Cultivating and Maintaining Good Habits

Written by Andrea Williams, HR Organization and Professional Development

You’ve likely heard more and more talk about the next phase of our personal and professional lives — be it resuming our pre-COVID routines or creating new ones going forward. Although none of us know exactly what the future looks like, now is an excellent time to consider the changes we may have made over the past year that we’d like to carry forward — perhaps prioritizing our health, creating new family traditions, or learning new skills.

As we navigate the next phase of our lives, University of Southern California research psychologist, Wendy Wood, points out, “We’re going to be faced with two sets of habits: pre-pandemic and during the pandemic. And we’ll have to choose which to repeat.”

Don’t leave your habits to chance. Take this opportunity to make deliberate choices about which habits you want to maintain going forward and any new habits you want to form. Here are some tips to help you cultivate and continue the habits that best serve you and others.

Take it one at a time

Focus on one habit or goal at a time to reap the most reward. When you have the foundations for the first goal in place, you can then move to the next one. When you have integrated the second goal into your schedule, you can then work on the third goal and so on. Set yourself up for success and remember that slow progress is better than no progress.

Understand your habit’s function

Our habits typically meet an underlying need, such as the need for comfort, to feel safe, or to feel cared for. Understanding the significance behind our habits can help us better evaluate whether these habits still serve a real need. We can then opt to further cultivate a habit or design a new, healthier one.

Compare likely outcomes

When you’re faced with a moment of choice, ask yourself, “If I perform this habit, how will I feel? Where will it put me?” Pause, envision yourself and the outcomes, and notice how you feel. Then ask yourself, “If I instead choose to perform this other habit, how will I feel? What will it get me?” Pause, envision, and notice. Set an intention for what you’ll do and then follow through.  

Be consistent and kind

Strive for consistency in your habits rather than perfection. Many habits take time to integrate to the point that you no longer need to think about them. Until then, when you deviate from your plan, kindly redirect yourself toward the results you want without punishment or judgment. There is debate over whether there is an actual causation or rather a correlation between repetition and the formation and enforcement of habits, but research shows positivity combined with consistency is key. Reinforce the positive and focus on your progress and victories, no matter how small.

Share the experience

Cultivating and maintaining habits happens faster and easier when they’re shared. Friends, family, and colleagues can provide support in the form of accountability, reinforcement, and celebration. If you don’t have a circle you can count on, reach out to a therapist or an organization that fosters community in a particular area. MSU faculty, staff, and their families have access to resources including the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Health4U, and the MSU WorkLife Office that can help.

Don’t get discouraged if your first (or fourth) attempt doesn’t stick. Nobody is perfect in forming and sticking with good habits. Focus not on perfection, but rather on the process of trying things, redesigning your approach as necessary, and trying again.

Sources

Chua, Celestine. 21 Days to Cultivate Life Transforming Habits Retrieved April 2, 2021 from https://personalexcellence.co/blog/21-day-trial/

Fitzgerald, Sunny (2021, April 5). Pandemic habits: How to hang on to the good ones and get rid of the bad. Retrieved April 5, 2021 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/habits-covid-good-bad-how/2021/04/03/5a229796-93c0-11eb-a74e-1f4cf89fd948_story.html Forbes Coaches Council (2020, July 1). 16 Unique Ways to Cultivate Good Habits and Cut the Bad Ones. Retrieved April 2, 2021 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/07/01/16-unique-ways-to-cultivate-good-habits-and-cut-the-bad-ones/?sh=3860e7155606

MSU Spring Events, Activities and Courses Round-Up

We hope you and your family enjoy this round-up of events, activities and courses around campus.

Outside Activities

  • Get outside and hike the beautiful trails at the Kellogg Biological Station Bird Sanctuary Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. Additionally, check out their calendar of virtual events
  • The W. J. Beal Botanical Garden on campus is an outdoor laboratory for the study and appreciation of plants. If you follow the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden Facebook page, you’ll know that spring flowers have started to blossom. The garden is open for you to walk around and enjoy the plants in a beautiful setting, but please follow COVID-19 social distancing guidelines and stay safe. 

Art/Performance

  • The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum has a variety of current exhibitions that are free and open to the public with social distancing and enhanced safety measures in place, including daily limited spots available. Please reserve your free tickets here. Additionally, they are offering many interesting, free online events.
  • The Wharton Center is dedicated to sharing the power of the performing arts with the community by offering Wharton at Home activities for both adults and children.

Learning Opportunities

We hope you all will remain safe and healthy and continue to practice social distancing until we are able to see each other on campus again. In the meantime, wear a mask, wash your hands often, and enjoy these campus activities.

Burnout: How to Avoid It and What to do if You’re Experiencing It

Burnout is described as a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. According to the American Psychological Association 2021 trends report, “two-thirds of employees report that poor mental health has undercut their job performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 40% of employees are battling burnout.” While these numbers are disheartening, after a year of balancing the evolving demands of remote work, childcare, social distancing, financial uncertainty, grief and more, they’re certainly not surprising. If you are experiencing symptoms of burnout, we want to ensure you’re aware of the resources available to MSU employees that may help. If you’re a supervisor, follow these tips to lead by example and make sure your team is aware of them too.

While symptoms of burnout can vary depending on the severity, some include persistent fatigue, chronic stress, inability to focus, change in eating habits, reduced sleep quality, depression and anxiety. If these symptoms sound familiar or you want to learn more about the signs of burnout, we recommend you watch this 24-minute webinar called How to Recognize and Minimize Burnout presented by Jaimie Hutchison, Deputy Director for the MSU WorkLife Office.

Resources and Tips

As Jaimie states in the webinar mentioned above, “Even if you are not experiencing stress or burnout now, a positive course of action is to proactively take up self-care and build your mental resilience.” Whether you feel like burnout is on the horizon or not, there are actions you can take to improve or avoid symptoms. Take stock of your current habits to see where you could make improvements and don’t forget to use the resources available to you:

  • Utilize employee mental health resources. As an MSU employee, you and your family have access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers a confidential virtual counseling service at no cost. MSU Health4U offers a weekly virtual MSU Grief and Loss Support group. You also have access to Teladoc, which allows eligible employees and dependents who are 18+ to schedule a virtual visit with a therapist or psychiatrist. Your Best Doctors/Teladoc Medical Experts Behavioral Health Navigator benefit allows you to have a current mental health diagnosis reviewed by experts who will provide a second opinion, answer questions and help you find a specialist (if needed).
  • Set boundaries. Keeping an up-to-date work calendar is a great way to let your colleagues know when you’re working and when you’re not. When your home office is also the family dinner table, it can be too easy to answer email and phone calls after hours. However, as shared in this LinkedIn News article, “When there’s never a break, productivity ultimately suffers, and burnout becomes a greater risk.” It’s in your best interest to save after hours work for urgent issues only.
  • Take note of caregiver resources. We appreciate the struggles and challenges caregivers are experiencing right now. The MSU WorkLife Office has compiled an extensive list of resources available, including: options for care providers, support for managing boundaries with kids and work at home, and supervisor support on flexibility and making equitable decisions.
  • Make time to do things you enjoy. Whether that’s painting, planting a garden or walking the dog, make time to do activities you’re interested in – even if they’re challenging at first. This recent MSU Health4U article called I am a Runner! by Beth Morris LMSW, MPA chronicles Beth’s “last-ditch effort in the middle of a pandemic to try and manage stress” through a new running program. Beth’s story is inspiring and demonstrates how making time to do an activity you’re curious about – even if it’s hard – can help you cope with stress. Check out the MSU events calendar to see if there are any interesting virtual or socially distance activities you can join.
  • Practice mindfulness. There are many definitions out there of mindfulness, but most include the practice of being aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without judgement. Developing a mindfulness practice can help you focus, ease anxiety, and manage stress. MSU employees have access to discounts for the Headspace and Calm meditation apps (find here under the Reduce Stress heading). If you want to get the whole family involved, MSU Extension recently published this Starting a Mindfulness Practice with your Child article.
  • Move more. A regular exercise program can have huge benefits on our overall health and well-being. Recreational Sports and Fitness Services offers virtual group classes over Zoom and Fitness On Demand, which gives you over 1,000 classes to choose from. Additionally, benefit-eligible employees have access to MSU Benefits Plus, which allows you to explore Global Fit’s growing library of free virtual classes and resources. Login to MSU Benefits Plus, click on Discount Shopping in the top navigation then type “Global Fit” in the search box to find a link to the digital resource library.
  • If you can, take time off. If you have vacation and/or personal days you can use, talk with your supervisor about taking some days off. That time away from work could be just what you need to reset and recharge.

We hope these tips and resources will help you avoid burnout or start to recover if you’re currently experiencing it. While the past year has been challenging, know that you’re not in this alone and there are resources available to help.

Sources:

Anders, G. (2020, October 8). Burnout signs have risen 33% in 2020; here are seven ways to reduce risks. Https://Www.Linkedin.Com/Pulse/Burnout-Signs-Have-Risen-33-2020-Here-Seven-Ways-Reduce-George-Anders/. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/burnout-signs-have-risen-33-2020-here-seven-ways-reduce-george-anders/

Huff, C. (2021). Employers are increasing support for mental health. American Psychological Association 2021 Trends Report, 51(1), 84. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/01/trends-employers-support

Connect with Your Co-Workers on Employee Appreciation Day

Employee Appreciation Day (March 5, 2021) reminds us to connect with and recognize the awesome people we work with every day. After a full year of remote work and social distancing, it’s no surprise many of us are feeling more disconnected than ever. According to Employee Benefit News, “While COVID-19 has exacerbated the effects of isolation on employees, loneliness in the workplace has been a growing problem. A pre-pandemic survey by Cigna found that more than 60% of employees were lonely at work.” If you’re struggling, know that you’re not alone and that there are small steps you can take to feel more connected.

While adding one more task to your to-do list may feel impossible, taking time to connect with or recognize your co-workers can improve your well-being tremendously. These interactions don’t have to be elaborate; a virtual chat over morning coffee with a few co-workers can do wonders for your mental health. And there’s no need to wait for a supervisor to initiate these activities. Reach out, connect and recognize your co-workers in a way and at a time that works for you.

Need some ideas to get started? Here are some ways to connect with and recognize your coworkers both one-on-one and all together:

  1. Take a virtual workout class together. Do you miss that afternoon walk or evening workout class with your co-worker? MSU Recreational Sports and Fitness Services offers virtual group classes over Zoom and Fitness On Demand, which gives you over 1,000 classes to choose from. Additionally, benefit-eligible employees have access to MSU Benefits Plus, which allows you to explore Global Fit’s growing library of free virtual classes and resources. Login to MSU Benefits Plus, click on Discount Shopping in the top navigation then type “Global Fit” in the search box to find a link to the digital resource library.
  2. Join or set-up an online coffee break to chat and check-in. Are there people you used to regularly talk with in-person that you now only communicate with via email? A regular coffee break just to check in could be an easy way to connect, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.
  3. Engage new team members. If your team has new employees, they’ve probably never seen their co-workers face-to-face. And without those unstructured points of connection between team members — coffee breaks, walking to a meeting together, etc. — it can be hard to connect with others on topics outside of work-related matters. Why not try some virtual icebreakers to help everyone get to know each other? While “icebreakers” can sound a bit cheesy, the conversations that result can be great for helping people feel more connected. MSU Extension has a list of 65 icebreaker questions for online meetings to help. Here in HR, we have a Get to Know Your HR Colleagues questionnaire that people have the option to fill out, and then we share their answers in our internal newsletter.
  4. Learn something new as a team. Ask your supervisor or manager about setting up a training program for your whole team or unit to participate in together. We suggest you check out MSU Health4U’s new Virtual Health and Well-Being Sampler Series, which is offered to units and departments. Participating units will have a chance to map out a custom, six-week course series with classes about emotional wellness, food and nutrition, and movement and fitness.
  5. Team-led virtual lunch and learn sessions. Do you have co-workers with extensive knowledge on a specific topic or a cool hobby? Ask a team member to share what they know or give a demonstration during a lunch break.
  6. Play a virtual game. There are a variety of games your team can play virtually for some lighthearted fun. From collaborative online games to virtual scavenger hunts, google “online games for remote teams” and see which ones would work best for you and your co-workers.
  7. Step away from your computer and take a break outside. Spring is right around the corner and soon it will be nice enough to take a stroll outside in the sunshine. Check-in with a co-worker on the phone while you take a quick walk or sit outside.
  8. Send a shout-out to your co-worker to recognize all the great work they do. You could email them directly, give them kudos in your department newsletter, or send a Spartan Shout-Out to the InsideMSU newsletter that goes to all MSU employees (email kudos to insidemsu@msu.edu).
  9. Mail a Thank You Note or Token of Appreciation: during one the busiest times of the year here in HR, my supervisor mailed me a bag of coffee from a shop local to her as a token of appreciation. The gesture was so kind and unexpected, it improved my mood immensely and instantly made me feel more connected to the team. While you may not be able to send your coworkers gifts, a hand-written note or postcard letting them know you’re grateful for them can be a great way to recognize their contributions.

Feel free to think outside the box and come up with ideas that better suit you and your coworkers’ personalities. Taking time to connect with and recognize your co-workers — no matter how brief — can do wonders to improve your well-being and team morale overall. As a reminder, if you’re struggling with your mental health and need to talk to a professional, be sure to utilize your employee mental health resources.

Sources:

Place, A., & Nedlund, E. (2020, December 7). WFH loneliness is the latest virtual challenge for employers. Employee Benefit News. https://www.benefitnews.com/news/wfh-loneliness-is-the-latest-virtual-challenge-for-employers

Mental Health Resources for Employees

Whether you’re a parent working from home while taking care of kids, an employee on the frontlines, or someone dealing with grief and loss, everyone’s mental health continues to be affected by the pandemic. While it can be difficult to ask for help, there are a variety of resources available to assist you as an MSU employee.

Health4U Resources

The following MSU Health4U virtual courses and meetups are available (some require registration):

  • MSU Grief and Loss Support: Specialized counselors facilitate weekly on-line support sessions on Tuesdays for those experiencing grief and loss.
  • Naming and Navigating Ambiguous Loss: Join this webinar on Friday, Feb. 19 to learn about the idea of ambiguous loss and unresolved grief, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Breaking Free from the Monkey Mind: This is a four-week course beginning on March 3, based on the book “Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind: How to Stop the Cycle of Anxiety, Worry and Fear” by Jennifer Shannon, LMFT.
  • Essential Skills for Navigating Difficult Times: The purpose of this eight-week course is to build emotional resilience and psychological flexibility skills to help you navigate the work/life challenges we face, especially as our work and home life have been combined.

Employee Assistance Program Counseling Services

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential counseling service provided at no cost to MSU faculty, staff, retirees, graduate student employees, and their families. Learn how to make an appointment on the EAP website. These appointments are offered virtually through Zoom.

Teladoc and Best Doctors Services

As a reminder, benefit-eligible employees also have access to Teladoc and Best Doctors Behavioral Health Navigator for mental health services. Teladoc offers 24/7 access to a healthcare professional via web, phone or mobile app for employees enrolled in an MSU health plan. Employees and their dependents over 18 can also receive medical care for behavioral health (depression, anxiety, grief counseling, addiction, etc.). If deemed medically necessary, a prescription will be sent to the pharmacy of your choice. The Behavioral Health Navigator can help you get a second opinion on any medical opinions and access to coaching and online educational tools.

Your mental health is a priority, and we want to ensure you are aware — and can take advantage — of the many mental health resources available to MSU employees.

Use Your Free Livongo Benefit to Manage Your Diabetes

Are you or a family member living with diabetes? Data shows the prevalence of diabetes and prediabetes in the United States is rising each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • More than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them don’t know they have it.
  • More than 88 million US adults have prediabetes, and more than 84% don’t know they have it.
  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States (and may be underreported).
  • In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled as the American population has aged and become more overweight or obese.

So, what is diabetes? There are two variations: Type I and Type II. As explained by MSU’s Health eGuide, Type I diabetes occurs when the pancreas ceases to make insulin, a hormone that helps the body use sugar for energy. Lack of insulin causes a high blood sugar level, which can be harmful to many parts of the body and can increase the risk for other health complications. Type II diabetes differs in that the body is still able to make insulin, however, it is unable to use it in the right way. While Type I diabetes is not yet preventable, Type II can be avoided by living a healthy lifestyle (Healthwise Staff, 2020).

For those living with diabetes, MSU offers a benefit called Livongo – a diabetes management program completely free to MSU employees and their spouses/dependents. The Livongo program aims to reduce the burden on those living with diabetes by offering technology and support to help members easily manage their health.

One of the first to enroll in Livongo was Jeff Brodie, a Management Analyst for MSU Human Resources, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2011. Here’s what Jeff had to say about his experience using Livongo: “There is nothing to lose at all, and everything to gain. Even if you sign up and do the minimal, you will be healthier than if you didn’t sign up at all.” You can read more about Jeff’s experience using Livongo in this previous HR blog post.

You can enroll for Livongo at any time and it takes less than 10 minutes to sign up. Once you register, you will receive a welcome kit in the mail. The kit contains your own Livongo connected meter, unlimited testing strips, a lancing device, lancets, a carrying case, and optional coaching by a healthcare professional. Many users say the best part of the program is the unlimited free test strips and lancets mailed right to your door whenever you need them – why pay for these supplies when they are available free?

To learn more about using your free Livongo benefit, visit the Livongo for Diabetes Management webpage. If you have questions or are ready to sign up, visit the Livongo website. Find more testimonials for Livongo here. Do you have your own experience with Livongo? We’d love to hear in the comments below or email us at hrcommteam@hr.msu.edu.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020, June 11). Diabetes Quick Facts. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/quick-facts.html

Healthwise Staff. (2020, June 29). Diabetes. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.healthwise.net/health4u/Content/StdDocument.aspx?DOCHWID=center1010

Ready to go smoke-free? Join the Great American Smokeout

Are you ready to take your first step towards a smoke-free life? On November 19, 2020, millions of people across the country have the opportunity to start their journey towards a healthier lifestyle. The Great American Smokeout, an annual event hosted by the American Cancer Society, implores the estimated 32.4 million American adults who smoke cigarettes to use the tools they have available to help them make a plan to quit smoking for good.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever for you and your family to do everything possible to stay healthy. Even if you or a member of your family have been a smoker for decades, there are almost immediate health benefits the moment you quit. According to the American Cancer Society, “People who have quit smoking have fewer illnesses such as colds and the flu, lower rates of bronchitis and pneumonia… [and] just 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. In just 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. In as little as 2 weeks to 3 months, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.”

Step One: Make a Plan

While the negative health effects of smoking are no secret, taking the first step towards smoking cessation can be intimidating. Luckily, there are plenty of resources and tools available on The Great American Smokeout event webpage to help you get started and make a plan to quit. Consider talking to your primary care provider to find out how they can assist. They may suggest over the counter treatment options or prescription medications. They may also be able to provide counseling to assist you along the way.

Additional Resources for MSU Employees:

If you do not have a primary care provider, MSU Health Care has pediatricians, family medicine and internal medicine providers taking new patients. The MSU Health Care Pharmacy location offers quit aids such as nicotine gum, patches and can fill prescription Chantix® (varenicline). Plus, they deliver! Additionally, there are a variety of smoking cessation resources available on the Tobacco & Smoke Free MSU website.

Visit the American Cancer Society website to learn more about the Great American Smokeout and other resources to help you quit smoking.

Sources:

American Cancer Society (n.d.). It’s Not Too Late to Quit Smoking. Retrieved November 02, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/never-too-late-to-quit-smoking.html

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

This is a guest post written by HR Accommodations Specialist, Cherelyn Dunlap.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a month-long event held annually to raise awareness around disability employment issues and celebrate the many contributions of workers with disabilities. The theme for NDEAM 2020 is “Increasing Access and Opportunity”.

This year marks the 75th observance of NDEAM, and also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The ADA provides protections against discrimination of people with disabilities in numerous areas including employment, education, health care, recreation, transportation, and housing.

MSU is a leader in cultivating a diverse and inclusive campus environment, and our efforts to meet the needs of persons with disabilities was heightened this year due to the national COVID-19 pandemic. Extra measures were taken to provide guidance and a streamlined process for employees to obtain technology, accessibility and work arrangements that allowed them to manage the impacts of their disabilities. We continue to remove barriers and create possibilities for individuals with differing abilities.

We all play an important part in fostering a more inclusive workforce where every person is recognized for their abilities – every day of every month. Although many impacts are not physically visible, it doesn’t mean they do not exist. In the midst of these unprecedented times and beyond, let us all strive to be more flexible, more understanding, more inclusive, and more supportive of those with different abilities.  

For more information on National Disability Employment Awareness Month please visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s website at www.dol.gov/NDEAM.

Coping with Chronic Uncertainty

Written by Jon Novello LMSW, ACSW, a Counselor with MSU’s Employee Assistance Program

Uncertainty. Along with pods, social distancing, and “you’re on mute,” uncertainty has become one of the buzzwords of this global pandemic. That’s for a good reason. We are living in a state of chronic and ongoing uncertainty. The reality of COVID-19 and our ongoing, evolving response to it continues to impact the everyday lives of every human on the planet. Many of us feel out of control in a world where our future is unclear and unpredictable.  

And we really don’t like to feel out of control. We find uncertainty hard to cope with even in the best of times. According to Dr. Christine Carter, a Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center and author of The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction, humans “crave information about the future in the same way we crave food, sex, and other primary rewards. Our brains perceive ambiguity as a threat, and they try to protect us by diminishing our ability to focus on anything other than creating certainty.”  

Think about that: our brains perceive ambiguity as a threat. When faced with a situation where we can’t know what will happen next or how things will turn out, we feel threatened, afraid of the unknown future. To deal with this fear, we begin to seek out more certainty to convince ourselves that things will be ok. We look for answers, information, reassurance from some external force that can tell us that things will work out so that we can feel better. 

That’s what many of us are looking for right now: an answer to make us feel better about the pandemic. An example of this is how frustrated many people feel about the science of COVID-19. To satisfy our feelings of insecurity in so much uncertainty, we want science to be clear and definitive — to tell us how long this will last, what we need to do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, and when exactly a vaccine will be available so that things can “go back to normal.” But science is ever- evolving, and new information gained sometimes means that we have to adjust our understanding of reality. If we look for definitive answers when we are still researching the problem, we may end up feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.  

As Dr. Carter points out, “sometimes — maybe always — it’s more effective not to attempt to create certainty.” Seeking more certainty when we are surrounded by so much unknown leads us to constantly try to control that which we can’t control, which results in more anxiety, not less. Instead, what tends to help us get through moments like this is learning to live with ambiguity. 

To that end, here are six strategies to help you navigate a world that is so uncertain. 

  1. Make your health a priority. Invest in your wellbeing right now. It’s easy to focus our attention and care on other people, especially those of us who are caregivers and fixers. But, that attention to others still costs us, in energy and resources. If we aren’t taking care of ourselves, then we run out of juice at some point, and that can lead to more intense feelings of anxiety and depression. 

    Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep (or at least rest). Eat well to nourish your body. Spend time with your friends in creative ways. Play, read, listen, dance, sing, run, hug, love. These things fill us up and rejuvenate us, but they are easy to neglect.
     
  2. Exhibit compassion, patience, and grace. Many people are struggling right now, and that emotional toll can sometimes play out in how they interact with you. You may notice that some of your coworkers have shorter fuses than they might typically have. An employee at a local business you like may not be as attentive to you while providing you service. This is normal during a time like this.

    It is important to try to interact with others from a position of empathy and curiosity. If someone is having a hard time, rather than complain about them, try to wonder what might be going on in their lives that is making it hard for them to be pleasant. That doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate bad behavior. There are times when we need to set clear limits with others. But we can do that from a position of compassion and grace. 
      
  3. Explore the concept of acceptance. This can be tricky. This doesn’t mean to simply resign yourself to the bad stuff. Rather, acceptance allows us to look at the world as it is, rather than as we wish it would be. When we focus on what we’d rather see, we observe the world from a state of resistance, where our attention stays solely on what’s wrong and why it shouldn’t be this way. It might be easy for me to spend hours dwelling on why people aren’t wearing masks properly in downtown East Lansing. While I might be able to come up with countless reasons that prove that my thoughts are correct, this doesn’t do anything to change those people’s behavior, nor does it stop the spread of COVID-19. Rather, it keeps me in a position of anger and hopelessness, which affects only me. 

    Acceptance, on the other hand, allows me to approach the problem from a place of openness, curiosity, and creativity. Given that people are not wearing masks, and given that I am concerned about the spread of this disease, what can I do about it at this moment? Acceptance points our attention in a specific direction, toward what is possible, rather than what is not working.
     
  4. Notice what you can control, and work to accept what you can’t. Here’s something that we know to be true: we tend to do worse psychologically when we focus our attention on things that we can’t control; and we tend to do better when our attention is focused on things we can control. That seems like an easy concept to understand, but it’s hard to do sometimes. Dwelling on those things that are out of our control can be so compelling. But it can lead us to feeling overwhelmed and out of control. Plus, the reality is that we have no control over most of the world around us. 

    When we focus on what we can control, it allows us to feel more in control. I can’t control who wears masks and who doesn’t, but I can control what I choose to do when I walk downtown. I can’t control whether someone is snippy with me at work, but I can control how I respond to that person. I can’t control whether people share the same political view as me, but I can control how I show up and whether I vote. I can’t directly control whether oppression or injustice is happening, but I can control how I stand up to it. We can control how much we are doing to take care of our minds, spirits, and bodies.
     
  5. Be more present. “The opposite of uncertainty is not certainty; it’s presence.” When we try to create more certainty, we try to control the future. We are trying to make things work out in the way that we’d prefer. But, again, we typically have so little control of most things that it can lead to feelings of anxiety and frustration. Rather than trying to seek more certainty, we could instead focus on the present, which is the only place where we have control. 

    Remember that we do better when we feel in control. When your brain slips into imagining a scary and unknown future, bring your attention to your breath. From there, check in with yourself, asking what you need right now to feel ok. What is happening right now? What is possible right now? What do I need right now?
     
  6. If you need help with any of this, get help. If you are struggling and wondering if you need assistance, reach out and ask for help. There are plenty of resources available to you. As an MSU employee, you have access to six sessions of free, confidential counseling through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). For people that need more than six visits, the EAP will be able to provide you with referrals to local therapists that are in- network with your insurance plan. In addition, there are many other resources available through MSU, and in the larger community. Feel free to look over this guide for more information about what resources are available to you. 

If you would like to learn more about EAP services or would like to get in touch with a member of the team, please call 517.355.4506, send an email to eap@msu.edu or visit eap.msu.edu.

Sources

Carter, C. (2020). The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

MSU Resources to Help you in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Written by MSU Health Care

Do you know about the services available at MSU to help in the fight against breast cancer? During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, now is a great time to familiarize yourself with the resources available right at MSU. MSU Health Care offers access to specialists, imaging, treatment centers, surgery, therapy and rehabilitation, to help at every stage of the fight.

MSU Health Care providers include an experienced team of board-certified radiologists, oncologists, surgeons who specialize in breast diseases, and providers for high-risk breast conditions and genetic testing. Through these providers, you and your family also have access to personalized treatment based on the latest clinical and research data available, research through the Big 10 Cancer Research Consortium, and exceptional surgical reconstruction options.

In addition, the MSU Health Care Women’s Imaging Center, located on MSU’s campus is Mid-Michigan’s leading provider of high-quality diagnostic imaging services including:

  • Digital Mammography
  • Breast Ultrasound
  • Breast MRI
  • Bone Densitometry
  • Breast Biopsies
  • OB/GYN Ultrasound

While prevention is the first step in the fight against breast cancer, once a diagnosis has been reached, the next steps are making sure you have access to the best resources possible. The MSU Health Care Cancer Center provides everything from chemotherapy education, to clinical trials, to breast tumor boards. Specializing in cancer therapeutics, the MSU Health Care Cancer Center medical oncologists work closely with other health professionals such as surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and pathologists to design personalized treatment plans based on the most recent clinical and research data available.

MSU Health Care Surgery is another resource for you, with the area’s only fellowship–trained surgeons specialized in breast diseases. Providers utilize state-of-the-art skills and techniques to provide a wide range of services such as genetic counseling and testing, breast cancer high risk assessment, and breast surgery.

And with any care plan, comprehensive rehabilitation is an important part of your follow-up care. MSU Health Care Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Services offers everything from post mastectomy and lumpectomy rehab to exercises, bandaging, and proper skin care.

Wherever you or your loved one find yourself in the fight against breast cancer, whether prevention, in the middle of your care plan or rehab, your partners at MSU Health Care are here to support you at every stage. Call 844-678-7883 to schedule your mammogram or connect with any of the MSU Health Care services.

Who will work together in the fight against breast cancer? SPARTANS WILL.