We are all facing the greatest challenges of our lifetime–to stay alive, to get food and medical supplies, to keep or preserve jobs or businesses, and to keep our families and friends safe. As this global crisis touches each of us in some way, we have lost one of our greatest resources for coping with a crisis–that of face-to-face interactions and in-person social connections. Without being able to touch the people we love and care about.
The research of social isolation, social distancing, and being alone is not encouraging. Many people experiencing these social constraints suffer physical and mental deterioration. The strongest defense for combating the coronavirus, our immunity, can weaken when we are socially isolated and robs us of the strength needed to resist “social infection,” if you will. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently warned of the grave mental health crisis in the near and long-term resulting from social isolation and lack of social support.
BUILDING SOCIAL IMMUNITY: Social connections are one of the best means for strengthening our health and immunity to resist this “social infection.” Even as we physically stay at home and practice social distancing outside the home, social connections strengthen our health, well-being, and immunity. The use of telephones, computers, and other technology allows us to see and hear others visually, which strengthens social ties.
I recently attended an online funeral filled with sharing pain, grieving, positive memories, and sweet, positive regards. All of these emotions come alive, and attendees experienced support for the family and the community online through a video conference via Zoom.
Let’s see what we can do about ameliorating this terrible situation.
THE CONTENT OF OUR SOCIAL CONNECTIONS IS THE KEY FOR HEALTH. Research shows that when people in need are able to receive support–whether in the form of food, social connections, appreciation, or even a simple showing of concern–their physical and emotional health improves. As a result, their ability to resist infection is strengthened and their immunity increases. But even more powerful is what happens to those who give to others; they gain even more than the people they help. Giving to others increases one’s physical and mental health and sense of well-being. Brain studies of people who help others through acts of giving have reported a boost in the pleasure centers in their brains. Giving to others feels good emotionally and neurologically. Givers in brain studies also show the stimulation of the parts of the brain that supports good health, resistance to illness and infection, and strengthen immunity.
Simply stated: receiving needed support builds resistance to infection for the receiver and is an even greater boost for the giver.
SUPPORTING BUSINESS EMPLOYEES: A number of my CEO, business owners, and professional clients have ceased receiving their salaries for the rest of the year. Instead, they are using their salaries to pay the wages of their employees. They are communicating regularly with their employees about the challenges the business is facing, as well as providing information about the coronavirus and what employees can do to protect themselves and their families.
What is key here, as this terrible global crisis enters new stages and phases, is the opportunity for business leaders …… you …… to think through imaginative and doable actions which can touch the lives of your business’ employees and in many instances, their families.
Examples might include visible and meaningful actions such as:
- Providing masks, gloves, necessary protective gear, testing, and testing tracing.
- Offering counseling and treatment therapy through your company’s Employee Assistance Program/EAP online.
- Having home-based workers make use of Zoom or other video conferencing avenues for meetings, conferences, and even special or social business-related events.
- Establishing a free or low-interest loan program for employees in distress.
A well-thought-out action plan which directly influences the culturally changing society of which we are a part, and, as already stated, would benefit the giver as well as the receiver. Importantly, these actions of giving to employees who need financial and emotional support are likely to boost the employers’ resistance to infection and lessen their suffering. When the pandemic passes, these employees are more likely to willingly help rebuild their companies and the businesses that supported them.
PERSONAL HEALTH STRATEGIES: We often seek to solve our own problems and challenges, which requires building resiliency, accepting difficult situations, building healthy habits, and sustaining spiritual practices.
RESILIENCY: Resiliency is the ability to recover from setbacks fairly quickly. It requires finding the inner resources of self-confidence, hope, and faith that we can overcome the negatives that life will surely bring. There is an inner toughness captured by the statement, “When things get tough, the tough get going.” Toughness is not just a physical trait. It is an inner strength to forebear and overcomes great obstacles. Research indicates that the emotional style of resiliency is neurologically based and that people vary in their innate resiliency. The good news is that we can all learn this skill and make it a habit.
ACCEPTING DIFFICULT SITUATIONS: Staying at home and being socially isolated from face-to-face contact is painful but necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus and protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our fellow citizens. We are used to doing what we want and not being told we cannot interact socially. Now, we face the difficult situation of facing this verdict alongside the fear of losing our jobs and possibly our lives.
One of the reasons why many people feel anxious and depressed is they have trouble bearing the constraints they have to endure. We all feel constrained, angry at times, saddened by our social, emotional, and mental suffering. We all have fears and worries about the near term and the future–which is natural and understandable.
Accepting difficulties means accepting that this is happening and not blaming others or ourselves, or wasting energy fighting the reality of our constrained and deprived state. Accepting these difficulties as our new reality is also not denying our pain and suffering. It’s experiencing our distress and learning to slowly or quickly let go of our pain, to search for the energy to effectively find new ways of coping with the challenges we face.
BUILDING HEALTHY PRACTICES: The World Health Organization is recommending the ancient practices of meditation and yoga to relieve stress and build our immunity to the coronavirus. These are health-building practices. Research shows that exercise is one of the best defenses against anxiety and depression. It builds healthy bodies and healthy minds. Find at least a half-hour daily for home exercise.
Also, following a healthy diet even when we feel distressed is needed to have the energy for resiliency to accept and overcome the difficulties we face during this pandemic. Don’t skip meals or eat too much junk food.
SPIRITUAL PRACTICES: Recent brain research, based on MRI studies of the brain when practicing meditation, prayer, and chanting have much to teach us. They show the very powerful and positive effects of these practices on the reward, pleasure, emotional, mental, and physical brain centers that support well-being. They are health-sustaining, giving inner strength, and enhance our abilities to meet the serious challenges we are now facing.
Footnote: The above doable steps in the face of our current stark reality can strengthen the needed social immunity for your organization, your employees, and to you. These thoughts and actions are increasingly needed as this pandemic continues its relentless path. Successful strategies can be developed and implemented.
Good luck and let us know how you are doing in the comments section below.