike anything experienced in our lifetime. There is no guidebook on how to effectively manage a pandemic. We are learning as we go. With that in mind, go easy on yourself and others. Don’t set the bar too high. Things will not be perfect, mistakes will happen, and occasionally, we may fail. All this means is that we are human. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing the best we can and accepting that it’s okay to just be okay.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

 

 

4/14/2020

Managing Employees Amid Covid-19

Part 1: Focus on You

By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director at R3 Continuum

 

This is first in a series of blogs aimed at helping managers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a complex and rapidly changing time that places a lot more on the plates of already busy managers.

 

Managing people may be something you trained for and enjoy, something you were elevated to based on experience, or something you really don’t like but have to do. Irrespective of how you got there, it’s your job. And the truth is, managing people these days requires some additional flexibility, patience and skill.

 

But before we delve into helping employees, I want to spend some time to talk about you. Not as a manager, per se, but as a person. Remember, not only are your employees struggling with the current crisis – you are too! The reality is that if you’re not tending to yourself, it’s difficult to manage or support others. Let me share a personal example: in today’s morning meeting a co-worker who knows me well sent a message simply asking, “are you OK?” I was initially confused, but then I realized something important—I was feeling pretty exhausted. It wasn’t apparent to me at the time, but it was to those around me. My response was, “Thank you, I’m okay, but this whole work from home thing is getting old and I’m dragging.” The realization of feeling off and my coworker expressing some understanding, began to change my perspective, mood and engagement level for the day. The real question is why didn’t I notice this, for myself, earlier? Answer: because I’m human. And I needed and appreciated the nudge.

 

Great managers focus on employee needs and helping to get those needs met. However, we, as managers (especially during COVID-19) need help too. We have loved ones who are vulnerable to COVID-19, or perhaps have it. Meanwhile we’re trying to balance work with home life, at a time when both are potentially stressful due to increased workloads, furloughs, home schooling—you name it.

 

Now more than ever, it’s critical that we take care of ourselves. Forgoing self-care is not only unhealthy, it makes our work infinitely harder. Conversely, if we care for ourselves, we’re better equipped to help our employees when they need us most. What we do to care for ourselves matters less than doing something to care for ourselves. While this may seem counterintuitive, it’s true.

 

Are you more productive if you never get up from your desk for eight hours straight, or if you take short breaks throughout the day? When you take breaks, of course. But during times of disruption, it’s easy to forget to take that time. Whatever helps you find your “center,” set time aside for it each day, even if for only 10 minutes. Be intentional, or it’s not likely to happen.

 

In addition, give yourself an emotional break—don’t beat yourself up. What we’re experiencing is unlike anything else in our lifetime, full stop. There’s no playbook, manual, or guiding set of principles to follow. In the span of a week, I have, without question, made multiple mistakes in my personal and work life. This is okay. Perfection never existed before COVID-19, and it’s only further away in the midst of COVID-19.

 

Lastly, be in-tune with your emotions. No, I’m not talking about setting aside time to cry every day (although there is nothing wrong with that if it helps). Rather, it’s about paying attention to how you’re feeling. Feeling numb (like you aren’t able to feel anything at all) is a common reaction during times of extreme stress but it’s not healthy for long periods. Feeling very anxious is likely to affect productivity, decision making and interaction with others. Humans are emotional creatures, and emotion plays a large role in how we think, react and make-decisions. Being aware of your emotions will help you stay in touch with yourself as well as recognize the emotional states of your employees—something we’ll discuss in a later blog.

 

While trying to effectively manage employees, and life itself, remember to find time today, and every day, to care for yourself. It’s not only how we survive, but thrive, and help others do the same.

 

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

 

 

4/10/2020

Evaluating How You Cope During COVID-19

 

By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

 

A big part of being successful and healthy in life is the ability to maintain balance. As of a month ago, I would have told you my life was reasonably balanced. Today, as it is, I am probably working longer hours than normal; not spending enough time with my family, even though we are in the same house; and struggling to maintain the same sleep routine. That’s fine for now, because this is not a time where things fit into nice neat boxes, and some temporary chaos can be sustainable. However, it’s fair to say that most of us are probably needing to stretch for new ways to cope with the unique challenges today brings. In doing so, we need to be intentional to not “create a monster to defeat a monster.” Unfortunately, our attempts to stay balanced can sometimes backfire, and the attempt to defeat one source of distress can lead us directly into another.

 

Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms should be appropriate and proportional. Acting in the extreme may cause a temporary sense of relief, but can cause unintended consequences down the line. In some instances, the consequences can be more damaging than and/or exacerbate the original problem. In any case, lets look at some examples.

 

Needing time alone is a reasonable request, as this is how many people recharge. But not talking to my spouse for a full day is going to cause relationship friction. Having a glass of wine may be part of your normal “wind down” at the end of a long week, but having several glasses at a time to combat the stress is probably not healthy. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, but compulsively working out several hours per day is not. And an order of Five Guys once every few weeks is probably okay, but not every day. Everyone will have their own unique coping mechanisms, and it’s important to know that.

 

Self Evaluation

When evaluating an activity used to cope, consider some of the following: Is what I am doing_______?

  • Healthy—What is done to deal with stress should not be damaging to health. If physical or mental wellbeing is negatively affected, consider other options.
  • Useful—Your actions should serve the purpose of helping to cope with whatever stressor is present. If there is no benefit to the stress level after the activity, look for something else.
  • Non-excessive—The activity should not be all-consuming of time/energy. If it seems excessive, it probably is.
  • Relationally appropriate—We need to maintain good relationships those around me, whether family or co-workers. If a coping mechanism is taking away from that, it is probably not healthy.
  • Non-secretive—Going out of the way to hide or lie about an activity may suggest that it’s not healthy. This does not imply a need to tell others; however, if the thought of telling others is uncomfortable, it may be worth evaluating if it’s a healthy activity.

 

Coping well is a critical behavioral health component in managing the stress of COVID-19. While there is a lot we can’t control during a worldwide pandemic, we can control our response to stress – by either adding to it, or choosing healthier and more self-aware paths forward.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

As an employer, what can you be doing to help your teams manage stress in the wake of crisis? R3 Continuum is here to help you. Talk to us.

For security resources, behavioral health solutions and real-time front lines information, visit us at www.r3c.com, email us at info@r3c.com or call us at 866-927-0184.

 

 

4/8/2020

Other People’s Behavior

 

By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

 

Noted existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote “hell is other people.” There is other context to that quote, but for the purposes here, we’ll leave that out. It’s a quote I’ve often thought about as we manage COVID-19, in a modified form of “hell is other people’s bad behavior.” Daily, we are dealing with a virus that has likely spread faster because, despite the efforts of governments and health organizations, some people don’t follow the directions. I’m not talking about young children, the cognitively impaired, or those who legitimately are unable to control their behavior. I’m talking about people that make a conscious choice to place themselves or others at risk. And while we have seen multiple examples of the general public engaging in potentially dangerous or ill-advised activities, chances are we have some people in our own lives that are engaging in behavior that make us cringe when it comes to COVID-19 safety. Other people’s lax attitude toward rules can put us in an uncomfortable situation. Anxiety, already high, goes higher.

 

Protecting Our Bubble

As you may have gathered from other blogs, driving is my passion. From racing to advanced car control, if it has four wheels and an engine: I’m interested. When teaching teenager car control schools, one of the concepts we discuss is “protecting your bubble”. This means always protecting the space in front, behind, and beside your vehicle. This provides a cushion of safety by giving the space (and reaction time) needed to act should something happen that alters the desired course. Another way to put this is that I tend to drive as if nobody else knows what they are doing. Hopefully they do, but if not, I’ve protected myself.

 

Most of us are, currently, protecting our bubble. We are taking reasonable precautions to keep safe distance from others, engaging in public “defensively,” and have full awareness of everything going on around us. People out there may be engaging in dangerous activity, but in most instances, I have enough time to react. Sure, something could happen, but it’s unlikely. Doing this protects us not only physically, but mentally.

 

Where this gets more challenging is when it’s not a stranger in public, but someone we know and care about.  Now, protecting our bubble comes at a cost. Chances are we are still protected physically. Assuming they don’t live in our home, a family member engaging in risky behavior is not going to place us in greater physical risk. It does, however, affect us mentally by way of worry. Worry about their health, anger over what we see as obstinance, and the damage it can do to our relationships. In a time when every part of life seems stressful, it’s one more significant source of anxiety we don’t need. If we could only control others’ behavior, just temporarily for their own safety.

 

What are some ways we might manage this situation?

 

  • Focus on you—While this sounds incredibly self-centered, the reality is the only person’s behavior we can control is our own. Our ability to help others is only preserved if we are healthy.

 

  • Discuss your concerns—All we can do is relay our concerns and fears in an honest and straightforward manner. They may be receptive to hearing them, especially if they come from a place of concern. If they aren’t, there may not be anything you can do to change their mind. That is not on you.

 

  • Look for openings—There may be times that are better than others to talk to family about your concern regarding the virus. This could be related to their emotional state (when they are calm, not defensive) or a change in the reality of the virus (for example, a spike in cases in their town or county). Delivering the right message at the wrong time is going to be frustrating for everyone.

 

  • Disconnect if needed—Depending on how much distress this causes us, we may need to take steps to disconnect. While this is a serious decision, and one that shouldn’t be rushed, it may be a necessary step in maintaining our own health. This does not mean that any/all contact is precluded, but that we minimize the interactions that cause distress.

 

  • Rewrite the narrative—Mentally, we build narratives and these narratives are emotionally-laden. Our narrative about how to manage a family member who is engaging in behavior we find objectionable can easily skew negative, where we feel bad about ourselves, anger toward the other party, or both. This breeds more negativity, and this affects our mental health. Our narrative could just as easily be this: I was concerned about my dad and did everything I could to share that. While I could not control what he does, I realized I could control my own actions. In the end, while it didn’t end like I wanted, I can hope for things to be better in the future.

 

Protect your bubble, physically and emotionally. We will get through this together.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.

For security resources, behavioral health solutions and real-time front lines information, visit us at www.r3c.com, email us at info@r3c.com or call us at 866-927-0184.

 

4/7/2020

Protecting Your Bliss

 

By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

 

In shuffling through a pile of junk mail yesterday (ah yes, it’s good to know not everything has been impacted by the coronavirus), I came across something that caught my eye. In a mailer from my car insurance company, printed on top of a beautiful picture of a classic Ford Mustang was the simple text, Protect Your Bliss. It was a great piece of marketing if you ask me, because to the target audience, their car is indeed a source of joy. Car insurance is hardly emotive, but the thought of protecting something that is such a source of joy sends a more meaningful message. It made me consider: How can all of us, amidst the uncertainty around us, do as the ad suggests, and protect our bliss?

 

Personal happiness is hardly top of mind for most of us right now. Life is filled with wall-to-wall news coverage on COVID-19, a severely disrupted daily routine, worry about our family and friends, financial concerns, and the ever-present fears about contracting COVID-19 ourselves. Many have experienced the death of a loved one due to the virus, or other exacerbated problems that pre-dated the virus, such as marital issues, domestic violence, addiction, and the like. In the context of all of these, bliss may seem out of reach. But the things that make us happy are what carry us through the hard times. The pursuit of bliss can be both as a necessary break from daily struggles and something to keep pulling us forward.

 

Discover a positive outlet

 

Most are probably familiar with the line made famous by Stephen King, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” In a time when life may seem like mostly work, we still need some elements of “play” to survive. We can think of play in a broader sense than just having fun, but rather any activity or focus that recharges the batteries, refuels the tank and allows us to push forward. It could be a special type of interaction with a spouse or child, an engrossing hobby or practicing meditation. While we may be limited now, we can still do something. Much is outside of our control, but not everything. Take time today, and every day, to not only take a break from negativity, but engage in something that is a true source of joy. You will feel the benefit.

 

Looking forward

 

Protecting our bliss also means being able to look forward to future experiences. This is a familiar concept to us all. A planned vacation makes it more palatable to work overtime. Cutting back on daily expenses is easier if there is a goal of saving money for a down payment on a home. The same principal holds true now. Having something meaningful to look forward to makes getting through these times a bit easier. We may be looking forward to taking a trip that was postponed by the coronavirus, for example. At the same time, this could be something as simple as having a meal out with family, which was routine just a month ago, but will now be a treasured experience. Even in the face of uncertainty, consider what experiences you can anticipate and look forward to now, and talk about these anticipations with loved ones.

 

While we strive, as individuals and societies, to stay healthy physically, we must also stay healthy emotionally. So today, I hope you can find ways to protect your bliss.

 

 

Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.

For security resources, behavioral health solutions and real-time front lines information, visit us at www.r3c.com, email us at info@r3c.com or call us at 866-927-0184

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

 

 

4/6/2020

My Coworker Lost a Loved One to COVID-19. What Can I do To Help?

 

For many of us, our coworkers are family. In terms of waking hours, I spend just as much time each day interacting with people in my job than I do with my wife and son. Of course, those lines blur a bit with the current work-from-home predicament many of us experience (My son is a wonderful kid, but perhaps not an ideal coworker…but I digress). So when a major life event happens to a coworker, we care. Some of these events are positive (getting married, having a child, purchasing a home, getting a promotion) but many are not.

 

The following question came across my desk from a customer of R3c: “how can a worker support a coworker who has lost a loved one to COVID-19?”

 

This is a great question, and one that deserves some attention. Because while death of a loved one is not an unusual experience, the COVID-19 situation is unique. It is unique in that visiting the ill individual is largely forbidden, gatherings of family are not possible, and funeral/memorial services are extremely limited. So while death is a common human experience; death in the time of COVID-19 feels, and is, vastly different. Many of the traditions and activities that help us process death are simply not available. For those of us who have experienced death of a loved one, it becomes difficult to imagine going through it in the age of COVID-19. Yet, many will; and many of those people will be our co-workers.

 

As we have all become accustom to these days, it is a matter of adjusting our methods to meet the current realities. Particularly as it comes to interacting. Sometimes these things seem a bit silly at first, at least for those of us who are not millennials (a virtual happy hour?), but over time start to feel more natural. When it comes to those interactions, we must be a bit more intentional. The water cooler, or cube-farm cannot be relied upon for conversation.  When it comes to supporting a coworker who has been personally impacted by COVID-19, be intentional in reaching out.

 

As we are all unique, be mindful that what is well received by some may not be by others. At the same time, anything (appropriate) done in good faith is likely to be appreciated. People often fail to act because they fear doing or saying the wrong thing. Don’t let that fear prevent you from acting.

 

If you have a co-worker who has lost a loved one due to COVID-19, consider some of the following tips:

 

  • Express sympathy genuinely— The simple things can often make the most impact. Expressing condolences shows that you care, and is also very non-invasive.

 

  • Ask, is there anything I can do for you?— Often, the answer to this question is “no”, at least initially. This may be because they really don’t need anything; they don’t want to inconvenience you; or they are not sure how to ask for what they need. Keep the offer open, even if you get an initial “no.” As time moves on, and the initial shock wears off, offers for help can stop coming in, and this is often when it’s most necessary.

 

  • Check in— Particularly for co-workers you know well, take time to check-in throughout the week. This could be related to the loss, or it could be just to touch base on other things. Feeling connected is helpful for a grieving individual, who may otherwise feel isolated.

 

  • Listen—One of the most effective things we can do to support others is to listen. It does not require us to be an expert, it only requires that we care. Listening to someone as they talk about the loss (or anything else) shows support.

 

  • Have patience—As people experience loss, particularly in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, it can impact how they interact and function. Frustration tolerance may be lowered; there may be a tendency to withdraw; and getting things done can be difficult. To the extent possible, we want to remain compassionate and be patient.

 

  • Provide a break—In the midst of a heavy and complex emotional situation, we can help provide a break. Everyday activities, including work, are an important part of helping people process loss. While it is good to ensure our co-workers feel supported in their loss, it is important for them to also be engaged in conversations and activities that do not center on the loss.

 

These are but a few things you can do in support of a coworker who has experienced a loss due to COVID-19. There are likely dozens of others out there, so find what works for you.  For your coworker, your actions could be a much-needed source of light in a seemingly dark time.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

 

 

4/2/2020

Fighting the Tide of Uncertainty

 

My wife, a month ago, asked me this… “what are we going to do when (our son) is in college?…we will be empty nester’s and still pretty young.” The answer I gave…“I have no idea, that’s eight years from now and a lot can happen in eight years.” Today, facing COVID-19, you could truncate that timeframe quite a lot and the exchange might be the same (“…what are we going to do eight weeks from now…how should I know, eight weeks is a long ways off…). Now, my confidence in knowing what the future holds is akin to my confidence that my son has done all of his chores for the day.

 

That uncertainty can serve as a catalyst for anxiety. With COVID-19, realities change not weekly, but daily; and sometimes not daily, but hourly. Anxiety can permeate our relationships and sometimes shake our sense of self. The fact, for example, that I cannot tell my son when he may be able to see his friends again makes me uneasy, because this is not something that should be hard to determine. Being unable to tell him when “normal” may return means I have to see him struggle with a topic that, at age 11, are a bit beyond his pay-grade, so to speak. Similar examples occur for us all, probably daily.

 

While everything may seem out of our control, this is not entirely the case. Outside forces may impact us, but are not responsible for our behavior. We can choose how to respond and how to regain a sense of control. Today, I am working on a set of tasks and planning for upcoming meetings. Later, I’m planning to make dinner for my family, and to go for a drive (which is allowed, here, under shelter-in-place). These are things I can impact and control, to provide a sense of normal in a time of uncertainty. For my son, I cannot give him the concrete answer he probably truly wants about seeing his friends, maybe I can provide a response that allays anxiety and helps him to feel like, you know, a normal kid.

 

While we cannot control the anxiety that may come with uncertainty, we can impact our behaviors. This will not happen automatically; rather, it will require intention and motivation. So today, and every day, engage in activities that fight the tide of uncertainty. Remind those you work with, live with, or otherwise care about to do the same.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

 

 

 

3/31/2020

How Can I Manage My Depression During “Shelter-in-Place”?

 

For millions of American’s, life was a bit of a struggle before COVID-19. Those struggles didn’t disappear with the presence of a virus, however. Today, I want to speak to those who may have depression. In particular because of the increasing (and necessary) calls for isolation. Isolation can be something that we do when we are feeling down, but it is also something that can amplify those feelings and create more of the negative emotions we are trying to escape.

 

Where I live, at this moment, we are not under an order to “shelter-in-place”, but my family and I have, in essence, been doing so anyway. How do we function under such a recommendation?

 

Well, here’s the thing. Pretty much everything we would recommend for someone with depression is still possible. Yes, even if we are, more or less, stuck at home. Exercise, social contact, productive activity, self-care, and engaging in fun activity can all be done. Going to therapy can be done via tele-medicine where we use both audio and video, and it works just as well as being in the room. Ditto medication management appointments and obtaining medications.

 

Here are some recommendations I would encourage all of us to keep in mind, especially if we have depression:

 

  1. Engage in social contact—While we may be prevented from physically seeing others, we can absolutely still see them on video or hear their voice on the phone. Use video when you can, but more importantly, keep in regular contact with your primary supports.
  2. Maintain productive activity—Keeping an active mind helps negative thoughts from running the show. If working from home is possible, great. Even if not, having a “working” mindset will help keep us healthy. In that vein, take a shower, dress like you are going to work, and keep a schedule. Even if your work is household tasks, this is still productive activity.
  3. Mind your self-care—Even in times of stress and uncertainty, it is important to take time for you, in whatever way makes you feel good.
  4. Don’t stop treatment—Going to medication or therapy appointments is likely to be virtual, which may seem different for a while, but you’ll likely adapt very quickly. It is really critical that you keep getting support, so don’t let your depression treatment fall by the wayside. There are also several ways to get your medications, including by mail. Some insurance companies are loosening restrictions to allow for you to get more mediation at one time (90 days versus the standard 30), or early refills to ensure you don’t run out.
  5. Ask for help if you feel unsafe—If you are having thoughts of suicide, talk to your provider immediately or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

 

If we can try and keep ourselves healthy, we are in a better place to help others. After all, we are in this together.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

General COVID-19 Updates: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/coronavirus-daily-update/

 

 

 

3/30/2020

Addiction Recovery In a Time of Isolation

 

In Minnesota we are known for an abundance of two things, lakes and addiction treatment programs! Neither of those are exactly easily accessible at the moment (the lakes are still frozen as of today, and COVID-19 has severely impacted treatment). Recovering from alcohol or drug addiction is a long and challenging process. You will hear people talk about sobriety as a full time job. A recent news article highlighted one expert’s experience of seeing more relapses since COVID-19, with the associated disruption in treatment. Although it is impossible, at present, to know whether this is a trend, it warrants our attention now, as there are millions of Americans who struggle with addiction.

 

For millions throughout the world, one of the constant avenues of support is Alcoholics Anonymous and the closely related Narcotics Anonymous and Al-Anon. These mutual support groups are at the heart and soul of the 12-step model of addiction treatment. However, such groups have been largely shuttered in person due to social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. Likewise, other treatment programs have had to temporarily stop in person services, leaving many reeling with a lack of critical support.

 

The concern goes well beyond lack of access to support or treatment. There are various risk factors present that may increase risk of relapse.

 

  • Anxiety is ubiquitous—and anxiety can be a major trigger for use.

 

  • Isolation is expected—this provides more opportunity for boredom and more opportunity to use without others knowing.

 

  • Financial stress is likely present—Stress associated with potential job loss, or the general economic downturn may lead to feelings of depression, increasing potential for relapse.

 

  • Lack of primary support—As COVID-19 has isolated us socially, it also is isolating from parents, children, or other key supports.

 

The good news here goes something like this…For the person struggling with maintaining sobriety, treatment resources have not disappeared…they might just look a bit different. Support groups, such as AA, are now being held virtually. Treatment programs, like Hazelden Betty Ford, are offering programming via tele-medicine. Like other areas of behavioral and medical treatment, addiction treatment is quickly working to adapt to the current situation.

 

And for every person struggling with addiction or to maintain sobriety, it is important to remember that the current circumstances do not preclude many helpful things, such as: phone calls to loved ones, exercise, engaging in meaningful activity, and continuing to take one day at a time.

 

If you or someone you know needs more information about addiction treatment or support, these websites may be helpful:

 

www.aa.org (Alcoholics Anonymous)

www.hazelden.org (Hazelden Betty Ford)

https://www.samhsa.gov/coronavirus (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

 

Everyone familiar with the 12-step model of sobriety knows about the concept of taking one day at a time. I only have control over my actions today, in this moment. Tomorrow is too far away and outside of my control. This sentiment should apply to us all, particularly at a time of such uncertainty about what tomorrow, next week, or next month may hold. If we take one day at a time, we will get through this together.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

General COVID-19 Updates: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/coronavirus-daily-update/

 

 

3/27/2020

Find Something to Enjoy Today

 

Unfortunately, as it relates to COVID-19 in the United States, there are difficult times ahead. If we don’t yet know someone personally affected by the virus, we soon will. I don’t know how you are feeling now, but I feel a mix of anxiety, gratefulness, uncertainty, and numbness. It, honestly, can be quite draining.

 

Two things happened to me today that pulled me out of 24/7 focus about our current situation. You might find these highly individualized and not applicable to you. I would not expect these to apply to anyone but me. Likewise, I wouldn’t expect your examples to generalize to others. In any case, as you indulge me, be thinking about how this may look in your life.

 

Today marked the release of a new album by one of my favorite bands, Pearl Jam—their first new release in several years. I’m doing my first cursory listen to it now, and will no doubt listen several more times in the coming days. Why is this important? Because this music has been part of my life for 25+ years, and everything, good and bad, that has happened in that time. The new music reflects something familiar and something new…. We have not lost what was, and can look forward to something new.

 

Also, today, my old car (some might call it a sentimental money pit on wheels) was returned after being in the shop for almost a year. I had all but forgotten about it until the shop owner called yesterday to ask if I wanted it delivered to my home. An hour ago, it was delivered and is now in my garage. It feels good to have it back. It brings back memories that are comforting—driving around with my grandfather, leaving my wedding ceremony with my wife, and of course the all too common being broken down on the side of the road, at night, waiting for a tow! These are reminders of life as it was before COVID-19, and how it will be again, eventually. In the coming days, I will find time to clean it up, change the oil, or just go for a drive, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

 

Find what works for you. A welcome escape for some may be considered work for someone else. Whatever we choose, it should help to recharge, refocus, and disengage from negativity. This is not being selfish or uncaring. On the contrary, self-care increases our capacity to help those around us when needed.

 

We will get through this together.

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

General COVID-19 Updates: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/coronavirus-daily-update/

 

 

 

3/25/2020

Supporting Our Essential Workforce During COVID-19

 

I spent some time in a recent blog discussing social distancing, isolation, and the behavioral health impact of work from home. Shortly after, a colleague was talking about having family members  who were essential employees, and therefore unable to work from home. How do we support those that do not have the work from home option? Our medical support staff, doctors, cashiers, gas station attendants, hotel workers, flight attendants, and trash collectors? In other words, the people who are critical to keeping the systems running that allow our society to keep moving forward?

 

A recent trip to a large retail store made me wonder if I had inadvertently traveled to a parallel universe. Customers were polite, kept good social distance, showed genuine appreciation for the workers and their safety, and even smiled at each other. Questions that are normally filler (such as, how are you?) were meant to elicit a real meaningful response. This is not the first time we have experienced a collective sense of togetherness and genuine compassion in recent decades (in the days following 9/11 we saw a similar sense of community), but it was great to see again and instilled a sense of hope. The reality is, whether we see them or not, millions of Americans will need to continue to go out into the world as the rest of us shelter in place; and they need our support.

 

There are things that we all can do in support of essential employees. Here are just a few:

 

Ask, how can I help?—Rather than making assumptions that someone may need something, ask how we can support them. The answers will vary, but we can be assured that we are supporting them in a way that matters. And even if they don’t need help, they now know they can come back to ask for help at a later time.

 

Liberally and creatively say thank you—Leave a note for your mail delivery person; give a gift card to your UPS driver; leave a larger tip for take-out food with a note of appreciation. These intangible things can make a huge difference in someone’s day.

 

Be a support—One of the most effective things we can do to support others is to listen and engage. It does not require us to be an expert, it only requires that we care. People who feel supported are better able to deal with adverse situations.

 

Be a resource— Essential workers may need help getting the resources needed to allow them to continue working, likely long hours. Maybe they need help figuring out a childcare situation, keeping track of appointments, or finding a treatment provider for themself or a family member.

 

Check in— Staying connected is important, and taking time out of your day to connect is a great way to keep human contact. Particularly for those who may be working long hours, under high levels of stress. The more connected, the less likely we are to feel depressed.

 

Encourage professional help if needed—COVID-19 has done something rather interesting to the field of medicine/behavioral health in that it has, in full force, made tele-medicine/tele-health the go-to method of treatment. This means that professional help is easier to access than ever. Having a computer, tablet, or smart phone means access a behavioral health or medical specialist from anywhere. If there is concern about someone needing more help, don’t hesitate to encourage they see a professional. It is easier than ever.

 

Lastly, Empathize—while I can’t understand what it takes to be a nurse, retail worker, or delivery driver in this time, it is not difficult to comprehend the level of stress and anxiety that may go along with such a role. Putting ourselves in that head-space can help determine the best ways to show support.

 

Take some time, today, to show support for some of the essential employee’s you may know or encounter in your life. We are all in this together.

 

 

Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP

Associate Medical Director

R3 Continuum

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

General COVID-19 Updates: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/coronavirus-daily-update/

 

 

3/24/2020

Expect Unexpected Distractions

 

As of this morning, more than 100 million Americans are under some version of shelter-in-place, some under Statewide and others under city or countywide restrictions. Many of us are, or soon will be, working from home. This is a large paradigm shift and not so easy transition for most.

 

When I’m not traveling for R3c, I work from my home office in North Carolina. I’ve been working from home for almost 7 years now. It took lots of adjustment at first, but I like it a great deal. I have my productivity routines pretty much locked in, even with a 9 and 12 year old running around. Yet, I’ve been struggling these past two weeks to keep focused and as productive as usual, and struggling with why is that so?

 

It finally occurred to me. This is all different. I now have to expect and anticipate the unexpected distractions and build those into my view of the how the day will go.  This is different than Summer break or track-out. While those pose challenges for working from home parents, currently navigating the daily grind is more complex.

 

There are a number of effective productivity patterns that can help, including establishing a routine, prepping for the day as you usually would, and setting a clear schedule. Yet one that is often overlooked is approaching the entire endeavor with the proper perspective and working to keep that perspective front and center. But now we have to acknowledge that thing are a bit different.

 

Even those of us who have worked from home for some time are finding things a bit odd, because now in this current crisis working from home is different than it used to be. It’s important for us to remember that. Kids being out of school, businesses shut down, reduced mobility of family and friends, loss of prior childcare options such as dropping the kids off at grannies house – it’s all different now.

 

You see it’s not just about “working” from home anymore. Now, for many it also means being caretaker, and teacher, and short-order cook, and cleaning crew and a myriad other duties and rolls that need to get done because those tasks don’t know or care about a pandemic.

 

Additionally, there are a myriad of ways everyday decisions get infinitely more complex. A few examples.

 

On a typical track-out my son may come in and ask if he can go to his friends house down the block. “Sure, be back by Noon”. Easy, right? Not anymore. The same question now brings a deluge of follow-up interrogation-like questions: Has that family been exposed? What do the parents do, do they travel, where do they work? What is the parents view of this situation, are they acting responsible? Is this friend mature and responsible enough to keep reasonable social distance? Will my son stay outside their house? What if he has to use the bathroom? Will they share food, or a drink? What if other kids come by that house? Does that family have anyone staying with them, from here, when did they arrive? Do they have any elderly people over there? And so on, and so on.

 

Sorting these questions and conflicts out takes time than the previously quick “sure, go ahead”. Now I have to think it through, I have to call my wife at work and ask her opinion, I may need to call the other kids parents, etc. Then if I say “no” I have to explain the decision to a 9-year old who isn’t quite getting it, bored to death with cabin fever, and just wants to see his friend and have something to do.

 

And underneath all of that, at some level, he’s scared. Because shelter them as much as we may want to, kids pick up stuff. He hears the hushed discussions between my wife and I at the breakfast island or after dinner cleaning up dishes. He picks up snippets from social media, or the news. He notices the markedly reduced traffic and interaction in our neighborhood. He overhears my calls with colleagues at the hospital.

 

This isn’t just about parents. A close friend calls to say he’s heading to an outdoor concern this evening, or inviting me to a block party at the clubhouse of their apartment community. Normal response is, “great, have fun.”  Not anymore. This also leads to a host of questions, some stated, some kept to oneself, but all marinated in worry and concern. My friend is upset that I won’t join him, thinks I’m acting paranoid, says we’re “growing apart”. This leads to discussion and explaining risk and reaffirming of the friendship and my care for them, and so on.

 

My mother-in-law calls to say they are on the way over to our house, to spend time with us. Normal response is “great, we’d love to see you.” But now? Wait, what? Bad idea, and yes I have to tell them that, but I can’t just say it and hang up. I have to explain why it’s a bad idea, why they need to turn around now, why if they come over we’re not letting them in. This takes time because feelings are hurt, and they miss their daughter and son-in-law, miss the grand kids, and they have a right to see us, and so on.

 

People want normalcy. Normalcy is a sign that “all is ok”, and normal is for me to say “sure, go ahead” or “great, come on over”. Normalcy is now gone. People are scared, some are confused, and most just want normal back. To manage that takes time, and discussion, and a deep sense of care, and those conflicts and challenging moments don’t care about your work schedule, or your conference call in 15 minutes or that deliverable you need to get out to your boss.

 

These are the unexpected distractions that are creeping up in all of our lives. We should plan and adjust for them. That can mean many things: longer days but more spread out to handle these distractions intermittently; if possible planned breaks in the day to address these issues (“Let me call you back at X”); orienting our family and friends to how things may be for a bit; and perhaps most importantly being patient and kind and understanding, with ourselves and others, that we’re all just not getting as much done as we used to. For a little bit, this is the new normal, for us all.

 

George L. Vergolias, PsyD, CMT

Medical Director

Forensic Psychologist

 

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/

General COVID-19 Updates: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/coronavirus-daily-update/

 

 

3/23/2020

Keeping a sense of normal during COVID-19

 

Human beings are creatures of habit, and when we are outside of our routine, things can get uncomfortable. COVID-19 has, to put it mildly, thrown our daily life and habits into disarray, leading to a sense of fear, confusion, and anxiety. Our personal and work lives and routines don’t resemble what they did just a few days and in some cases weeks ago. The speed of change is practically incomprehensible. We are trying to stay grounded at a time when the ground keeps shifting.

 

As of a few weeks ago (pre-COVID-19), there were likely things that became staples of yours and your employee’s existence. These things represented what was a “normal day”. Having a morning cup of coffee in the office, listening to a radio program during the morning commute, working out at the gym, or having lunch with friends. As of today, how many of those staples are still there? Maybe some, but probably not many.

 

Along with that, a great majority of the workforce has moved to remote work style in an effort to follow guidelines and directions of self-distancing. With that some employees may struggle with how to create and maintain a new sense of normal during this unprecedented time. Some may even begin to feel isolated and lonely as they miss the social interaction, they have become accustomed to and, in some cases, depended on.

 

So how do we maintain a sense of normal when things are decidedly abnormal?

 

  1. Keep the small things going—The small things help us to stay grounded every day and provide a sense of comfort.
  2. Take stock of the positive – Even in the most difficult of circumstances, there are positives and things to celebrate.
  3. Limit exposure to negative news – While it is important to stay informed and be proactive, too much exposure to “doom and gloom” can have a real impact on our mental health. At the very least, make portions of the day “news free”.
  4. Find something new – What better time to take on a new project or learn a new skill? Not only is it a welcome distraction, it is also productive.
  5. Stay productive – Just because we are limited in what we can do does not mean we can’t do anything of value. Whether work related or personal, keep busy.
  6. Have fun! – While having fun may seem inappropriate in such a time, fun is a critical component to our behavioral health. Find time to laugh, play games, go for a drive or bike ride, or do something that engages our inner child.
  7. Seek out relationships – Practicing “social distancing” does not mean we cannot engage with loved ones, friends, and colleagues. There are more ways than ever to stay in touch. Set aside time every day to engage with others.
  8. Ask for help when you need it – It will be common for people to struggle with the current situation, and some may need additional professional support. There are many resources available that do not require leaving home.

 

As an employer, if you have an employee who may be experiencing distress or increased anxiety, R3 Continuum can help. In a recent blog, Supporting Employees and Organization Operations During an Epidemic we provide some general information of what your employees are looking for from you, along with what to watch for within your employees that may be red flags, warranting additional support.

 

You are not alone in helping to support the emotional wellbeing and resilience of your employees. Should you have an employee who is in distress, or several employees R3 Continuum has telephonic group sessions and one-on-one support solutions available. We can help.