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If you would like a more in-depth exploration of the topics below, please consider reading “Creating a Healthier Life: A Step-by-Step Guide to Wellness.” This great resource from SAMHSA provides more ideas about practicing the same eight areas of wellness.
Emotional Wellness includes the ability to express feelings, adjust to emotional challenges, cope with life’s stressors and enjoy life (SAMHSA, 2016).
Don’t forget… if you’re struggling, it’s OK to ask for help!
Here are a few strategies that can help us build and maintain our emotional wellness:
- Find a time to talk with friends and family and share how you are feeling.
- Do your best to get sufficient and consistent sleep, as well as regular physical activity.
- Limit consumption of social media, local and national news if you are overwhelmed, and make sure information you are consuming is from reputable sources such as the CDC or your local healthcare provider.
- Practice daily reflections to help ground you in a mindset of positivity and resilience, for example:
- What are three things that made you smile today?
- What is one thing you feel gratitude for in this moment?
- Who comes to mind when you think of the word compassion? What is it about this person that brings them to mind?
- Mindful breathing practices can help you calm your thoughts, slow your heart rate, regulate your stress response and enhance your ability to focus! See the resource below for a guide to “Box Breathing”.
Here are a few places you can reach out if you’re looking for some help:
- The National Disaster Distress Helpline is available to anyone experiencing emotional distress related to Covid-19.
- Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak with a caring counselor.
- resolve Crisis Services is a free 24-hours mental health crisis service. Call anytime to speak with a trained clinician.
- 1-888-7-YOU-CAN (796-8226). For more information and non-urgent matters, contact 412-864-5004 or email@example.com
- Your organization’s EAP:
- Allegheny County: Life Solutions
- www.lifesolutionsforyou.com or call 1-800-647-3327
- Great Lakes/DCM: Lincoln Financial Employee Connect
- www.lincoln4benefits.com or 1-888-628-4824
- Donnelly Boland: Life Solutions
- www.lifesolutionsforyou.com or call 1-800-647-3327
- Allegheny County: Life Solutions
Steering Ourselves and Those We Serve Through New and Developing Traumas:
- Renowned trauma researcher Bessel van der Kolk addresses the challenges presented by our current circumstances and provides strategies for maintaining wellness in this video presentation.
- Box Breath Technique
A healthy financial practice involves taking steps to live within your financial means by thinking short- and long-term when managing your financial resources. This can be done by creating a realistic budget that accounts for routine expenses and sets aside a portion of earnings to handle unpredicted expenses and retirement.
Taking control of your financial wellness promotes knowledge, independence, responsibility and awareness of planned and unplanned costs. By gaining an understanding of your current and future financial situation, you will be better prepared to handle loans, taxes, debts and retirement. This week we’ve provided some resources to help you along your financial wellness journey.
Avoid COVID-related financial harm
Undo COVID-related financial harm
If you or your loved ones have been impacted financially by the pandemic, there are several places you can go for assistance. Find some of those resources here.
Manage and grow your money
Making the most of your finances starts with five building blocks for managing and growing your money — The My Money Five. Keep these five principles in mind as you make day-to-day decisions and plan your financial goals.
Perform financial alchemy
Be proactive and identify your financial weaknesses and turn them into strengths by following the simple steps outlined here.
Learn about financial tools and strategies
Check out Behind on bills? Start with one step.This hands-on workbook has tools and practical strategies to help you build confidence to manage income and expenses. It is designed to help you handle money emergencies, cut down on stress from mounting bills and build your finances to where you want them to be.
- This comprehensive guide is part of a series of financial education resources from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Your Money, Your Goals initiative.
- You’ll find companion on-line resources here.
It is never too early to start learning about financial wellness. There are many activities online to help teach children about the importance of financial literacy. Find some here.
Humans are inherently social beings. Priya Parker, author of the book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, notes that social contact and being together in public spaces are elements that contribute to our collective sense of well-being. However, achieving social wellness today may feel challenging when we are also practicing social distancing. Our temporary inability to gather in schools, places, of worship, sports arenas, etc. is adding to our collective stress and feelings of isolation. Therefore, to maintain our social wellness – while social distancing – we may need to try some new strategies to make and maintain connections:
- Continue to celebrate milestones such as birthdays, holidays and special events through technology. Skype, Zoom, Teams, Facetime, etc. are excellent resources that we now have to gather while we are apart.
- Consider starting a virtual group focused on a specific activity such as reading, playing games, creating a weekly craft, holding a happy hour or sharing progress on household projects. Some apps to help you get started can be found here.
- Join your local community group on Facebook or NextDoor for insight about your surroundings and to engage in group conversations with neighbors.
- Don’t forget that your phone can be used for more than texting – calling friends and loved ones and hearing real voices can go a long way.
- It may sound old-fashioned, but consider writing and sending a handwritten letter to connect with someone and give them an unexpected boost for the day.
- Movie theaters may be closed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t watch your favorite movies with others. Check out this list of apps that allow you to sync a movie together.
Spiritual wellness is the sense of being connected to something greater than yourself. It includes having a set of values, principles, morals and beliefs that provide a sense of purpose and meaning to life and then using those principles to guide your actions. For many, religion or faith is the path to spiritual wellness. For others, connecting to nature, community or to ones’ self is the path. There is not just one way to foster spiritual wellness.
One of the most beautiful aspects of cultivating spiritual wellness is that you don’t need anything special to do it and no specific place where it has to be done. When you practice spiritual self-care, you are nourishing your soul, you are striving for inner peace and you are seeking to find purpose and meaning in life. This week we provide some ways you can cultivate and nurture your spiritual connection.
Look for deeper meaning. Take some time to ask, and sit with, the perennial questions: Who am I? What is it that gives my life meaning and purpose? What do I value most? Do my values guide my decisions and actions? Sit in the questions themselves and listen. By being curious about your spiritual core, you are simply asking yourself questions about the person you are and your meaning. These questions may lead you down a path to thinking more in-depth about yourself and allow you to notice things about yourself that will help you achieve fulfillment. For ways to explore your spiritual core during this challenging time, check out the Spirituality and Practice website.
Sometimes it’s difficult to find gratitude in times of fear and stress. But science tells us that the more we can identify the positives in our life and the more we can name the things we are most grateful for, the easier we will be able to recognize them in the future. Gratitude connects us to one another in profound ways. Consider keeping a gratitude journal or gratitude jar. Your emotions are deeply entwined with your spirituality. Show gratitude every day, even for the things we may take for granted. When you increase feelings of optimism, then you’ll see the world as a better place and have the potential to spread joy to those around you. Check out Benefits of Thinking Positively, and How to Do It.
Sometimes it helps to connect outside yourself to stay connected to your self. Even in this time of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders, you can still connect with others safely and sometimes even from the comfort of your own home. Find a way to volunteer or be of service to others, consider donating to a cause you believe in, learn about another country or culture and build your capacity for cultural humility. A fun way to get engaged during this pandemic is consider going on a virtual vacation. Skeptical? It’s true! Taking time for yourself to learn new things, immerse yourself in art and music or travel to a comforting place or somewhere new can wonders. Here are some suggestions for your next virtual vacation.
Be Open to Expressing Yourself
Get it out. Journal, draw, paint, sing, dance – express yourself. Expressing what is on your mind will help you to maintain a focused mind. After a long day or a significant event, you may feel confused and not be able to make sense of your feelings. By writing down your thoughts, creating a piece of artwork and singing and dancing to music that bring you joy, you may be able to think clearer and move forward.
Be in Flow
Movement can be a very important part to maintaining spiritual wellness. Sit quietly, feel your breath, feel the beating of your own heart. The body is not still, it is always in a rhythmic dance. Want to move more and also improve your spiritual wellness? Try yoga. Yoga is a physical technique that can help improve your spiritual wellness by reducing emotional and physical strains on your mind and body. Yoga is taught at all different levels and can help lower stress, boost the immune system and lower blood pressure as well as reduce anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia. Or maybe consider doing some walking meditation or learning Qigong or Tai Chi.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the sense of urgency to produce, produce, produce and the ready access to technology makes it so hard to step away and take a break. But whether you pray, meditate, spend time in nature – take some time for stillness to connect with that deeper part of yourself.
Bask in the restorative power of silence. If meditation is new to you, or you’ve been practicing for years, there are an abundance of options out there to build or continue a practice. Consider downloading the Calm App or Insight Timer for easy access to a variety of meditation practices.
“Perhaps the most ‘spiritual’ thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with the eyes of wholeness and act with integrity and kindness.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Occupational wellness is your ability to maximize your workplace happiness by focusing on work that brings you a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and even joy.
This sense of occupational wellness is challenging for many of us right now as we adapt to new ways of working and interacting remotely. It is completely natural that the disruption in our daily work habits have added to the anxiety and stress we may feel. This week, you’ll find helpful hints to get through these challenging times with your good humor intact.
- If you find yourself exhausted at the end of a day filled with Teams or Zoom meetings, you are not alone. Check out these tips to better understand and combat “screen fatigue.” Also, you can add some fun to your next virtual meeting with a virtual meeting BINGO card.
- Watch for general signs and symptoms of burnout and check out this tool to remind you to take regular breaks.
Managing from a distance
- If you are a supervisor, be sure to talk to your staff about stress and burnout. Encourage stress-relief breaks to improve occupational wellness.
- Review the attachment below for tips on how to manage a team remotely.
- Have you ever wanted to advance your current skills and knowledge in your current job position or just for your own learning enjoyment?
- Many colleges and universities are currently offering free certificate programs.
Benefits of Mentorship
- Do you currently have a mentor in your life? If not, would you like to have one? Connecting with a work mentor can be a great way to manage stress, stay positive and plan for the future. The attached handout provides information on the types of mentors to have in your life.
Working from home
- Check the handout below for general tips on improving home office ergonomics, motivating yourself to move and take breaks and appreciating the humor that exists during this time.
- Five People to Have in Your Mentor Network
- Managing a Team Remotely
- Work from Home Tips
Maintaining physical wellness relies on restful sleep, a nutritious diet and physical activity. The importance of staying physically well only increases during a community health emergency. But the unprecedented stressors, stay-at-home restrictions and ominous health risks of our current pandemic can make maintaining our physical wellness more challenging than ever. Here are some strategies for promoting physical wellness during these unique and difficult times:
- Sleep: Good, consistent sleep is important to physical wellness. If sleep has been a struggle during this time, here are some strategies that may help.
- Nutrition: Eating right is always easier said than done, and it’s especially difficult under these circumstances. Here are five ways to help feed you and your family a varied, nutritious diet that will support their growth and development, all while building healthy eating habits.
- Exercise: Stuck for ideas on how to keep moving while stuck at home? University of Pittsburgh’s YouTube page: “Be Fit Pitt” features hundreds of short workout tutorials that you can do at home without equipment. Of course, these workouts aren’t for everyone. Any regular physical activity is beneficial: find something that you enjoy! You may even consider setting a reminder on your calendar to stand up and stretch or go for a quick walk.
- Relaxation: Don’t forget to take care of yourself and relax! If winding down proves difficult, free guided meditation apps like Headspace may be a beneficial tool.
- Eyesight: Many of us are spending a lot of time close to our laptops throughout the day. Prevent strain on your eyes by practicing the 20-20-20 rule: “When following the rule, a person takes a 20-second break from looking at a screen every 20 minutes. During the break, the person focuses on an object 20 feet away, which relaxes the eye muscles.”
Intellectual wellness involves engaging in creative and mentally stimulating activities, learning and skills-building and expanding and sharing your knowledge with others.
Research has shown that the benefits of intellectual pursuits are many and include the ability to reduce your stress and anxiety, engage a different part of your brain and maintain your cognitive abilities as you age.
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
There are many opportunities to engage in remote learning and skills-building activities, or to pick up a new hobby to enhance your intellectual wellness. However, you may find it daunting to do so. One strategy to fit new intellectual explorations into your daily routine is to schedule the time to do so, just as you would for a meeting at work, even if it is just one or two hours per week. This way, you will be more likely to commit to taking time for yourself to pursue a new activity.
In this time of Covid-19, there are many resources and ideas for enhancing intellectual wellness online. Below are some of the best we’ve found to get you started. But remember, not all intellectual pursuits are on a screen. A balanced approach to wellness is best, so don’t forget that listening to music, reading, playing board games, and doing puzzles also help you to achieve intellectual wellness.
- Learn something new
- Search for free online language classes here.
- Experience a wide range of topics including technology, science, politics, entertainment, parenting and much, much more through Ted Talks.
- Now is a good time to explore online courses since many universities and educational sites are offering these for free. Check out Coursera where hundreds of free courses provide access to on-demand video lectures and community discussion forums. Courses are taught by top instructors from world-class universities and companies, so you can learn something new anytime, anywhere.
- Talk with your supervisor or mentor about professional development opportunities – what are areas that you want to explore or develop? Many of them may be available on our LMS.
- Travel… virtually.
- Read to your heart’s content
- Check out this list of the 100 classic novels of all time
- Looking for something new to read instead? Find a new book by exploring the NY times best-seller list – and check it out digitally through the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP).
- You can also connect with other readers through the CLP “Stay In & Read” challenge or join the CLP’s first virtual book club.
- Not a member of the CLP? Apply for a library card online here.
- Ponder over puzzles
Environmental wellness focuses on our ability to attain good health by occupying pleasant, safe and stimulating environments that support well-being.
Your environment includes social and natural surroundings in your home, workspace and community and can greatly impact how you feel. You can’t always choose what’s in the environments in which you live, work or play, but taking small steps to make your environments safer and limiting your exposure to potentially harmful elements can help keep you healthier. Ways to manage environmental wellness at home include planting a personal or community garden, recycling, purchasing products with minimal packaging and conserving utilities by adjusting thermostats and turning off lights and water when not in use. Improving environmental wellness in your workspace might be as simple as displaying a photo you love. Below, you’ll find some ideas to make some changes to your current environment both inside and outside your home.
Engage Your Green Thumb
Interested in growing your own vegetables or some flowers to support bees and butterflies? Community gardens, indoor gardens and container gardens offer a wide variety of ways to get something growing.
- Visit Grow Pittsburgh to learn about community gardening in the Pittsburgh region, from creating a new community garden to participating in an existing community garden.
- Visit Apartment Gardening for Beginners if you don’t have access to a yard or community garden, but still want to experience the positive nature of nature.
- Visit Container Gardening for Beginners if your yard’s soil is less than ideal but you have a healthy appetite for homegrown.
Clear Out Your Space
Cleaning and decluttering your home space is beneficial on two levels. It improves your environment and offers your “clutter” to people who will put it to good use. Donations are welcomed at organizations like
Consider recycling items that cannot be donated.
Create Work/Home Boundaries
Working remotely from home can be a challenge when your personal and work spaces are blurred. When your computer and files are always in sight, and the work is there, it may be hard to know when to stop. If you find the line between work and life getting thinner and thinner, it may be time to make a few simple changes.
- Visit 9 Tips to Improve Work/Life Balance to help you create a separation between your work and living space at home.
Get Away From It All
Did you have spring and summer plans that you’ve had to change due to the pandemic? There are still safe ways to broaden your horizons.
- Satisfy your urge to travel by taking a virtual tour of several scenic and historical national parks
- These 12 famous museums offer virtual tours you can enjoy from your couch.
- Tired of being cooped up in your house? Connect with nature in your community by exploring one of Pittsburgh’s many trails and parks. Remember to maintain safe distances and wear a mask to protect yourself and others.
EDUCATION, A RETURN TO SCHOOL
The 2020-21 school year is nearly upon us. Nobody yet knows what it will look like and nobody including school boards, superintendents or parents have been through this before. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about the decisions you’re making for your children and their education, you are not alone. Adapting to these uncertain times requires research, thought and planning. The following tips may help guide you on your way.
Related to your children
- Have a calm, fact-based conversation with your child about the advantages and disadvantages of in-classroom and on-line-learning options. Listen to their concerns. Validate their opinions. Dispel any unfounded fears by providing facts to support the contrary.
- Arrange for each person in your family to get a flu shot.
- Call your child’s pediatrician to make sure your children are up to date with vaccinations
- Sit down with your children to figure out any online learning technology together.
Related to your work
- Discuss flexible hours or work-from-home options with your employer to accommodate the educational and childcare needs of your children.
- Consider off-setting your missed in-office work hours with a colleague’s to make sure in-office work is accomplished without delay.
Related to your child’s school
- Review the safety standards that mandate how PA school districts will keep your children safe during classroom learning.
- Visit your neighborhood’s social media page to see if other parents are coordinating efforts for childcare and on-line learning. Consider how your family can benefit by bartering your time and talents.
- Promptly read every piece of information you get from your child’s school. Information is changing frequently. You need to know the most current.
- Create or ask for a list of teachers, school administrators and their contact information so you know who to contact for help. Visit the contact page on the website of your child’s school district to track down this information.
Seeing is believing. Watch this video that shows the importance of following the four COVID-prevention rules.
- Teach your child about how social distancing works and why it’s important
- Explain why using soap is important
- Learn, teach and watch children as they practice good hand-washing skills
- Demonstrate the correct way to wear and remove a face mask and get your child accustomed to wearing one and removing it safely.
- Remind your child that COVID is not the only reason people cough or sneeze. Practicing socially distancing, proper hand washing, refraining from touching your face, and proper use of masks combine to protect everyone from spreading COVID and other viruses.
Education Law Center Resources and information to support all students during these uncertain times
Parents in Pennsylvania can choose from several school options to meet the educational requirements of the state. Visit the PA Department of Education website to learn more about each type.
Childcare and early learning
- Visit the Early Learning Resource Center website for help finding quality child care and financial assistance to help pay for it.
As of August 1, public school districts have the authority to decide how education for the 2020-21 school year will be provided to students who live within the district’s geographical borders. Learn more
- Children who are homeless or living in foster care may be eligible to attend public schools if they live around ‘school district boundaries.’
- Public Allies has a list of education plans for each school district in Allegheny County that is updated weekly.
Charter schools are specialized public schools that set eligibility guidelines and have enrollment limits. Applications for enrollment can be found on each school’s website. Charter schools are paid for by the family’s school district so education and transportation to them are free to the family. Learn more
Parents pay out of pocket for private school education. Scholarships and financial aid may be available. Learn more
Homeschooling and private tutoring
Parents take on the responsibility to teach or have their children taught at home. Learn more
What to consider when choosing a school option and learning program for your child
School option considerations
- Cost and availability of financial aid, if needed
- Possibility of enrollment
- Interest in continuing to be a part of the local school district
- Children who do not attend their local public school are still eligible to participate in sports within their local school district.
- Special education needs/stipulations of the IEP
Learning program considerations
- Any special vulnerabilities your family has that risk a severe case of COVID
- Considerations based on potential exposure to or from others
- Child’s ability to follow prevention behaviors while at school
- Child’s developmental ability to do some type of online or virtual learning
- Parent availability to learn the technology and assist child while learning at home
Tech help desks
Parents and students may have difficulty with understanding technology required to successful complete learning and assignments from home. Ask your child’s school for help first to resolve any technology concerns. Community Help Desks are available if you need them.
Carnegie Library Digital Skills Help Desk, training on basic computer skills, available via on-line, phone or text to 412-775-3900.
Community Technology Help Desk Staffed by volunteers at the University of Pittsburgh. General hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm but depend on volunteer availability.
REDUCING STRESS DURING COVID-19: HOW TO ENGAGE AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS. HOW TO SOOTHE OURSELVES.
Engage and Encourage Others
Watching the COVID numbers climb again in Allegheny County has added another layer of stress to an already stressful situation. One recourse to combat that stress is to do our part and avoid the behaviors that lead to the virus’s spread. In that way, we are staying safe and earning high marks for responsible citizenship. But what happens when you see people, whether you know them or not, disregarding the CDC basic guidelines of wearing a mask, frequent hand-washing and maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others? What’s the best way to respond?
In short, respond by modeling correct behavior and with calm and respect.
Among family and friends
- By now, most people, even doubters, realize the serious nature of the pandemic and follow the CDC guidelines to the best of their ability. Offering some words of encouragement and understanding reinforces your appreciation for their mutual sacrifice. If viewed by doubters, these signs of positivity may have some value for them as well.
- Others may have missed the most recent directive (they change depending on many factors) and just need to be informed to encourage compliance. Providing current information in a respectful way and positive tone can help defuse what might be a confrontational situation.
- Some people are unfortunately set in their ways and refuse to listen to the reasons why their behavior is unwise for themselves and others. Understand, your only choice in those situations is to literally distance yourself and stay safely away. Remember, the only person you can control is you.
Out and about
- You can speak volumes without saying a word with body language. If someone enters within your six-foot zone or is not wearing a mask, take a calm step in the opposite direction. If they move closer as a result, a nod and raised eyebrows might convey your concern. As a last resort, calmly remind them that it’s safer for both of you if you wait further apart.
- If a conversation is required, think creatively. The quickest way to bond is over a common enemy. Assure the person that you, too, can’t wait to have the risks to the lives and livelihoods of you and your family lifted. Empathize with their desire for freedom (from COVID) and humbly explain that you’re trying to stay home as much as possible and if you can’t stay home, you’re staying masked, at a safe distance, and practicing frequent hand-washing.
- If presented with the “hoax” argument, step away. An upsetting confrontation is the most likely outcome if you stay to make your point.
- Why Do Some People Think They’re Invulnerable to COVID-19?
- Coronavirus FAQs: Is There A Polite Way To Remind Someone To Follow Pandemic Rules?
How to Soothe Ourselves
Simply put, stress depletes our mental and physical reserves. At this time, when reasons to stress-out seem to multiply daily, it’s especially important to counter with active steps to unwind and relax.
- Top Ten COVID-19 Anxiety Reduction Strategies
- Coping with Stress During COVID-19
- Maintaining Your Mental Health During COVID-19
HOW TO TALK TO CHILDREN ABOUT COVID-19
Tips for preparing to speak with a child about COVID-19
- Before talking to a child, learn about COVID-19 from a reputable source such as the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and also get facts about current federal and state recommendations.
- Think about when the best time would be to bring up the topic. Ideally, it is a time when children are likely to want to talk such as during dinner.
- Remember that every child is unique and will have their own way of processing the information you provide. Increased curiosity, fearfulness, or a lack of care are all normal responses.
Tips to help children cope with the information
- Remaining calm is important. Children will look to you for cues about how to react. Remind them that how they feel is okay and encourage a hopeful outlook to the future.
- Keep to a routine or create new family routines structured around learning, meals, chores, relaxation, and bedtime. This helps children predict what is planned and helps them feel control in situations.
- Model behaviors you want your child to adopt such as frequent hand washing, and coughing or sneezing into their elbow or a tissue, etc.
- Limit access to news.Constant access to all types of media could heighten fears and expose children to rumors and false information.
- Avoid placing blame on a specific people of specific cultural, racial or ethnic groups for the virus.
- Seek advice. Remember that the EAP is a resource to help you cope. You can also contact your child’s pediatrician or mental health professional for advice.
To further explore this topic, please see the attached printable book and resource list of helpful videos, articles, books and links.
- Talking to Children about Grief Loss related to COVID-19
- Trinka and Sam Fighting the Big Virus
- Trinka and Sam Fighting the Big Virus Questions