Turning our minds to compassion
by Michele Majul-Ibarra
The Conference Board of Canada partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to explore the impact of COVID-19 on mental health between April 27 and May 25, 2020. They conducted a “mental health pulse-check where they gathered data from 1,804 Canadians related to pro-social, at-risk and the coping strategies that they used. They measured 15 mental health concerns such as financial health, employment situation, alcohol/drug use, isolation/loneliness, maintaining a relationship and overall mental well-being to name a few. The survey reported that mindfulness was the only coping strategy that positively impacted all 15 areas. The study also reported that 84 per cent of the respondents indicated that their mental health concerns worsened since the onset of COVID-19. Four mental health concerns namely family, well-being, one’s future, isolation/loneliness, and anxiousness/fear came out as the biggest concerns reported by the respondents.
The results pretty much speak for themselves. In this era of COVID-19, mental health may be the next widespread crisis that we all need to prepare for. Given the ever-evolving nature of the global situation, we experience varying degrees of reaction to certain stressful triggers. There is no doubt that most of us find it very easy to be judgmental these days. However, we rarely think about the need to offer understanding and compassion towards our coworkers and people in general. What is compassion? It is the act of empathizing for those who are suffering or going through difficult times.
COVID-19 has certainly brought on a lot of difficulty and suffering to all human beings regardless of age, status and geographical location. Each and every person in the world is affected.
Accept that people cope in different ways
A few days ago a colleague of mine invited me over for coffee at her condo. She lives alone and she has no family in the city. She even reminded me that people who live alone are allowed to have a visitor in Manitoba. However, my coping mechanism is very different from hers. She copes better with companions and socialization, whereas I cope by mitigating the risk of spread. For me, I cope by maintaining my current social bubble. As a response to the invitation, instead of saying flat out “no,” I politely said that perhaps it would be more appropriate for us to get together when the situation gets better. My colleague’s attempt in inviting me over is not an attempt to be rude or insensitive to the situation and I certainly did not interpret it that way. Being isolated for months with no family or companion is very tough on mental health, which is why accepting the way we cope and the way others cope are important ways to help us turn our minds to compassion.
Accept the fact that we may have to be flexible to others’ needs
COVID-19 has impacted a lot of schools, caregivers, and childcare facilities. Some have had to shorten their hours, limit their space or even close until further notice. It is a known fact that parents all over Canada struggle with child care interruptions and as a result, this new reality also impacts productivity at work. Therefore, it would be unreasonable to put pressure on a person just because their parenting situation has changed. Instead of getting annoyed that you have to pick up the slack because a co-worker has to constantly leave early to pick up their child, turning your mind to compassion perhaps means adjusting to the situation so you can work together during this stressful time.
There is a lot of uncertainty around us during these unprecedented times. There is really not much we can do but let the situation run its course. Compassion is not only for others but for us as well. While stress is completely normal, we should not let it take over. Be kind and compassionate to yourself.
This article is intended for information purposes only and not to be considered as professional advice.
Michele Majul-Ibarra, IPMA-ACP holds an Advanced Certified HR Professional Designation with the International Personnel Management Association.