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Wellness Wednesday: What must be done to support one another?

Wellness Wednesday - Sept. 16
(Courtesy of Health Promotion and Wellness)

We've heard a lot about making sure that we are socially or physically distanced from one another to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. But the implications of this distancing ourselves can have emotional impacts as well.

As humans we have an innate ability and need to belong. To feel affinity and belongingness to a community at work, school, in our social lives, and even in the neighborhoods we live in. To help us feel more connected to one another and less distanced, we suggest adding 'the art of checking-in on one another' to our weekly routines. You may already be practicing this skill by regularly checking-in on an elderly relative, parent, sibling, child or friend, but have you tried it at work?

The secret to connection at work is feeling a sense of belonging, fostering trust with other colleagues and feeling a sense of openness to be heard and validated. All of these forms of connectedness at work are often built not in group meetings but often in one-on-one interactions where we get to bring our full identities, make space for one another and learn more about the person. For those of you that are student employees at DePaul or elsewhere, we urge you to also think about ways to foster connection, and a sense of belonging at your workplace. If you don't already have one-on-one meetings scheduled, ask if this is possible and explore others ways to connect digitally as we operate from a physically distanced space.

Here are some tips to get these conversations started:

1. Think about communicating in a way that shows that you understand and care. Be present and focused, be curious and ask questions authentically. For example: “How are you doing?" or “How can I support you?"

2. Listen before you respond. Often times we are crafting our response before the other person even completes their sentences. Stop yourself and focus on the words they are saying. If you disagree with what they are saying, try asking “Tell me more about it," or “I never thought about it from that perspective, but I appreciate you sharing that with me."

3. Assume positive intent. Start any conversation with the mindset that they are here for good reasons. This framework will allow you to ask clarifying questions and connect more deeply with the person. If you don't know what to say consider a pause and say, “I am pausing because I just don't know what to say," or “I am pausing because I want to learn more from you."

4. Practice vulnerability. Allow the other person space and time to answer open ended questions honestly and do the same. When someone asks you, “How are you doing," practice answering honestly and allowing the other person to do the same. It's okay to not be okay, and it's okay to be vulnerable. It doesn't mean that we unpack everything going on in this space with this person, but it may mean we get validation, support and encouragement. It may also remind us  to unpack our thoughts and emotions with a therapist or another professional or support person in our life.

5. Offer consistent support. You don't have to meet with someone every week, but maybe it's an email or message here and there when you have some time/ Set aside a 30-minute block to walk and talk on the phone or video chat. It can feel pretty isolating as we all work remotely. Challenge yourself to reach out to one person and offer support.

Checking up and supporting one another can be difficult when we have so many other things to do, but rather than seeing it as another responsibility, view it as an opportunity to connect with others and as a form of self-care. When I am having a particular tough week, I am so appreciative to my colleagues who reach out to say “Hey – how are you doing" or “I was thinking of you and hope you are having a good week." These messages of support and encouragement mean so much to me and make me so grateful and appreciative to my colleagues and students at DePaul.

For those of you that are considering doing this – take a moment to look at the graph above and notice how important it is to foster connection and support during these difficult times. Our Vincentian mission asks us "What must be done?" The answer is to Take Care of Ourselves, Take Care of Each Other and Take Care DePaul.​