Human First: Caring for Ourselves in Turbulent Times

Human First: Caring for Ourselves in Turbulent Times

Feb 4, 2021

By: Jennifer Simpson

If the rest of you are at all like me, you’re going through a slew of “last anniversaries” right now. For many of us, it has been just about a year since the last time we saw a certain friend or family member, got on a plane for a business trip, met with our whole team in the office, had a casual lunch or coffee at a restaurant with a colleague, sent our kids to school under any conditions that felt remotely “normal”…

Of course, many others have had to contend with too many “first anniversaries…” Front line workers who lost their first COVID patient or told a family they would never see a loved one again. Teachers who pivoted in a heartbeat to develop their first online class. Store clerks who learned new safety protocols and warehouse workers who found themselves in “essential” roles overnight.

And, the political and social justice battles of 2020 all contributed to heightened tension and stress.

It has been a year full of hardships and change, sprinkled with the occasional silver lining but the struggle is real. Over the last few months, the requests for programming on stress-reduction, self-care, and navigating change have skyrocketed among our clients and a study conducted by the American Psychological Association concluded, “The COVID-19 pandemic has altered every aspect of American life, from health and work to education and exercise. Over the long term, warns the American Psychological Association, the negative mental health effects of the coronavirus will be serious and long-lasting.”

While these long-term effects will not be fully known for some time, we DO know that in times of significant stress, cultivating mindfulness allows us to stay in the present and increases both our effectiveness and personal well-being. A simple mantra to remember when the stress begins to overwhelm is to


This simple set of prompts reminds us to pause to breathe, and also helps us access resources when we find ourselves off-balance. Here are just a few of our favorite activities to try when the temperature rises:

Focus on how you are being vs what you are doing

  • Listen deeply
  • Practice Acceptance
  • Cultivate Empathy
  • Seek Understanding
  • Feel Gratitude

Make space for reflection—meditate, journal, talk to a friend or colleague. Consider these prompts:

  • What did I learn today?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • What is one thing I can do for myself?
  • What gives me joy, right now?

Integrate exercise into your routine—even brief moments of standing or walks help.  Ask yourself:

  • When is the best time for you to take a movement break?
  • What kind of movement pleases you?
  • How can you make it a pleasure, not a chore?

Especially in these days of Zooming from one meeting to the next, be sure to build in stretch breaks or consider which meetings don’t require you to be at your computer or on video and try a “walk and talk.”


Focus on your aspiration—getting clear on what you are FOR helps ground you. Consider:

  • What driving care or purpose motivates you?
  • What do you want to develop in yourself?
  • How do you want to invest in your future?
  • What is it that you want to accomplish this day? This week? This year?
  • How are elements of this aspiration already true?

Pay attention to how you spend your time—does it energize & enliven, or deplete you?

  • Notice for a week, hourly, how are you spending your time?
  • Make time for things that are important, but not urgent
  • Make time for what you love and people that nourish you
  • Find your rhythm and a routine that serves you
  • What can you stop doing?
  • Where can you ask for help?

Lead from your heart—how you make people feel is one of your best leadership levers.

  • Do what you love
  • Spend time with people that nourish you
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Cherish yourself
  • Create a space that serves you
  • Practice self-compassion

Each of these prompts can be developed into a full-blown exercise or practice or can serve as a gentle nudge or helpful reminder when we are feeling off-center. We encourage you to add your own favorite practices to the list and share them with us if you have discovered some that you love!