Connecting in a Time of Disconnection and Stress

Portrait of Stan Gerson in dark suit with light colored tie

As we continue through this extraordinarily challenging year, there are times when most of us—faculty, staff and students—have become deeply affected by the events through which we are living. Significant stressors include the uncertainty surrounding the worldwide pandemic along with feelings of fear, isolation, stress from working at home, disrupted workplaces and schedules; anxiety about future events and decisions; racism and social injustice in our communities, another pandemic of our time; the daily grind of political news, the upcoming election and world events—all of this and more on top of the tensions of everyday living. I don’t think I need to remind any of us about these topics because they are staring at us with too much intensity. 

Each of us copes with these distractions in our own unique way—keeping busy, enjoying family, exercising, talking with colleagues and friends, to name a few. While we all develop stress-response moats to help keep anxieties at bay, some members of our community are finding such stress overwhelming, with little resolution in sight.

This level of acute and chronic stress does not appear to be abating, making it even more important that we address these issues and take care of each other. I am asking for all of us in the School of Medicine to help ourselves and our cherished colleagues manage through these extraordinary times. 

How? Here are some simple ideas.

  • We can make our stress levels known to our supervisors and colleagues and ask for suggestions to help mitigate them. 
  • We can engage each other as teams in activities other than meetings, like the many groups who hold regular happy hours via Zoom—without discussions about work. 
  • We can take time for virtual informal discussions with colleagues. 
  • We might even establish a buddy system to help those who indicate need, or even with those who do not. 
  • We might pay special attention to those who seem disengaged.   

CWRU has courses and other engagements to help manage everyday stress which are refreshed each semester—please review them here. If more support is needed, our university has avenues for professional help and counseling. Faculty and staff can access counseling services at any time by calling IMPACT Solutions at 1.800.227.6007; learn more about IMPACT Solutions programs here. Additionally, professional guidance through medical facilities and individuals may be appropriate.

I am calling on each of us to be aware, ask for help when we need it, and reach out to co-workers who might need someone to listen. By staying connected with each other, we help our colleagues and ourselves handle today’s unprecedented complexities.