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Self-Assessment Tools

Keeping tabs on your own psychological wellbeing is a crucial part of maintaining overall health and successfully working towards your goals, both personally and professionally. Psychological wellbeing is complex and fluid, and it can even shift from week to week (based on a variety of factors like physical health, work hours, rotation, or stress level), so it’s important to check in with yourself on a regular basis.

Mental Health

These handy self-assessment tools can help you to get a quick view on depression or anxiety symptoms and alcohol use. They can be used on a one-time basis, or to track changes across time. Click on the links below.

**We do not receive any of the data from any of the screeners listed on this website. The measures are operated through separate websites that are not affiliated with Maimonides Medical Center.**

Burnout and Compassion Fatigue

While working as a physician can be rewarding, it also brings many specific stressors and challenges. We know that professionals working in a helping field are at risk for experiencing symptoms of burnout or compassion fatigue at some point in their career, with the most recent studies reporting that nearly 50% of all physicians are experiencing burnout.

Suicide and Depression Awareness and Prevention

Scripted Language for Offering Support, Curriculum, and Other Generally Helpful Info:

Recognizing and Managing Fatigue: Learn More Here

Supports and Resources at Maimonides: Individual Supports

If you’d like some support in managing anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or any other emotional distress, or if you are experiencing significant stress or burnout, there a If you’d like some support in managing anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or any other emotional distress, or if you are experiencing significant stress or burnout, there are many resources available. We especially recommend reaching out for support if your scores on any of the self-screeners are in the moderate to high range.

Academic Affairs Support Services: Free & Confidential Individual Counseling

We offer support on site for any issues related to wellness and mental health, communication issues or relational conflicts, exam difficulties and organizational skills, and any other stressors related to training or that may be impacting your training experience. Individual counseling sessions can be a one time meeting or more frequently, there are no requirements or limits and frequency depends on the resident of fellow’s specific needs.  We can also help by providing referrals to outside therapists or psychiatrists. To make an appointment, reach out to:

Erica N. Hutchison, PhD
Office phone: 718-283-8174
Work cell for texts/calls: 347-996-6090
Email: 
[email protected]
Office location: 4702 Fort Hamilton Parkway, 2nd Floor, Brooklyn, NY, 11219

Maimonides Chaplaincy

General office phone: 718-283-8500

https://maimo.org/patients-visitors/pastoral-care/

Or reach out directly to:

  • Rabbi Benzion Leser

Senior Director of Chaplaincy & Pastoral Care: 718-283-7604

  • Reverend Francis Joojo Obu-Mends

Staff Chaplain: 718-283-8402

  • Imam Ahmet Muharrem Atlig

Staff Chaplain: 718-283-8402

Supports and Resources at Maimonides: Team Supports

  • Team Lavender Peer Support (TLPS)

Call: 718-283-CALM (2256)

ADD TLPS WEBSITE WHEN CREATED

*Include Team Lavender manual here

  • Group Psychological Debriefing

A group discussion that provides space to talk about the psychological impacts of traumatic and difficult events that occur at work. These groups are always facilitated by mental health and debriefing experts.

Contact Dr. Amish Aghera or Dr. Erica Hutchison to discuss or set up a debrief.

  • Healing Arts Groups

Contact Lenia Batas to schedule a creative arts group, which could include painting, planting, aromatherapy and other healing arts activities.

Lenia Batas, MPS, LCAT, ATR-BC, CCLS

Director, Child Life Services

Director, Patient & Family Support

718-283-6289

[email protected]

Supporting Each Other at Maimonides

PFA stats and info (including fliers)

*links to resources

Supports and Resources Outside of Maimonides

Hotlines:

  • NYC Suicide Hotline: 1-888-NYC-WELL, or text WELL to 65173 (24 hours) 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (24 hours)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Spanish): 1-800-628-9454 (24 hours)
  • Trans Lifeline (run by and for trans people): 877-565-8860, Hours: every day 10am-4am  https://www.translifeline.org/
  • LGBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564 https://www.glbthotline.org/national-hotline.html Hours: Monday-Friday 4pm to midnight; Saturday: Noon to 5pm
    “We speak with callers of all ages about coming-out issues, gender identity, relationship concerns, bullying, workplace issues, HIV/AIDS anxiety and safer sexinformation, and lots more!”
  • Domestic Violence Hotline:  1-800-621-HOPE (4673) https://www.thehotline.org/
  • National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit https://hotline.rainn.org/online/to receive support via confidential online chat.

 Compiled Wellbeing Resources

General Wellness Resources Link

COVID 19 Wellbeing Articles

COVID 19 Resources for Couples and Families

 

Wellbeing Articles and Resources: COVID-19 Specific

The Collective and Community Trauma of COVID-19

Right now it’s critical that we normalize the mental, emotional, and physical stress that we are experiencing. Being emotionally affected by COVID-19 doesn’t mean you aren’t strong, nor does it reflect on your skill as a clinician or your professional identity. It only means that you are human.

This article talks about COVID-19 as a collective trauma for our communities and highlights the need for considering our mental health now, not only after the fact.

“Feeling intermittently (or constantly) on edge, worried or sleepless are normal ‘fight-or-flight’ reactions to this trauma. We are not going crazy. We are simply coping with a new reality —whether we are sick or not.”

I encourage you all to take some time to reflect on the specific ways you are feeling affected by COVID-19 stress. Talk to your colleagues, family/friends, or a professional about it. It can help you to feel validated and supported, which can decrease any negative future impact on your mental health.

The Science of Helping Out

I thought I would share this article from the NY Times that breaks down how helping others, in big and small ways, improves our own ability to face challenges.

Notably, the article also describes how supporting your colleagues as they cope with COVID19- related stress can be an effective way to improve your own COVID stress. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Dr. Grant said we often are better at giving advice to people other than ourselves. “One of the best things you can do is call someone else facing a similar problem and talk them through it,” said Dr. Grant… “When you talk other people through their problems, you come up with wiser perspectives and solutions for yourself.”

The Science of Helping Out

How Our Minds Try to Make Sense of the Pandemic

This short article highlights two errors our minds make when trying to make sense of the pandemic and offers a solution. It’s from the “How to Build a Life” biweekly column in The Atlantic by Arthur Brooks.

Having words to describe our more complicated psychological experiences can be really grounding, and it can also help us better manage them!

That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief

Even though they may be temporary, we’re all experiencing losses right now; these could include the loss of predictability, routine, safety, etc. It’s helpful to put words to some of our experiences and, to quote the article, “If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it.”

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief

Moral Injury During COVID-19

This is a short article that frames the COVID-19 pandemic as a war against an “invisible enemy.” The author worked as an Army nurse and shares some strategies for preventing moral injury when faced with unbearably challenging circumstances.

Lessons from a Different War for Preventing Moral Injury Among Clinicians Treating COVID-19

COVID Specific General Resources

This is a compilation of resources from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress. They include some suggestions for supporting yourselves, your families, and your patients as we all continue to navigate COVID-19.

Some highlights include:

  • Talking with families when their loved ones are hospitalized with COVID-19
  • Notifying families after a COVID-19 death
  • Managing staff grief

Consider taking a quick browse of the list to find the resources that feel relevant for you.

COVID-19 Arts Resources

These illustrations by artist Alireza Pakdel honor the amazing work of healthcare providers, while also highlighting its surreal nature.

Reinforcing Resilience Emailed Resources

Science Backed Strategies for Strengthening Resilience

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_science_backed_strategies_to_build_resilience?

Resilience isn’t just making it through a challenging time – it is gaining something or growing as a direct result of that challenge. It’s surviving AND thriving. 

And strengthening our capacity for resilience ahead of a challenge is really important. After all, it’s really hard to learn a new psychological skill in the midst of a stressful experience! 

These 12 strategies were developed by the Greater Good Science Center, a group that also examines ways to improve kindness, connection, and happiness. They include strategies that you may not associate with resilience, like expressive writing, facing a fear, or cultivating forgiveness. 

And, of course, not every strategy is ideal for all of us. Look for the ones that are most enjoyable and relevant for you! 

Expanding Your Gratitude Practice

 A Short Video: Four Myths About Being Grateful at Work 

Researcher and psychologist Dr. Amie Gordon debunks four common objections to practicing gratitude in the workplace. 

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/video/item/four_myths_about_being_grateful_at_work 

 

Quick Read: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain 

A review of some interesting research that explores how gratitude works to improve our mental health. 

By psychologists Drs. Joel Wong and Joshua Brown 

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain 

 

Visual Appreciation: The Healing Power of Art & Artists 

“HPAA is a growing global community of artists, advocates, and writers dedicated to raising awareness about how ART serves as a positive catalyst for enhancing the well-being of 2 

individuals, society and the environment. We believe that art has the power to heal, inspire, provoke, challenge and offer hope.” 

Artists use different mediums to connect with and convey all kinds of emotions and experiences. This particular collection shares some of the artists thoughts on how the act of creating art positively impacts them. 

https://www.healing-power-of-art.org/the-healing-power-of-art-2020-exhibition-awards-of-excellence/ 

What’s Your Mental Health Hygiene Routine?

We all have regular physical self-care or health hygiene routines. Think about all the things we do on a daily basis to take care of our physical health, from teeth brushing, face washing, or wearing sunscreen to more individualized routines. We may exercise or stretch daily or have a special multi-step facial-care routine. 

We do these things, at least in part, because they help us to avoid more serious physical health issues. In the same way, good mental health hygiene can help prevent mental health stress! 

**A Quick Note about Mental Health
Mental health is a neutral term! It simply refers to our overall cognitive, emotional, and social wellbeing. Just like physical health levels, our mental health can span a wide range. And experiencing mental health stress does not automatically mean a person has a psychiatric diagnosis.** 

So what’s your mental health hygiene routine? You may already be doing small things to maintain your mental health without realizing it. Take a moment to consider what they are and if you might like to add to this routine. 

Different things will work best for each of us, but some ideas could include: 

  • Check in about how you’re feeling and why 
  • Take a few deep breaths 
  • Take time to text a friend or have a non-work conversation 
  • Make time for a 5 minute pause during the day 
  • Meditate 
  • Make time to do something silly or playful (like watching a funny video, or joking with a colleague) 
  • Water your plants, connect with nature 
  • Take a social media or electronics break 
  • Take a moment to notice something beautiful 
  • Do something that is de-stressing for you 
  • Wear outfits or accessories that make you feel great 
  • Notice what’s going well, practice gratitude 3 

How can we make new routines stick? I recommend pairing a quick activity with something you are already doing. For example, take 5 deep breaths after you brush your teeth. This pairing makes it easier to remember and more likely to become a habit. 

And this article from Mental Health America offers some more tips for Creating Healthy Routines: https://www.mhanational.org/creating-healthy-routines 

Taking Care of Our Relationships

Taking care of our personal relationships, and especially our romantic/family relationships, can sometimes be a challenge when we have so many other responsibilities and time constraints. Right now, we’re also still navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and have less options for spending time and doing things together. Our usual routines may still be on pause. 

Also, since most of us are seeing less people overall – we may be leaning on our closest relationships to fulfill more of our support and connection needs than usual. This can put some extra pressure on those relationships, especially if we’re not taking time to notice it. 

I encourage all of us to consider taking time on a regular basis, maybe just a few minutes a week, to check in about the health of our relationships, for example: 

  • Are you feeling connected? 
  • Do you know how your partner/friend/family member has been feeling this week? Do they know how you’re doing? 
  • Have you spent any time doing something together? 

I’ve also included a few resources that might help you more actively consider and care for your relationships. 

For Friends 

Friendships Are Crucial to Survive the Isolation of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Why Do They Feel So Hard? 

This is a very cool graphic essay (i.e. comic book style) about friendship and loneliness, featuring some interesting research and suggestions! 

https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2020/4/15/21215120/coronavirus-covid-19-friendship-loneliness 

For Couples 

The Marriage Minute 

You can sign up for this twice weekly email newsletter that features quick (but meaningful!) one-minute reads. 

“A resource of tools, articles, videos, exercises, and more, all founded on Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s four decades of research and clinical experience, delivered straight to your inbox.” 

https://www.gottman.com/marriage-minute/

Creating New Rituals and Routines 

This app from the Gottman Institute has a few great features, including a card “deck” that you and partner can swipe through to find some new rituals that you might like to try together. Routines help us remember to take care of our relationships by making it a regular part of our lives. And this may be especially helpful while we patiently (or not so patiently) await returning to our usual routines… 

https://www.gottman.com/couples/apps/ 

Dating 

The Quiet Pandemic of Loneliness During COVID-19 

Some thoughts about dating during the pandemic from licensed marriage and family counselor, Dr. Teyhou Smyth. 

https://www.livingwithfinesse.com/teyhousmyth/how-to-date-in-the-age-of-covid19-what-is-pandemic-dating-and-loneliness/ 

The New Rules of Dating (NY Times Article) 

An article that validates the challenges of dating right now, and offers some helpful support and advice. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/18/at-home/coronavirus-pandemic-dating.html 

Self-Compassion

This week I’m focusing on self-compassion. But first, here’s a fun animated video by Brene Brown on why it’s so easy (and automatic) for us to blame ourselves and others when things go wrong. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZWf2_2L2v8 

Now that we understand why self-blame happens so often, let’s think about what it means to practice the opposite – self-compassion. 

How we think about, talk to, and treat ourselves is so important – and it can have a huge impact on our overall health (either positively or negatively). Self-compassion is also more than just “being nice to ourselves” so having a more clear definition is a good place to start. 

As defined by Dr. Kristin Neff, the three elements of self-compassion are: 

1. Being understanding when we make mistakes and avoiding excessive self-judgement (Self-kindness vs Self-judgment) 

2. Understanding that mistakes or failures are just part of being human, we are not alone in feeling down sometimes (Common humanity vs Isolation) 

3. Balancing being aware of negative thoughts/feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them (Mindfulness vs Over-identification) 

Check out Dr. Neff’s website for an even more detailed description, and related research: https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/ 

How self-compassionate are you? Check out this auto-scoring questionnaire to find out: 

https://self-compassion.org/test-how-self-compassionate-you-are/ 

And if you’re lower than you’d, here are some exercises (and meditations) for building up self-compassion: https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/ 

As with everything, the more we practice self-compassion (and make it part of our routine) the easier it becomes! 

Taking Care of Our Intellectual Health

Intellectual health is one of 8 areas that are important for overall health and wellbeing. It involves taking time to exercise our minds outside of the work context and it can help us to widen our perspective and see ourselves (and the world around us) more fully. Unfortunately this area of health often gets overlooked, especially because it can feel less important than some of the other areas. 

But the more we are connected with non-work related interests (and aspects of our identities) the more protected we are against burnout and compassion fatigue. It helps to create a more clear boundary between work and personal life and reminds us that our professional identity is only one part of who we are overall. 

And we are more likely to stick with it if we can fit intellectual health into our routines in small ways – especially given our very busy schedules. For example, I may not always have time to extensively read the news but I can usually find a couple of minutes to browse the headlines. And I may not be able to spend the afternoon at a museum, but I can follow some great art accounts on social media. 

  • What are your intellectual health interests? Is there anything you do to connect with creativity? 
  • Can you challenge yourself to fit one of these activities into your weekly routine, even if it’s just for a few minutes? 

And for some inspiration, I’ve included a couple of online photo galleries that are great for a quick browse. 

Winners’ Galleries: World Photography Organization 

https://www.worldphoto.org/sony-world-photography-awards/winners-galleries 

Best of 2019: Photographs from Around the World 

https://mymodernmet.com/best-photos-of-2019/ 

NY Project Hope: Coping with COVID https://nyprojecthope.org/cope/

They offer some creative de-stressing, like drawing Weavesilk art electronically or mixing your own calming soundscape – both are pretty neat. Check it out here: https://nyprojecthope.org/relax/ 

They also outline some specific coping ideas, including some aimed at front-line workers and kids/parents: https://nyprojecthope.org/cope/ 

Plus mental health and substance use support lines + resources and COVID related resources: https://nyprojecthope.org/connect/ 

The Benefits of Practicing Kindness (And How To Do It)

Being kind is an undeniably good practice and a lovely way to positively impact others, but did you know that the act of being kind also comes with its own proven health benefits? 

For example, doing kind acts produces oxytocin & serotonin, can decrease anxiety/depression, and even give us more energy. Check out this quick infographic from Dartmouth College for more science-backed kindness benefits: 

https://www.dartmouth.edu/wellness/emotional/rakhealthfacts.pdf 

Being kind is also beneficial for kids, and something we can actively help practice: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/2020/11/the-latest-health-kick-for-kids-kindness/ 

And finally, if you need some creative ideas for practicing kindness, I’ve been really enjoying this daily Workplace Kindness Calendar from the Random Acts of Kindness group – it gives quick and easy daily kindness challenges that can be accomplished in a couple minutes or less. Each month also includes a team activity. 

To make it even easier, you can also subscribe to the calendar to get the daily ideas directly on your google, outlook, or IOS calendars. 

https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-at-work 

Coping With A Different Kind of Winter/Holiday Season

The holiday season is here and, for most of us, it’s looking a little different than usual. This time of year can be stressful under normal circumstances, including the possibility of being impacted by the “winter blues” or seasonal affective disorder. 

We might feel more lonely, guilty about skipping family events, or just generally disappointed. We’ve all definitely experienced a ton of loss this year overall, including the loss of connection and the anticipatory loss of holidays/rituals that we’d normally be looking forward to experiencing. 

It may be helpful to start thinking about how to take care of yourself and cope with a stranger-than-usual holiday and winter season. Here are a few short but informative articles that might help: 

The Holidays Could Feel Lonelier This Year Due COVID-19, Here’s How to Cope 

https://www.verywellmind.com/coping-with-covid-holiday-loneliness-5087126 

How To Practice Gratitude When Everything Sucks 

This article gives some creative suggestions for making gratitude work for you, and for focusing on small practices. I particularly like their suggestion of a “gratitude body scan” which gives an opportunity to notice the awesome things our bodies do for us everyday. 

Giving Thanks May Make Your Brain More Altruistic: Neuroscience is Revealing a Fascinating Link Between Gratitude & Generosity https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/11/27/20983850/gratitude-altruism-charity-generosity-neuroscience 

And for anyone managing holidays with kids, here’s an a quick article from NYC’s Child Mind Institute on helping decrease stress for the whole family: https://childmind.org/article/holiday-during-the-pandemic/ 

And a quick guide to helping kids manage their disappointment based on their age range: https://www.connecticutchildrens.org/coronavirus/how-to-help-kids-handle-holiday-disappointment-during-covid-19/ 

Managing the Winter Blues During COVID-19

Many people experience the “winter blues” as the weather gets colder and the days shorten. You may need to boost your wellbeing routines to balance low mood or energy related to the season change. Things like adjusting diet, getting a daily dose of sunlight, or stepping up your sleep hygiene can make a big difference. 

Here’s a quick article with “10 Tips to Help Beat the Winter Blues” 

https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-beat-the-winter-blues-5087998#10-tips-to-help-beat-the-winter-blues 8 

While the “winter blues” are fairly common, it’s important to differentiate this experience from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People suffering from SAD experience clinically significant depression and mood symptoms as the seasons change. While most people associate SAD with winter months, it can also be triggered by the shift into other seasons as well. 

This article in NY Presbyterian’s Health Matter newsletter features psychologist Dr. Michale Terman, who explains the differences between the winter blues and SAD. He also gives meaningful suggestions for managing symptoms. 

How To Fight Seasonal Depression During the COVID-19 Pandemic 

https://healthmatters.nyp.org/what-to-know-about-seasonal-affective-disorder/ 

And finally, here is a review of the best Light Therapy Lamps* of the year: 

https://www.verywellmind.com/best-light-therapy-lamps-4172537 

*While many people enjoy the effects of these lamps, they are not a replacement for mental health treatment. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of SAD, it’s important to connect with professional supports. And of course, I am always available for residents/fellows that may want to check in about the winter blues or SAD symptoms. 

Checking In On Your Friends’ Mental Health

Now is a great time to actively check in our your friends or family members’ mental health – and really any time is a good time for this! 

Many of us have a hard time asking for help, a common experience for healthcare providers who are so used to taking care of others. And I suspect we all have some friends/family who have a hard time showing how they’re *really* doing or asking for help too. So I am challenging all of us to make an extra effort to check in this month, as COVID continues and the holidays approach. 

This resource from Mental Health America has some great tips for checking in on friends, including the handy list below. https://screening.mhanational.org/content/just-checking-friends 

Their website also has some helpful screeners for common mental health stress like anxiety, depression, trauma, or disordered eating: https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools 

And here are some additional tips about how to support your friends, and how to troubleshoot common hurdles: 

https://childadolescentpsych.cumc.columbia.edu/articles/tips-asking-friend-about-their-mental-health 

The Power (and fun!) of Creating New Rituals

Rituals and traditions are often an important and fun part of holidays and family gatherings, and they can also be part of our romantic or friend relationships. 

Rituals help us: 

1. Feel connected to our favorite people 

2. Look forward to something (which helps tolerate uncertainty/stress) 

3. Make active choices, and increase our sense of agency and control 

Rituals can be big and complicated (like a holiday potluck or yearly vacation), but they can also be small and sweet (like having coffee together every morning, making a point of sharing about your day, or celebrating small wins). 

Here are a few resources that highlight the benefits (and fun!) of creating new rituals with our partners, families, and friends. 

From the Gottman Institute (Science Backed Relationship Experts): 

Create Shared Meaning: Rituals for the Family 

https://www.gottman.com/blog/create-shared-meaning-rituals-for-the-family/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=mm&utm_campaign=MM_409_Make_Memories_on_Purpose 

Enriching Your Marriage by Creating Shared Meaning 

https://www.gottman.com/blog/enriching-marriage-creating-shared-meaning/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=mm&utm_campaign=MM_409_Make_Memories_on_Purpose 

Gottman Institute Card Decks – this free app has a virtual card deck that you can swipe through to get ideas about relationship rituals (as well as some other great card decks) 

https://www.gottman.com/couples/apps/ 

And one additional article: 

The Power of Tradition and How to Create Holiday Traditions of Your Own 

https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/creating-holiday-traditions 

Managing Increasing COVID Stress + Processing the Capitol Attack

First, I want to acknowledge all of you for the work you are doing and have been doing – thank you for continuing to persevere and to show up for patients and each other. 

And of course it continues to be a challenging time, as the hospital moves to HICS Level 4 and the country processes last week’s attack on the capitol. One of the most important steps in managing stress and trauma of any type is recognizing how we are impacted – emotionally, physically, and cognitively. 

In addition to other kinds of stress and trauma, many people may also be experiencing racial stress and trauma. If you’re not familiar with race-based stress and trauma, this resource from Mental Health America offers some introductory information, including its origins, impacts, and examples. It also offers a list of mental health resources for BIPOC individuals. 

Mental Health America: Racial Trauma https://www.mhanational.org/racial-trauma

And another helpful article about the psychological impacts of racism is included here: 

Race, Trauma, and the COVID-19 Pandemic by Adaobi Anyeji, PhD 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/race-trauma-covid-19-pandemic-adaobi-anyeji-ph-d/ 

Even though we’re all busy, I challenge all of us to consider these steps for managing our stress and trauma: 

1. Actively Check in with Yourself – try to notice physical sensations in addition to emotions/thoughts. Trauma and stress aren’t always conscious and they are often held in our bodies. This can look like fatigue, jumpiness, increased sympathetic activity, muscle tension, etc. 

2. Put Words to Your Experiences – stress/trauma can be unsettling and overwhelming and it takes up a lot of mental space + energy. Putting words to our experiences (either by writing them down or saying them out loud) helps us to organize our thoughts and create a more clear narrative, which in turn allows us to process those experiences and, ultimately, to give them less mental space + energy. 

3. Allow Yourself to Be Human – everyone is affected by COVID and the sociopolitical climate, even though we each have our own unique experience. Try to give yourself permission to be impacted, and remember that none of us are at our best 100% of the time. That’s okay, it’s just part of being human. 

4. Learn More – about your personal stress/trauma response, general signs of secondary trauma/stress for healthcare providers, or race-based stress and trauma. The more we know the less caught off guard we will be. 

5. Connect to Supports – regularly connect with supports that help you, at work and at home. 

And remember that there are many supports at MMC that can help you to process and heal from stress or trauma, including: 

  • Mark Roberts, Meditation Instructor: 917-520-0655, [email protected] 
  • Spiritual and Chaplaincy Support: Rabbi Lesser, 718-283-7604; Father Francis, 718-283-8402 
  • Employee Mental Health Clinic: 718-283-7864 
  • Erica Hutchison, PhD: Confidential Counseling for Residents, 347-996-6090, [email protected] 
  • NYC Well 24/7 Crisis Hotline: 1-888-NYC-WELL (or text WELL to 65173) 

Getting Grounded - Quick Exercises to Increase Calm

Grounding strategies work to help us cope with anxiety, stress, or panic feelings by reminding us to be present and grounded in the moment. They can also increase feelings of calm and safety. 

Seven Simple Grounding Techniques for Calming Down Quickly, by Dr. Debbie Allen 

Dr. Allen teaches some different types of easy-to-do strategies and explains why they work: 

https://drsarahallen.com/7-ways-to-calm/ 

And this guide by Therapist Aid offers a few additional ideas that may work better for you. 

https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-article/grounding-techniques-article 

Video: The Butterfly Hug, by psychotherapist Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC 

This short video teaches a quick and easy strategy shown to help decrease anxiety or emotional discomfort quickly. 

https://www.debbieaugenthaler.com/butterfly-hug-simple-technique-helping-anxiety/ 

Video: A One-minute TikTok @healingtalks24 offers 5 simple moves that can help us self-contain and soothe ourselves to get some of the same benefits of interpersonal touch. 

https://www.tiktok.com/@healingtalks24/video/6812371025825697030 

I find that the techniques in both videos are surprisingly effective for how simple they are, and they work especially well if you take a few deep breaths while trying them out! They can also help combat the loss of our usual hugs and other soothing touches from others. 

Staying Connected + Caring for Relationships

Given the circumstances of pandemic living, many of us are not feeling as connected as we’d like – and this might also we aren’t feeling as supported as we’d like either. 

In part, this may be because our friends, family, or colleagues don’t know exactly what support we need or how to provide it. And it can feel challenging or uncomfortable to ask for support, care, or help – especially for those of us in healthcare who spend so much time taking care of others! At the same time, the people around us often WANT to help and support us. 

So I’d like to continue challenging all of us to: 

1) Consider what kind of support you need right now. 

Maybe it’s distraction, being (or not being) asked about the hospital, help with chores or tasks at work, doing something silly together, words of reassurance/love/appreciation, or something else. 13 

2) And then directly ask for it… 

Even though it may feel strange, our loved ones (and colleagues!) are often happy to get this insight because it helps them feel more effective! It also strengthens relationships of all kinds by building trust and kindness and mutual support. 

3) …without feeling guilty, weak, or as though you are a burden. 

These are very common feelings – especially for those of us who are used to providing the help rather than asking for it. Consider how you’d feel if your friend/colleague/partner asked you for the same thing? My guess is that you’d probably be glad to do it. 

Also, these two articles from the Gottman Institute: A Research Based Approach to Relationships offer some thoughtful suggestions about taking care of relationships (could be romantic or otherwise) while in the midst of extremely stressful circumstances. 

For Better or for Worse: Conflict and Connecting in Crisis, Anna Aslanian, LMFT 

https://www.gottman.com/blog/for-better-or-for-worse-conflict-and-connecting-in-crisis/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=mm&utm_campaign=MM_421_Rituals_for_a_Bad_Day 

How to Support Your Partner When You’re Hurting Too, Donald L. Cole 

https://www.gottman.com/blog/how-to-support-your-partner-when-youre-hurting-too/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=mm&utm_campaign=MM_421_Rituals_for_a_Bad_Day 

Live Stream Concerts + Entertainment Round Up

Very cold temperatures are making it more challenging to enjoy outdoor socializing and events. To help out with the stay-inside blues, here are a few virtual entertainment ideas: 

Billboard’s List of Virtual/Live Stream Concerts for this week: 

including the Foo Fighters, Princess Nokia, Waxahatchee, Billie Eilesh…. 

https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/9515700/livestreams-virtual-concerts-week-of-january-25/ 

Songkick offers a similar, but more extensive, list of online concerts: 

https://www.songkick.com/live-stream-concerts 

Viator curates all kinds of Live + Interactive virtual tours, like a Brooklyn street art tour, a walk through Gaudi’s cathedral in Barcelona, a tour of Dali’s triangle, or one that focuses on Greek mythology. 

For the kids: a round up of some virtual kid-focused activities, like free ballet classes and “pint size ninja workouts.” 14 

https://www.eventbrite.com/c/childs-play-online-classes-and-events-to-keep-kids-busy-at-home-cwwrdbd/ 

In Honor of Black History Month Part 1

In honor of Black History month I’m including a couple great sources for learning about, celebrating, and appreciating Black culture, history, and experiences. While February is the official Black History month, we know that Black History is American History and should be honored every day. 

A PBS Digital Celebration of Black History Month, with many great digital shorts, documentaries, and films: 

https://www.pbs.org/articles/2021/02/celebrate-black-history-month-2021/ 

Smithsonian Magazine offers a wide range of digital programming, including a series of book talks, kid programs (like Joyful Fridays), artist meetups, and an African Americans in STEM Wikapedia Edit-a-Thon. 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/nmaahc-announces-digital-black-history-month-events-180976848/ 

28 Days of Black History: subscribe for a daily (or weekly digest) email featuring “a moment in Black history exemplified by the art, literature, or artifact for the day” along with discussion questions, additional learning resources, and action items. https://www.28daysofblackhistory.com/ 

Celebrating Black History Month Part 2: Celebrating Black Women, Men, the LGBTQIA+ Community, and Healthcare Providers

In continued celebration of Black History Month I’ve included a few different resources for learning about, recognizing, and honoring individuals. Check them out below! 

Black American Pioneers Who Changed Healthcare 

https://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/african-american-pioneers-who-changed-healthcare/ 

The We Love You Project: this is a moving portrait series featuring over 1,000 Black men and boys – don’t miss the video of the creator, Byryon Summers, explaining the project. https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/the-we-love-you-project/UAISrcCBtZuKLg 

Celebrating Black Women: Includes notables reads, films, and recognition of amazing women in various fields. 

https://www.ywcaofasheville.org/blog/2021/02/11/its-the-black-girl-magic-for-me-celebrating-black-women-forging-our-future/ 

https://www.glaad.org/blackhistorymonth2013 

Celebrating LGBTQIA+ African Americans: Includes a list of notable figures and many interesting blogs/articles 15 

https://www.glaad.org/blackhistorymonth2013 

Every Day Creativity

Being creative is often associated with artistic ability or concretely creating some piece of art, but unfortunately sometimes this causes folk who don’t feel artistically talented to shy away from creative endeavors – and miss out on the psychological benefits of engaging our creativity mental muscles! 

In reality, there are dozens of daily opportunities for us to connect with creativity including: 

  • How we build rapport with our patients 
  • Clinical problem solving 
  • “Outside the box” treatment planning 
  • Use of humor (with patients AND colleagues) 
  • Teaching style 
  • Etc! 

This kind of day-to-day creativity is sometimes called “Mini-C” creativity (Kaufman & Beghetto, 2009) 

Mini-C creativity can help us widen our perspectives, be more innovative, and, oftentimes, be more effective problem solvers. 

How do you get creative (and innovative) in your clinical approach or you interactions with patients or colleagues? For some more inspiration and ideas, check out these two articles: 

Creativity In Medicine, by Danielle Ofri, MD 

https://danielleofri.com/creativity-in-medicine/ 

The Importance of Everyday Creativity, by Carolyn Siccama, EdD 

https://learn.uvm.edu/blog/blog-education/importance-of-everyday-creativity 

Boring Self-Care

At one point or another we have all been told to practice “self-care”, and my guess is that we’ve all probably encouraged someone else to do the same. But what does it mean to really practice self-care? 

Sometimes self-care is boring. Doing things like making a medical appointment, getting groceries, taking out the trash, drinking water, or doing laundry are also self-care – even if those things are not all that interesting or luxurious or “instagram-worthy”. 

One of the defining features of self-care is the intention. Showing up for yourself and doing something with the intention of improving your overall situation or wellbeing is meaningful, even if it’s not flashy or exciting.

This short article from Medium talks a bit more about defining self-care in a useful way: 

Self-Care, Boring Self-Care, and Just Showing Up by Laura Khoudari 

https://laura-khoudari.medium.com/https-medium-com-laura-khoudari-boring-self-care-78bc07ccc2c1 

Or check out @makedaisychains and her #boringselfcare art campaign for some more ideas! 

Resources for Couples and Families: General

The Gottman Institute has many research-based resources for couples, including:

Small Things Often Podcast: https://www.gottman.com/podcast/

Researched based tips to improve your relationship in 5 minutes or less

The Marriage Minute: https://www.gottman.com/marriage-minute/

It’s a resource of tools, articles, videos, exercises, and more, all founded on Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s four decades of research and clinical experience, delivered straight to your inbox.”

Love & Relationship Blog, with a range of interesting topics: https://www.gottman.com/blog/category/love-relationships/

Asking for Support from Loved Ones

Some of you may not be feeling as supported as you usually do, especially since your stressors and needs are probably different than usual. In part, this may be because your friends, family, or partners don’t know exactly what support you need or how to provide it. So, I’d like to challenge you to:

1) Consider what kind of support you need right now

Maybe it’s distraction, being (or not being) asked about the hospital, help with chores, doing something silly together, or something else

2) And directly ask for it…

Even though it may feel strange, our loved ones are often happy to get this insight because it helps them feel more effective!

3) …without feeling guilty, weak, or as though you are a burden.

These are very common feelings – especially for those of us who are used to providing the help rather than asking for it.

The Emotional Bank Account

This is interesting video about the “emotional bank account” in romantic relationships, but it’s a helpful concept to consider in all of our important relationships!

Essentially, we need to make positive deposits in all of our relationships, and it’s helpful to actively think about how and when we do this. Check out this quick 2-minute video to learn how to balance your “account.”

Invest In Your Relationship: The Emotional Bank Account (From the Gottman Institute)

https://youtu.be/QHN2EKd9tuE

And here’s the larger article, if you’re interested.

https://www.gottman.com/blog/invest-relationship-emotional-bankaccount/?j=40270&sfmc_sub=20679139&l=197_HTML&u=642365&mid=100017189&jb=457&utm_source=email&utm_medium=mm&utm_campaign=MM_351_Practicing_positive_needs

Get to Know the "Four Horsemen" of Relationships.

These horsemen are a metaphor for four specific communication styles that can derail relationships. Get to know the Four Horsemen and their antidotes in a quick read from The Gottman

Institute: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-the-antidotes/

If you’re interested, they have several other articles with more in-depth descriptions. Check them out here: https://www.gottman.com/blog/category/column/the-four-horsemen/

Resources for Couples and Families: COVID-19 Specific

“How to Not Tank Your Relationship In Quarantine”

An interesting article from The Atlantic with research backed tips for taking care of your relationships, during COVID-19 and in general.

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/03/how-maintain-your-relationshipquarantine/608830/

Love Under Lockdown: How Couples (and singles) Can Cope During COVID-19

TIME Magazine Article Featuring Maimo Fellow

Dr. Sarah Rosenal, an MMC Cardiovascular Fellow and a graduate from our Internal Medicine residency, shares her about her COVID19 experiences with TIME Magazine.

She talks about the emotional toll of working with these patients and her steadfast motivation to continue doing the work, despite the challenges. I am certain that her words will resonate with many of you.

It is also a nice reminder to consider your own professional values and why you’ve chosen your specific career path. Those values can serve as a much needed anchor during these uncertain times.

https://time.com/collection/coronavirus-heroes/5816887/coronavirus-moral-duty-doctors/

Here are a few online storybooks about COVID-19, written by mental health experts. They can help kids to understand and cope with the pandemic in an age appropriate way.

The Story of the Oyster and the Butterfly: The Corona Virus and Me by Dr. Ana Gomez

A downloadable PDF picture book for young children that explains the corona virus with a hopeful and reassuring message.

https://www.anagomez.org/wpcontent/uploads/dlm_uploads/2020/04/OysterandButterfly-English.pdf

Something Strange Happened in My City by Dr. Shu-Chen Jenny Yen

An animated COVID-19 social story for young children, in multiple languages.

https://socialstorycenter.com/social-stories/

Nonnie Talks about Quarantine by Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski

A downloadable book for grades 3-8

https://www.drmaryjopodgurski.com/nonnie-talks-about-quarantine

Corona Virus: A Book for Children

Created with help from an Infectious Disease Consultant

https://nosycrow.com/blog/released-today-free-information-book-explaining-coronaviruschildren-illustrated-gruffalo-illustrator-axel-scheffler/

Online Entertainment/Educational Resources: NatGeo @ Home

Offers many educational and entertaining videos, quizzes, and activity ideas. You can also sign up for a free 3 month subscription now.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/at-home-educationresources?cmpid=org=ngp::mc=crmemail::src=ngp::cmp=editorial::add=FFG_Special_20200428&rid=6A4D665F98B30209F8ADF104092193D5

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