What to keep in mind about post-pandemic well-being

A moving forward mindset

Join local counselor Jason Haglund for two upcoming virtual sessions on post-pandemic mental health:

Many of the outward signs of the COVID-19 pandemic are going away, but its inward impact -- the emotional and mental health effects of the past 14 months -- won't fade as easily.

In a recent seminar held by the Professional and Scientific Council, ISU WorkLife and WellBeing and Student Wellness dietician Lisa Nolting talked about post-pandemic wellness. Here are some tips from the presentation. 

Be kind to others…

When university offices and workplaces resume full occupancy this summer, be sure to respect that COVID-19 affected people differently, said Stephanie Downs, senior WorkLife and WellBeing coordinator. Some may still be grieving losses. Others may feel guilty that they enjoyed working from home. 

"I think we just have to remember that while we all have experienced somewhat the same thing, we've all experienced it in unique ways," Downs said.

... and be kind to yourself

Extend the same compassion to yourself, said Cris Broshar, WorkLife and family services coordinator. Set realistic expectations and try to remain flexible, she said. Cut yourself a break if disrupted eating or exercise patterns caused changes in weight or fitness, Nolting said.

"That's OK. We've been in a pandemic. Your body is living in the same pandemic you are," she said. "In times of stress and uncertainty, our bodies are in survival mode. Our mental well-being, our physical well-being, our emotional well-being, all those things are interconnected. You can't just mess with one of those things and expect that everything else is going to be fine."

If you're interested in making better food choices, consider ISU WorkLife and WellBeing's "Am I Hungry?" mindful eating series, Downs said. Two cohorts of the 8-week program ran this spring, and the sessions will be offered again this summer and fall.  

Recognize the positive

Take stock of what's been constructive during the pandemic. Nolting said she hopes to see the trend of increased home cooking continue, and Downs cited the renewed appreciation for connecting with families and friends. Broshar said she's been encouraged by resiliency. 

"We've seen we can face extraordinary situations and circumstances, and we're still here and still working and trying to find ways to move forward. That's given me -- and a lot of others I've spoken with -- a lot of hope," Broshar said.

Be mindful

Broshar said another pandemic positive has been a focus on mindfulness and being present.

"It's something people always say. It's something I've always said and tried to practice. But this pandemic really has driven home the importance of enjoying a moment for what it is without it being shaped by some past or future event," she said. 

ISU WorkLife and WellBeing has been offering a variety of mindfulness sessionsRegistration is open for the 15-minute Mid-Morning Mindfulness sessions on Tuesday and Thursdays at 10 a.m. that resume June 15. Archived sessions also are available. Psychology professor and Zen monk Douglas Gentile led a 13-week series on meditation this spring will begin again June 14 (Mondays, 2:30-3 p.m.). Register online for the summer series, which also will be offered this fall.

Help available

Don't hesitate to seek out help when needed. Numerous local, state and national resources are available, including the Iowa Concern Hotline for information and referrals and Your Life Iowa for mental health crises. The employee assistance program offers counseling, life coaching, financial and legal consultations, and more.

For a self-help option, check out Therapy Assistance Online, a collection of interactive mental well-being sessions and courses. 

To learn about how to talk to others who are struggling and encourage them to seek help, take the Kognito at-risk mental health training available on Learn@ISU. It's designed for faculty and staff and their interactions with students, but the lessons would apply in other situations, Downs said. 

"There's a lot out there to really help people," she said.