Coping with COVID-19: ‘Be Human’

Licensed clinical social worker offers tips for managing stress

Be human. That’s one of the most powerful suggestions from Melissa Segal during her recent Zoom workshop, “Coping with COVID-19: Strategies & Ideas for Managing Stress.”

“It is my absolute favorite strategy,” said Segal, a licensed clinical social worker, but it can be difficult, too. “We sometimes forget we aren’t perfect, that we make mistakes. We need to forgive ourselves,” she said.

The April 27 workshop is part of the ongoing Inclusion and Power Dynamics series sponsored by the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and supported by the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement. 

Addressing ways to cope with COVID-19 seemed a natural fit.

“The Inclusion and Power Dynamics series has always been a forum for open discussion about strategies for handling challenging situations,” said DIBS director Geraldine Dawson. “This workshop offered a great platform for people to talk about the difficulties and successes faculty, students and staff are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added. “Being part of a community is now more important than ever.”

Studies have shown chronic stress can increase anxiety, fear, anger and grief, while decreasing the ability to concentrate. It affects sleep and our general health and can make us irritable. “Many of us are feeling that now, and it’s normal,” Segal said.

We may not be able to control external factors such as the pandemic, Segal noted, but we can control ways we respond, such as taking care of ourselves. Celebrating joyful moments and laughing out loud can help, as can physical movement. For example, Segal holds a weekly online dance session with her team.

Other suggestions: Keep up your social connections, online or by phone, create a new work-life balance, and engage thoughtfully -- and not excessively -- with the media.

Segal ended the program with this important point: “Get help if you need it. Duke has been really committed to helping people get through this,” she said, and provides a wealth of resources such as Personal Assistance Services, for faculty and staff, and Blue Devils Care for students. She urged participants to remember, “You are not alone.”

The next DIBS Inclusion and Power Dynamics event is a May 15 webinar from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Kamilia Sip, director of neuroscience research at the NeuroLeadership Institute, will share insights on the current challenges related to the COVID-19 crisis and introduce brain-based best practices for leaders to better manage the situation, enabling teams to thrive in a virtual world. Registration is required; more information will be available this week.