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Allstaff email from Esther Zdolec, VP, OEHR, November 19, 2020
As we continue to learn and develop new ways of working and communicating with each other, and with students, we want to acknowledge and thank you for all your tremendous work. We are now in the back half of the fall semester and your effort, commitment, and persistence have been critical to the success of our students. We know that successes and lessons learned will help us with the transition into the winter semester.
We also want to acknowledge that these are challenging times for many of us. While we were able to pivot quickly back in March, shifting to an online teaching, learning, and work environment has not been easy and for many of us, fatigue is setting in. If we don’t take care of ourselves – and each other – it will only get worse as times goes on, and even more so as the days grow shorter and the holidays approach. Here are some ways we can take care of ourselves, regain a healthier perspective, or simply deal with some of the inevitable consequences of our online world:
- Prioritize self-care. Nourish yourself with healthy food, engage in physical activity, practice good sleep hygiene, and pay attention to your self-talk to avoid focusing primarily on what’s not working. Try making a gratitude list, journaling, meditation, yoga, or whatever wellness practices serve you best. Take the time to do something you love, something that makes you feel good or gives you energy and joy. Try something new that looks like it might be fun. Connect with people who energize and inspire you. Don’t put off self-care – make the time, even if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes a day, and see what a difference it makes.
- Set healthy boundaries. Block time in your calendar to respond to emails – resist the urge to check your inbox constantly or respond to non-urgent emails immediately; turn off your notification pop-ups; if you can, use an automatic reply that tells people when you’ll respond (e.g. within 24 hours, or between 2 and 4 p.m.) and how to contact you in an emergency.
- Have a powerful “Why”. Ask yourself what do I love about my work? Am I getting enough of those things – and, if not, what adjustments can I make to rebalance? Reconnecting with our purpose and reminding ourselves why we do what we do can have a powerful positive impact.
- Don’t be a hero. The world is not resting on your shoulders and you do not have to do this alone. If your workload feels unmanageable, your manager is there to help – let them know so they can work with you to re-balance and re-prioritize.
- You’re not alone. Friends and colleagues can be a valuable support network – set up a virtual coffee date with two or three people you trust and respect and do some collaborative problem-solving on the common challenges you’re facing. (Be careful not to get stuck on the problem – the power is in the solving.) Or hold a virtual brainstorming session. Or have some fun – zoom bingo, anyone?
- We are all in this together. Your colleagues may also be experiencing their own professional and personal challenges and a little kindness and understanding goes a long way.
- Use the free and confidential resources available to you. Whether it’s confidential counselling through the Employee and Family Assistance Program, online cognitive behavioural therapy at https://ontario.abiliticbt.com/home, a free, online cognitive behavioural therapy program created by MindBeacon and Morneau Shepell, or other resources you can find on the HR Website, sometimes we all need some extra support. Reaching out and asking for it is a powerful way to start feeling in control again.
This situation will not last forever and every day we are seeing scientific advancements. We need to continue to count on each other to get through this pandemic and the ripple effect it is causing. Our students, communities and families are counting on us. For these reasons it’s important that we remain focused – not only on our work, but also on our own health and wellness and on supporting each other.