What’s normal?: Taking care of yourself and getting back to work during challenging times

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Well, 2021 seems to be challenging 2020 at every turn for the title of “Year We’d Most Like To Forget.” The last two months have been full of violence, new Covid variants, and—for Houstonians—Winter Storm Uri. Winter. Storm. Uri. On the list of things that could have derailed us this year, we’re pretty sure the state of Texas freezing over was not on there. Amidst all these challenges, how do you stay resilient? How do you take care of yourself and your loved ones?

Self-care and resiliency take time and it’s a process that doesn’t always come to us naturally. Needless to say, it is not as easy as flipping a switch. In the Harvard Business Review article, “The Secret to Building Resilience,” authors Rob Cross, Karen Dillon, and Danna Greenberg suggest that resilience comes from a strong network.

<p id="apragh-march2021-blog" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">According to Cross, Dillon, and Greenberg, the benefits of maintaining a network of strong relationships as cited in their January 2021 article include:According to Cross, Dillon, and Greenberg, the benefits of maintaining a network of strong relationships as cited in their January 2021 article include:

  • Helping us shift work or manage surges
  • Helping us to make sense of people or politics in a given situation
  • Helping us find the confidence to push back and self advocate
  • Helping us see a path forward
  • Providing empathic support so we can release negative emotions
  • Helping us to laugh at ourselves and the situation
  • Reminding us of the purpose or meaning in our work
  • Broadening us as individuals so that we maintain perspective when setbacks happen

*Click here to continue reading the January 2021 HBR article.

In addition to reaching out to your network, here are a few things your board members have done to keep us grounded and help improve our ability to bounce back:

Brittani Williams, President

“2021 has held both personal and professional challenges that I couldn’t have foreseen despite all the trials 2020 threw at us all. For me being authentic has been my key to resilience.  In the professional sense, it is having the self-awareness to not raise my hand to help with projects not aligned with my goals and truly committing to taking something off of my plate before agreeing to new things.  I still struggle with this, but being aware of my personal levels of burnout helps to make me pause and truthfully think through my commitments before adding more to my plate. Personally, reconnecting with hobbies that I had pushed aside for several years because of graduate school, work or any number of excuses has helped me unwind.  From exploring new places such as Houston Botanical Gardens to reconnecting with old favorites like Terry Hershey Park, being outdoors has always helped me find my balance.  Additionally, reconnecting with one of my oldest hobbies and reading about wizarding worlds (yes I’m late to the party) or the incredibly moving wisdom of Oprah also helps me refresh, refocus and persist.”

Ashley Estes, Vice President:

“When I start to feel overwhelmed—either at work or in my personal life—I always try to find some time in the coming days or weeks to set aside for myself. Depending on the flavor of overwhelmed that I’m experiencing, I will either use that time to strategically prioritize the many tasks on my plate for work, find a friend or colleague to vent about the thing(s) that is bothering me and get their perspective, or sometimes it’s just treating myself to baked treats and giving myself an at-home facial. I find that I allow myself to be pulled in a lot of different directions and I give a lot of myself to my friends, family, husband, and colleagues. With age comes wisdom, and I’ve definitely learned that if I don’t block off time for myself, it will not come. People will not stop asking things of me, and unless I prioritize myself every-once-in-a-while, I will crumble. One of my favorite adages is “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Prioritizing self-care It doesn’t mean always putting yourself first. It just means staying in tune with yourself and your mental state and committing some time for just you when it’s needed.”

Amanda Whiteside, Treasurer

“A huge part of what has kept me grounded and ready to handle the world at large this year has been therapy. I have off and on gone to therapy for a variety of reasons, but this past year especially it was helpful with navigating all of the changes my, and everyone else’s, world went through. I am not the best at taking time for myself and making time for self-care, but having someone point out where I could be making healthier choices for myself is invaluable in reminding me to take time out of the day to check in with myself. Additionally, I find that having an appointment on the books forces me to figure out what my concerns and priorities are in a more proactive manner instead of dealing with issues as they arise. Also, as one of the very few good things about COVID, most therapists now have virtual options making it even more accessible than ever before. “

Brian Lacy, Member-at-Large:

“I’ve been married to my wife for more than 15 years.  Lisa and I have experienced more hardships than one might wish on a rival.  Perhaps it comes as no surprise then, that my self-care plan features my wonderful spouse.  As a pulmonary critical care doctor, Lisa treats COVID-positive patients daily.  For almost 15 years, Lisa has only taken two weekends off each month.  To this grueling seventy-five hours per week schedule, Lisa has added dozens of additional night shifts so that other critical care doctors can have time off.  It’s a lot.  Too much for her some weeks.  It makes my sixty hours per week schedule pale in comparison, and yet the pandemic has worn me down at times.  So, what have we done?  We have added a consistent weekly Wednesday date night to our schedules.  Rain, shine, and even in 50-degree temperatures, you will find us on the patio outside On The Kirb enjoying their brilliant steak night.  It’s been more than a year since we’ve eaten inside any restaurant.  We are thankful Houston is blessed with so many patios, but we are practically like Norm and Cliff from Cheers where this one patio is concerned.  We’ve also purchased PAPR devices making us more comfortable about air travel and sneaking away for weekend trips and one longer trip.  I’m lucky to have someone in my life and that we enjoy each other’s exclusive company.”

Victoria Walsh, Member-at-large:          

“Something my parents tried to teach us is to “watch out for the shoulda coulda wouldas.” In other words, steer clear of the Monday morning quarterbacking we can do to ourselves.  Especially this last year when it seems like we’ve been faced with a lot of confusing judgement calls, I’ve been invoking that advice.  I really try to make the best choice with what information I’ve got, and move on. Second-guessing is very draining. It is better to put that energy into making your next decision.”

Natasha Jesudason, Communications and Marketing Director:

“For both my professional and personal life, maintaining good communication has been vital. This means staying in touch with my teammates and working together to prioritize projects and manage expectations. This allows me to use my bandwidth for the “must do” projects. On a personal level, staying connected with friends and family has also been important. I have regularly scheduled Zoom meetings or FaceTime calls, including a weekly Zoom Bible study with friends that live out of town and I would not normally see. It’s been a positive experience, not just the study itself as I find faith to be an anchor in these chaotic times, but also the opportunity to get to be a part of each other’s lives as if hundreds of miles did not separate us. Additionally, allowing myself time to decompress has been important. This means setting a shutdown time and shutdown process for myself. This does not always happen, but I try to stick to setting a time that I am putting work away for the evening. The last thing I do before shutting down is tier my project list and create a to-do list for the next day. Once I’ve shutdown, you will find me taking a walk, watching Netflix or playing video games. Anyone else, furiously building an island refuge via Nintendo Switch’s Animal Crossing New Horizons?”

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