Leadership Blog Series: Happiness, Well-Being and Psychological Wealth

Written by Sharri Margraves, Director for Organization and Professional Development

Am I happy?

How do I know if someone is happy?

What can I do to influence the happiness of others?

Happiness is subjective — each of us has our own vision of what happiness means to us. The many definitions of happiness and the different topics connected to it can lead us to more questions than answers. As such, is it worth your time as a leader to consider whether your employees are happy and take action to increase happiness within your team?

Happiness and Well-Being

Let’s consider the relationship between happiness and well-being. Happiness is a component of well-being; it can exist without well-being, but well-being can’t exist without happiness.

Happiness contributes toward health and longevity, which can be measured with a number of physiological tests including immune system strength, plaque build-up, and healthier behaviors such as a propensity toward physical activity or wearing a seatbelt.

As a supervisor, this is worth noting as happy employees can lead to lower healthcare costs, fewer sick days, lower turnover, and greater productivity and creativity.

Happiness and Psychological Wealth

Dr. Ed Diener, recognized as an expert on Subjective Well-Being (SWB), posits that being happy provides psychological wealth, stating, “Psychological wealth is your true total net worth, and includes your attitudes toward life, social support, spiritual development, material resources, health, and the activities in which you engage.”

SWB is good for work, families and society as a whole, but it’s important to note SWB doesn’t replace workplace basics: flexibility, respect, having the right tools, knowing the goals…these are all still contributors toward one’s psychological wealth.

Happiness in the Workplace

What brings someone happiness may change over time. Fulfillment in your early 20s often looks different than in your retirement years. What was most critical such as family and employment may eventually transition to health and leisure.

Regardless of where your employees are in their professional and personal journeys, there are key ways you can create an environment that supports their happiness and well-being.

  1. Empower employees to craft their jobs. Provide training and build relationships that are connected to a purpose. Do your employees know how what they do serves the greater good? Can you honor flexibility in working conditions? Research has shown flexibility can contribute to reduced turnover and physical and mental health improvements.
  2. Honor core organizational values and encourage employees to define their own personal core values. While we each have our own core values, organizational values that are practiced, observed, and honored foster happier employees.
  3. Ask employees for help in problem solving workplace issues — then actually implement the improvements to reduce stress and help retain employees.
  4. Foster social belonging. Each work environment has its own microcultures but recognizing each other should be a regular feature. Leading with kudos — both internal and external — can foster happiness and well-being by building positive relationships.
  5. Think positive. Self-sabotaging a positive mindset affects you personally, but as a leader, it also has the added impact of influencing others. You are worthy of success and adequate. You can do hard things. When you feel the need to lament on something — and let’s face it, we all have our moments — be sure you are reaching out to a neutral party to vent or process.
  6. Build healthy habits. From stretch breaks to healthy snack choices, lean into fostering a healthy environment by engaging with Health4U and other resources for MSU staff and faculty. Below are a few ideas to help you get started.

Recommended Resources

Mental Health Matters: Resources from MSU

Compassionate Leadership: Awareness of Mental Health Needs as the Pandemic Continues

Recognizing and Managing Stress During Times of Change

References

Diener, E., Diener-Biswas, R., Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Blackwell, 2008). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdxbmVbr3NY

Kelly, L., Berkman, L., Kubzanksky, L., Lovejoy, M. (2021). 7 Strategies to improve your employees’ health and well-being. https://hbr.org/2021/10/7-strategies-to-improve-your-employees-health-and-well-being

Recognize World Diabetes Day with Livongo

World Diabetes Day was November 14 and MSU HR is here to remind you that if you are living with diabetes, Linvongo can help. 

Livongo is a diabetes management program offered 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.

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. 

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 [minimum], 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.

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. 

Recognize World Diabetes Day with Livongo and find more testimonials like Jeff’s 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.

Take Action Now to Reduce End-of-the-Year Stress

Ready or not, November is already well underway. When you think about the remainder of 2021, how do you feel? If thoughts of work deadlines, family get-togethers, or planning for the holidays and new year ahead have you feeling overwhelmed or anxious, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there are practices and resources we can utilize to help us center ourselves and approach this time of year with a healthier mindset.

Consider Your Sphere of Influence

We all know allowing worry to grow uninhibited can lead to a number of negative consequences, be it with our health, work performance, or relationships. So, why do we allow our minds to spend so much time in a state of worry? In a previous blog post, Jennie Yelvington, Director of MSU Faculty and Academic Staff Affairs, discussed how worry can seem very active — spending time in that mindset can feel like you are working on something productive — but in reality, you are burning through energy that could be better spent.

When you notice yourself worrying about what might happen, stop and ask yourself, “What can I do about it now?” One way to visualize this is the Sphere of Influence.

Graphic representing one's sphere of influence. Three circles are centered on top of each other. The smallest circle in the middle represents "control," the next biggest circle represents "possible influence but no control," and the largest circle represents "no control."

Within the Sphere, there are three areas:

  • No Control. If there is absolutely nothing you can do to change or influence a situation, you can only assess whether you can learn from it, then let it go and refocus on something else. This would apply to things like the weather, supply chain issues this season, or flight cancelations. To reduce feelings of worry and improve your well-being, spend minimal time and energy regarding any matters that fall within this area of the Sphere.
  • Possible Influence but No Control. If there is a step you can take that may influence an outcome, person, or situation, determine what action you can take to maximize that influence, follow through, and then let it go. Resist the temptation to convince yourself that worrying about it means it is within your control.
  • Control. If the issue you are wrestling with is completely within your control, then you have control over your decisions, attitude, and behavior. What action can you take that you’ve been putting off? What self-care practice can you initiate to support your well-being? When you practice shifting your focus and attention to what is within your control rather than allowing what is out of your control to consume your time and thoughts, feelings of helplessness and overwhelm decrease significantly.

Make Yourself a Priority

When asked why we don’t make our well-being a higher priority, the most common answer is: not enough time. Although we can’t add more hours to the day (No Control area of the Sphere of Influence), we can take actionable steps to better manage our time and carve out space to improve our overall wellness (Control area of the Sphere).

Here are a few ideas to help you focus your energy on areas you can control when it comes to your well-being this time of year.

  • Schedule downtime. Block downtime off on your Outlook calendar like you would for a meeting or other work engagement.
  • Be selective. Most of us have an extraordinary number of demands on our time lately. This time of year often brings on even more. Before you commit to anything additional, give yourself a little time to consider: do I really need to do this right now?
  • Get back to the basics. Consider your current relationship with sleep, physical activity, and eating. What are one or two simple steps you could take to improve your physical health? Even something as small as not having your cellphone next to your bed at night or scheduling short blocks of time on your calendar to stretch at your desk can have a tremendous impact. Ensuring your basic, physical needs are met helps ensure a solid foundation for all aspects of your well-being.

Utilize Your Resources

One major goal within MSU’s new strategic plan is to support the “well-being of staff, faculty and postdoctoral research associates at MSU, focusing on creating a best-in-class workplace culture and environment in which excellence and opportunity thrive.” From one-on-one counseling to self-paced learning opportunities, many resources are available to you as an MSU employee to improve your well-being and take care of yourself this year and beyond. Recommendations to get you started are listed below, along with contact information for specialists at MSU who can provide extra support.

Health4U Programs | Register online for free courses including Chair Yoga, Increasing Your Psychological Flexibility, and Understanding Shame and Building Shame Resilience. Health4U also provides a wealth of online resources regarding emotional wellness, food and nutrition, and health coaching.

The Power of Habit Virtual Course | Next offered via Zoom on February 16, and April 13, 2022. Registration is available in EBS.

elevateU | Free, self-paced resources including short videos, online courses and books around a wide variety of topics. Highlighted topics include:

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) | Free, confidential counseling for all faculty, staff, retirees, graduate student employees, and their families.

WorkLife Office | Find affinity groups, webinars, and personalized support to help you facilitate success in your many roles and guide you in creating synergy between those responsibilities.

Mental Health Matters: Resources from MSU

Health is no longer seen solely as a way to measure how often you go to the gym and how many veggies you eat each week. Now, in today’s world and workplace, mental health is recognized as one of the biggest players in your overall health. That means resources to support mental health are more important and more available than ever before, but they can be hard to navigate. Here are some resources you can use at MSU to improve or keep up your mental health and improve your overall health along the way. 

MSU Health 4 U

MSU Health 4 U is part of the Office of the University Physician and is a way to get resources for all aspects of your health through Michigan State and with other employees. 

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 or in-person if you are comfortable. This is the only direct-through-university program offered for employees currently, so the wait time for an appointment is higher than normal. If you are in need of support earlier than EAP can offer, check out the offsite resources below.

Teladoc and Best Doctors Service

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 decisions and access to coaching and online educational tools.

Your mental health matters and MSU resources and benefits are available to get you—or keep you—on the path to a healthy body and healthy mind.

Tips to Establish and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

There’s much talk about burnout lately, and with good reason. Studies show that job stress is by far the major source of anxiety for American adults and has escalated progressively over the past few decades. The employees who are generally the happiest and most productive, no matter the external circumstances, are those with firm boundaries.

Although setting healthy boundaries is a crucial part of life, it’s not easy for many of us. Establishing and maintaining boundaries—be they mental, emotional or physical—is a skill set and, like any skill, it needs to be developed. If you’re not used to setting limits, you might feel guilty or selfish when you first start out. Here are tips to help you set and stick to healthy boundaries to protect your time, energy and well-being.

1) Audit Your Existing Boundaries

Start by taking some time to examine your existing boundaries, or lack thereof, to help provide clarity around where you need to set different or stronger limits. Take note of when people or situations cause you stress and anxiety. If you find yourself feeling angry, resentful or guilty when you interact with certain colleagues or perform specific aspects of your job, that’s a red flag that you may need to set a firm boundary or communicate it more clearly.

2) Redefine Your Boundaries

Once you’ve examined your existing boundaries, it’s time to determine your new and improved boundaries and top priorities. Think about what needs to occur to best protect your time and general well-being. Consider your priorities both at and outside of work. Whether you’re trying to advance at work or just get through your to-do list by the end of the week, prioritize the tasks that will help you get there. This can help you become more aware of situations in which your existing boundaries are not working and allow you to discover how you can better allocate your time and energy.

3) Communicate Your Boundaries

Boundaries can vary greatly from person to person, so it’s important to set clear expectations and confidently communicate them with your team. Easy ways to better protect your time could include putting a note in your email signature stating the specific hours during which you answer emails and blocking off time on your calendar to ensure you can get to your top priorities.

4) Set Consequences

Once you communicate and start to stick to your established boundaries, don’t be surprised or disheartened if you find others initially respond negatively. This is usually a sign that your boundary is necessary and working effectively. Prep for these situations by visualizing your boundaries being crossed and imagine how you’ll react. Then, when a moment like that arises, you’ll be able to handle it rationally versus emotionally. When a boundary gets violated, address it immediately. Calmly reinforce your limits in the moment rather than wait.

5) Say “No”

Are you the type of person who says “yes” to every request at work, regardless of your existing workload and capacity to take on more? Learning to say “no” is a powerful skill that helps you enforce your boundaries and keep your goals a priority. Saying “no” can be a challenge for many of us because it seems negative—something that may bring harm to our career or alienate us from our colleagues—but “no” works in the opposite way. It allows for clarity and communicates your top priorities and commitments to others. If you say “yes” when you do not mean it, you will follow through with resentment, often leading to poor work quality, weakened relationships with colleagues, and feelings of stress and overwhelm.

Setting healthy boundaries that are right for you will help define your individuality and show others situations for which you will and will not hold yourself responsible. Remember that it’s equally important to respect the boundaries that others have set for themselves. Take small steps to set and maintain boundaries and respect the boundaries of others by communicating clearly and consistently, gaining clarity for yourself and holding firm to your areas of focus. The process will become easier and easier as you practice these skills.

Find resources below to get you started, and know there are many additional services available to you as an MSU employee if you’d like further assistance, including Organization and Professional Development, the WorkLife Office, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and Health4U

Upcoming OPD Courses (Live, Online Format)

Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work | September 22

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths | October 28

The Power of Habit | October 20

SourceLive Articles

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

Unplugged: How to Disconnect from Work and Enjoy Your Vacation

Sources

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2019/07/18/10-ways-to-set-healthy-boundaries-at-work/?sh=4628a9267497

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/04/06/how-to-set-professional-boundaries-to-protect-your-time/?sh=2890f032e36b

https://mint.intuit.com/blog/early-career/setting-boundaries-at-work/

https://positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/

MSU Summer Events, Activities and Courses Round-Up

Enjoy your summer with these campus activities, events, and courses to do with your family and friends!

Outdoor 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 and in-person events, which now include daily bird and butterfly activities and walks throughout the property.
  • 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 can see that along with the flowers and sprawling grounds, there is now a temporary art installation to check out! The garden is open for you to walk around and enjoy the plants and pond in a beautiful setting. Be sure to continue to follow current and posted COVID-19 guidelines.

Performance and Art

  • The Wharton Center is preparing for a full reopening in the fall, but if you are missing the theater, check out all of the great opportunities to learn and grow through Wharton at Home. You can also join instructors for a livestream class every Wharton Wednesday at 10:30 A.M. here.
  • The Broad Art Museum has multiple exhibits on display throughout the summer, including the “Interstates of Mind” ending on August 8 and “Where We Dwell” beginning on August 7. The Broad Art Lab on Grand River Avenue is also open once again for $16 per session. If you are looking for at home activities, the Broad Museum Online has virtual exhibits and art classes open to the public.

Learning

  • The Abrams Planetarium at MSU is now open for shows on Saturday and Sunday nights. You can register online here for either Big Astronomy or We Are Stars. Patrons can also book private showings for up to 20 people or check out Night Sky Chats, streaming on Facebook Live every Wednesday Night.
  • MSU HR is always updating the OPD Resources online, so this summer you can take a course on anything from Communication to Professional Development from the comfort of your own home. Check out the full list of course offerings here.

Health

  • MSU Health4U has multiple summer programs running every month for free, just register online and choose the program, or programs, right for you.
  • SPARTANfit Health and Wellness Program is offering a comprehensive virtual fitness assessment for MSU employees and their spouses! Get a three month plan from your assessment and start reaching your summer health and fitness goals.

Explore these great campus activities this summer but remember to continue to stay safe by wearing a mask if you are not fully vaccinated, wash your hands often, and maintain physical distance.

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

Convenient Care: Take Advantage of These Great MSU Health Care Services

Written by Rebecca Himmelstein, MSU Health Care

The availability of health resources that are close to home matters now more than ever. MSU Health Care has extra safety measures in place to help keep every Spartan healthy, and MSU employees can take advantage of many options from the safety of their own home.

New Pharmacy Location

This September, MSU Health Care is excited to announce their new pharmacy location opening on the first floor of the Eyde Building. MSU patients, faculty, staff, students and retirees will soon be able to fulfill their pharmaceutical needs in the new pharmacy location at 4660 South Hagadorn Road in East Lansing. This space is larger, allowing for upgraded features and expanded over-the-counter products and common vaccinations available by appointment. Free delivery is also available for patients within 30 miles.

To learn more about the new pharmacy, visit MSU Health Care’s website.

Flu Vaccinations

MSU Health Care Pharmacies are now administering flu shots for the 2021 season. Two types of vaccinations will be available: the standard flu vaccine and the high dose flu vaccine for individuals ages 65+. A valid insurance card is required at the time of the visit. Patients can receive a flu shot in the pharmacy or at one of several drive-thru vaccine events.

To receive a flu vaccine at the pharmacy, patients must be 18 or older and complete a screening form. In-pharmacy vaccines are by appointment only. Customers should call the pharmacy at (517) 353-4930 to set up an appointment.

MSU Health Care Pharmacies will also be hosting several drive-thru flu vaccine events this fall located at the MSU Pavilion on Farm Lane. No appointment is necessary for the drive-thru events, and flu vaccines are covered under most insurance plans.

The drive-thru events are scheduled as follows:

  • September 23–24, 8am to 4:30pm
  • October 14–15, 8am to 4:30pm

For more information about the drive-thru events and to download the vaccine consent form, visit MSU Health Care’s Pharmacy site.

Diagnostic Imaging

Did you know MSU Imaging Services offers state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging right on MSU’s campus? Patients can have all of their imaging needs taken care of in one location with easy and convenient parking. Their expert team of care providers offer quick and accurate results with many appointments available within 48 hours. All patients are welcome to utilize the following services:

  • MRI
  • CT
  • PET
  • X-ray
  • Ultrasound

For more information and to schedule an appointment, visit MSU Health Care’s Imaging page.

Telehealth Visits

If you’re still hesitant to see your provider in-person for appointments, many MSU Health Care clinics are offering telehealth visits for new and current patients. MSU providers are trained to address your health concerns through a virtual visit from children’s sick visits to neurological MS care. Ask your provider if a telehealth visit is right for you.

Visit MSU Health Care’s Telehealth page to learn more about how a virtual visit could work for you and your family.

As MSU continues to function primarily remotely, the availability of health resources close to home such as flu shots, imaging services and telehealth visits matters now more than ever. For more information on any of the services mentioned above, reach out to MSU Health Care at (517) 353-1855 or visit healthteam.msu.edu.

Best Doctors Benefit Offers New Behavioral Health Navigator Service

Your mental health needs to be a priority. As we continue living through this pandemic, that is especially important now more than ever. MSU’s Best Doctors (also known as Teladoc Medical Experts) benefit recognizes how important mental health is. A new service they are now offering to benefit-eligible MSU employees and retirees is their Behavioral Health Navigator.

As a benefit-eligible employee or retiree, if you or your eligible dependent is facing depression, anxiety, or a related condition and want a second opinion, Best Doctors/Teladoc Medical Experts wants to help. Best Doctors/Teladoc Medical Experts gives expert second medical opinions and access to coaching and online education tools. And now with the Behavioral Health Navigator, they offer these services for more than just medical care.

So whether you’re just looking for a second opinion, don’t feel like your condition isn’t improving, need help to find a mental health provider who specializes in your specific condition, or have questions related to your condition, the Behavioral Health Navigator is here to help. Listen to this member experience in the following video:

The Best Doctors/Teladoc Medical Experts team of leading psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers take the time to list to your concerns and complete an in-depth review and assessment of your existing diagnosis and treatment plan while guiding you through the mental health care system to monitor your progress.

How to use the Behavioral Health Navigator:

  1. Contact Best Doctors/Teladoc Medical Experts – You’ll be connected to a behavioral health nurse who will be assigned to you throughout the course of your care. The nurse will perform a video interview to help determine the need for additional assessment or record collection.
  2. In-depth review & report – After the nurse performs the interview, they will complete an assessment summary to send to the behavioral health medical director and an expert psychiatrist. After they review your summary and history, they will either talk to you further or provide recommendations for improvement.
  3. Follow through – Your nurse will guide you through the report, make sure you understand the recommendations, answer your questions, and follow-up throughout your therapy.

Contact Best Doctors/Teladoc Medical Experts today to get started at 866-904-0910, BestDoctors.com, or download the app. Best Doctors/Teladoc Medical Experts is available to faculty, staff, and retirees who are eligible to enroll in MSU health plans. Learn more about this benefit on the MSU Human Resources website.

Lately, Have You Felt Distracted, Unfocused, Sad, Angry, Overwhelmed or Confused?

This is a guest post written by Jonathon Novello, MSU Health4U consultant and EAP counselor.

Over the last month, mental health providers have seen an increase in clients with anxieties related to current challenges and uncertainties caused by the worldwide pandemic. They seek answers to big questions about their health, families, jobs, finances, and relationships. They describe feeling distracted, unfocused, sad, angry, overwhelmed, and confused. Many are feeling something unexpected, a feeling that they may not be able to immediately identify.

That feeling is grief.

Grief is an emotion we typically associate with death, but we can feel grief even when we haven’t lost someone close to us. In fact, grief has to do with how we adjust to any loss; and right now, we are surrounded by it. Think about the losses you’ve experienced recently and see if they are similar to what other Spartans have endured, such as loss of:

  • Health
  • Certainty and predictability
  • A clear sense of the future
  • Vacations and other experiences
  • Time with extended family and friends
  • Variety and freedom
  • Comfort, safety and security

When humans experience loss we feel grief. Grief is the process of moving from resistance of that loss to acceptance. We don’t want to lose stability, time with our parents, or the opportunity to watch our daughter’s senior soccer season, so our brain resists that loss. We struggle with it and experience a whole series of emotions as we sort out what this loss means to us.

Here’s the thing about grief: there are no short-cuts. Grief is a process that we must move through in order to accept and live with our new reality. The grief process is often inconvenient, and at times frustratingly slow. While we are grieving, our brains are being taxed with a whole host of complicated feelings, from anger, to sorrow, to bargaining, to denial. These feelings come and go and are not linear. We might feel fine one morning, and then something happens around noon and we start to feel angry, and then by dinnertime we are suddenly weepy and sad. Or, we may think we’ve left anger and moved onto sorrow, only to feel anger well up again.

It is very common for people who are struggling with grief to have difficulty concentrating, and many find it much harder to focus on work, other responsibilities, or even pastimes that normally reduce their stress. That is normal and expected.

Have you felt like that at some point in the past several weeks? Maybe you’ve been unfocused this week or more easily distracted. Maybe you’ve been feeling unmoored and “blue.” You may have noticed some days your emotions feel like they are right under the surface, ready to burst through if someone says just the wrong thing, or you drop one more Zoom call.

We are all dealing with loss and knowing this might help us have compassion for ourselves, as well as others. You are not alone in this. Remember that grief is a process. We know that Spartans Will move through this, but at our own pace and in our own time. Be patient with yourselves and with each other and try not to rush the process.

Resources to Help You and Your Family

If you or a family member would like to talk to someone, remember The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential counseling service provided at no cost to MSU faculty, staff, retirees, graduate student employees and their benefit-eligible family members. During this period of physical distancing, EAP counselors are now exclusively offering Telehealth videoconferencing, which is an encrypted platform that is completely confidential and HIPAA compliant. Learn how to make an appointment.

Additionally, MSU Health4U has a variety of resources on their website that may be useful, including the following:

Lastly, MSU employees who are enrolled in an MSU health plan have access to Teladoc, which offers behavioral health (depression, anxiety, grief counseling, addiction, etc.) services via web, phone or app for members and their dependents who are age 18+. Learn more about Teladoc.