January 19, 2021

By Gwendolyn V. Jenkins, President

COVID-19 has brought disruption to our lives, professionally and personally, and that disruption has challenged and inspired us to pivot, perhaps to a new direction, resolution, purpose, or goal for 2021.The challenges brought by COVID-19 should compel each of us to know that to manage a crisis you have to know how to pivot.   Pivot is about the ability to adapt quickly to a new situation and still be able to make progress and succeed.  The impact of COVID-19 has resulted in us having to rethink our career, our businesses, how we have to learn and new ways to build relationships and connect with others.  Long story short, pivot with a purpose.

We didn’t expect such a thing as COVID-19 and that learning to cope with its impact would become a day-to-day thing.  We’ve all responded the best way we could, changing our lives and lifestyles as the pandemic dictated.  The basic day-to-day survival mantra has been to mask up, check our distance, and wash/sanitize our hands…all day long!  For the most part, pivoting has been a knee jerk reaction of the things I just mentioned. The abundance of what we had, has dissipated; putting families in food and unemployment lines.  By the fall, it’s fair to say that COVID brought many people to their wits end negatively impacting our mental health. It became very clear that we have to be very deliberate about how we’re to survive in the midst of this pandemic and hopefully thrive on the other side of it.

Things that we’ve always done the same way all of our lives suddenly needed to be done differently.  We’ve pivoted from in-class learning with our peers and teachers to virtual learning; alone, in front of a computer.  Suddenly, parents and guardians have had to take on the role of teacher and children have had to assimilate to being house-bound all day. The result has been strained relationships between everyone and that brings on stress. We all want things to get back to normal; kids back in school with their teachers; and parents and guardians able to return to work. However, news of the daily numbers of people testing positive and losing their battles with COVID adds to the anxiety we’ve already been experiencing about returning to any semblance of our old routines.

COVID -19 has put a damper on our favorite pastimes, like sports – as a spectator and an athlete.  Professional and youth sports leagues and teams have been vigilant about the safety of players and spectators since COVID arrived.  Games without fans, routine testing of players and ardent contact tracing has become the order of the day, along with hefty fines for not reporting incidents of COVID within a team organization.

The combination of stress, anxiety and fear, coupled with being physically isolated or socially distanced from others has created a mental health crisis-within-a-crisis. What began as new changes in our lives are now part of our routine and mental state.  To make sure we are as mentally well as we can be, we must become familiar with the signs and symptoms that can impact our mental health; not just for ourselves, but for sons, daughters and families.  A good first start to a healthy state of mind is to self-examine how you’re feeling.  Ask yourself the following:

  • Am I feeling regularly sad or hopeless?
  • Am I using drugs and/or alcohol to cope?
  • Have my sleeping habits changed dramatically?
  • Has my appetite and/or weight changed?
  • Has my energy level decreased?
  • Am I fearful or worried more than usual?
  • Are my moods extremely high or low?
  • Am I having aches, headaches, or digestive problems without a clear cause?
  • Am I more irritable than usual??
  • Am I having suicidal thoughts?
  • Am I irritable more than usual?

Be in tune to your feelings and note any behavioral changes in your friends and loved ones.  To bring more stability into your life, have a routine.  Try to exercise for at least 20 minutes each day; schedule time to connect with family and friends virtually; give yourself quiet time and eat healthy. Pivot with purpose for your mental health and well-being.

Keep in mind that helpful resources are as close as your phone and other digital devices. Additionally, reach out to your doctor or other healthcare or counseling professional.  A great resource to look into is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  NAMI is the nation’s leading voice on mental health, having more than 500 local affiliates in communities around the country to raise awareness and provide support and education www.nami.org.

Additionally, the NFL has partnered with several of its charitable partners to make digital education and wellness resources available for free for teachers, parents and students across the country to utilize during this unprecedented time to accommodate the need for alternate forms of learning.  https://bit.ly/3smYDOk.

For information about COVID vaccines, please visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.

All the best to you and yours for continuing good health and safety and the promise that new vaccines will bring to everyone.