Quarantine: Am I Doing It Right? A Guide for Over and Under Achievers

When my children were younger, I wrote a blog called Fork Mom (it’s still out there on the interwebs, folks). It was called such because I am a Fork Mom—the mom who volunteers to bring the plastic forks to the school party and not the Pinterest-worthy cupcakes. Someone has to bring the forks, right?  I wrote my blog about my parenting foibles while drinking out of my “World’s Okayest Mom” mug. Don’t think I didn’t love my Cupcake friends. I adored them. I admired their creativity and energy. I was grateful that they remembered to bring three different kinds of snacks to the park for the kids when all I had was a half a pack of Tic-Tacs in my pocket. They inspired me to try new things. How hard could it be to create a bulldozer-shaped birthday cake with a fondant candy version of my son sitting behind the wheel, anyway?  Very hard, I discovered. (Thank you, grocery store bakery, for rescuing me.) My point is, Cupcake parents are doing that whole parenting thing just right! And so am I. 

What in the world does this have to do with the coronavirus and half of the U.S. population being under mandatory quarantine? During this time of quarantine there will be both “Fork” and “Cupcake” people. Yesterday, a good friend only half-jokingly said to me, “It’s great you are writing all these blog posts and being super productive. I only managed to cry in the shower while washing my hair and count it as multitasking.” As she said that, I thought, “Oh right…shower. Damn.” Here are some things I’ve read or heard from friends about “how to quarantine”:

  • Now the time to change your life! This moment is a chrysalis! 
  • Now is the time to lower our expectations for ourselves. No…even lower.
  • I have great ideas for keeping my kids engaged and educated during homeschool.
  • My kids read the back of the cereal box this morning. Reading lesson? Check!
  • This is a time for relationship renewal with my partner. 
  • Can I apply the 6-foot distance policy to my spouse, please? 
  • I just cooked a gourmet meal that I rarely had time to do before. 
  • I finally used up those frozen fish sticks from the back of the freezer! 

So…to answer the $64,000 dollar question, “Am I doing this quarantine right??”

Are you staying at home? 


Then you are doing it right. 

RESILIENCE IN THE MIDST OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS: How to Check-in On Your Team's Emotional Well-Being

Most of us are on week two of the pandemic response. For many of us, that means we are working from home. For others who are in essential services, you are continuing to leave home for work each day. Both have their unique and very real challenges and stressors. If you are leading a team on-site or remotely, it is important to take at least a few minutes each day or at the top of a team meeting to check in on everyone’s current state of emotional well-being. Depending on your leadership style, that might feel new or uncomfortable. Here are some simple ideas to start well-being check-ins. 

Set a time and parameters.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

How long, how often, and when to do a check-in will be unique to your team. It can depend your team’s size, structure, and culture. What it is important is that it is intentional and has a set beginning and ending. You are giving space for emotions to be acknowledged. Because emotional topics under stressful conditions can boil over and consume an entire meeting, parameters are important. State up front that the check-in will last for 10 minutes (or however long you choose). If more time is needed, a separate meeting, check-in, or one-on-one can be scheduled.  

Make it easy to respond.

Not everyone wants to share the details of how they are feeling in an open meeting. This is especially true if vulnerability is new for your team. It can also be overwhelming to ask how someone is handling the crisis overall. It can change from minute to minute. A check-in should be how each person is feeling right now in the moment. A 1-10 scale can be a simple start:


I care about how everyone is doing today. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being ‘I feel calm and in control’ to 10 being ‘I feel like the bottom is about to drop out’), how are you feeling today, in this moment?

Be the first one to share. Being a leader in openness and vulnerability gives others permission to share authentically. 

Tea-kettle, Barn-raiser, Elephant.

This is a group practice that I adapted from the book Rituals for Work by Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan. When talking about challenges, and especially difficult emotions, it is helpful if the person sharing can label what they need in the moment. They can do that by saying “Tea-kettle”, “barn-raiser”, or “elephant,” as an introduction to what they are about to share. These phrases signal to the rest of the group that it is time to have a more candid conversation.

Photo by Barbara Webb on Pexels.com

Tea-kettle: This is a flag for someone who just needs to vent. There is no solution they are looking for, they simply need to release some emotional “steam” like a tea-kettle. This should be safe and met without judgment as long as the tea-kettling does not include blaming, attacking, or gossiping

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Barn-raising: This is a call for all-hands-on-deck help. Barns used to be built with the help of the entire community. This is someone saying, “I’ve been wrestling with this problem and getting nowhere. I need some help from the collective group.” There might be time in the meeting to address the problem, or it might require follow-up later. Either way, the person who needs barn-raising should feel like they have the support of the group. 

Photo by Venkat Ragavan on Pexels.com

Elephant: In Ozenc and Hagan’s book, they describe the Elephant as the word that “should call people out to talk about the big things that people are worried about, but they’re not talking about. It could be impending change, a big piece of bad news, or something embarrassing” or otherwise difficult to mention.  

Normalizing difficult emotions during a time of crisis creates psychological safety within a team. While it might feel like having dedicated time to talk about how people are handling the stress of the pandemic is taking time away from work, it will allow your people to be able to approach their “real work” with clearer, more calm minds. 


This is the eighth piece in an ongoing series on topics relating to how we cope personally and collectively in the midst of this health crisis. For questions, topic suggestions, resources, or other, please feel free to reach me at rb@reneebranson.blog

Today is Friday and for most of us, it is the end of the first full week of work from home and social distancing. I want to focus on something very simple and too often over looked: breathing. As often as you need, take time to be intentional with your breathing. This allows your body to process the physical impact of stress. One of the easiest breathing practices for this is Triangle Breathing. We will inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, and then exhale for a count of 8. Continue at least three rounds, or as much as needed.

Extending our exhale triggers our parasympathetic nervous system, which slows our heart rate and allows the body to ease the production of stress hormones. You can combine this breathing with a mindfulness practice, visualization of tranquil scenes, or focus on a soothing word like peace or calm.

Be well. Stay resilient.

RESILIENCE IN THE MIDST OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS: Establishing Emotional Boundaries

This is the seventh piece in an ongoing series on topics relating to how we cope personally and collectively in the midst of this health crisis. For questions, topic suggestions, resources, or other, please feel free to reach me at rb@reneebranson.blog

I will also be holding a FB Live each day that I post an update around 3pm EST on my Resilient.Bounty page. This will be a brief 10-15 minute opportunity to discuss the issue, connect with others, and get support. 

Establishing Emotional Boundaries

We are all physically distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic and finding ways to stay emotionally and mentally connected to our friends, family, and co-workers. We want to create a sense of interconnectedness for support and belonging. It is living proof of what I teach all the time: we are hardwired for connection. Seeing this in my own circles of community has been one of the more hopeful and uplifting things during this time. 

I have also seen pain points arise because as we establish these new norms, we also need to maintain healthy boundaries. What do these “pain points” look like? Here are some of the signs I have seen: 

  • “If I see one more meme making light of this pandemic, I’m going to scream!” 
  • “I know this is bad, but I can’t handle any more doomsday news.”
  • “Are we really trying to continue ‘business as usual’ right now?” 
  • “Why do some people seem to be relishing in how miserable this is?”

It might seem counter-intuitive that we need to establish and maintain strong emotional boundaries for ourselves during a time when we need to pull together, but we do. First thing first: what do I mean by ‘boundaries’? The working definition I use for boundaries comes from social scientist, Brene Brown. It works because of its simplicity: boundaries are our lists of what is okay and what is not okay. What is okay for your well-being right now? What is okay according to your values and integrity? A question to explore when determining your own boundaries: 

What boundaries need to be in place so that you can stay in your integrity and make generous assumptions about a person’s motivation, intention, or behaviors?”

Brene Brown

These will not be the same for everyone and that is where we experience the rub. This is not about one person being right and another being wrong. It is about respecting and being compassionate about one person’s boundaries while maintaining our own. Here are some things you can do to establish boundaries with compassion and generosity. 

  1. Set your limits. Boundaries are not just what we set for other people. It is what we set for ourselves as well. For example, checking the news for 30 minutes to stay up-to-date can make us feel more able to make good decisions. Discovering that 3 hours have past and we’ve fallen into a rabbit hole of all COVID-19 news, memes, and Twitter threads might not be as helpful. Don’t cross your own boundaries.
  2. Let people know your boundaries. People need to know where your boundaries are if you expect them to honor them. It is okay to let people know if certain things increase your anxiety or if you are limiting your sources of information to keep from feeling overwhelmed.
  3. The ‘Mute’ and ‘Unfollow’ button are your friends. You are the boss of your social media feed. You can tailor it in whatever way helps you increase your sense of well-being. Does that mean you need to unfriend, block, or ask someone to change their behavior? No. We can be generous in our assumption that people are doing the best they can under the circumstances and still limit our exposure if it makes us feel worse.

As we establish and maintain boundaries, we need to make sure that we are honoring others’ boundaries as well. When you are unclear about what is okay and not okay for others, you ask: 

  • “Can I share this information with you?”
  • “Humor helps get me through stressful times. Is that beneficial to you, too?”
  • “What is unhelpful for you right now?” 
  • “What do you need more/less of right now?”

As with everything right now, give yourself and others as much grace as you can right now. Maintaining boundaries make grace much easier to give. 

Be well. Stay resilient. 


This is the sixth piece in an ongoing series on topics relating to how we cope personally and collectively in the midst of this health crisis. For questions, topic suggestions, resources, or other, please feel free to reach me at rb@reneebranson.blog

I will also be holding a FB Live each day that I post an update around 3pm EST on my Resilient.Bounty page. This will be a brief 10-15 minute opportunity to discuss the issue, connect with others, and get support. 

Helping Children Cope

Today, I want to change hats ever so slightly and focus on something different. Long before my work in workplace mental health, I was an educator and therapist who worked with children who had experienced trauma. Most of us are either parents or have children in our lives in some way. Today, I want to turn my attention to how adults can help children cope during times of acute stress.

As the global pandemic of coronavirus has yet to reach its peak, we in the United States are in the early days of what is an enormously anxious time. Our lives have been narrowed into the confines of our homes for the most part. Televisions are turned to the incessant breaking news. The chimes and dings of updates sound from our phones keeping us on alert. Unfamiliar words and phrases like “exponential spread,” and “epidemiology,” are swirling in the background in our homes and the foreground of our minds. As stressful as this all is to adults, it is especially so for children. They have limited understanding and, for the youngest, limited vocabulary to express their fears. Even older children and teens process stress and trauma differently than adults do. Here are a few things to keep in mind and ways you can help as you and your child navigate all the big feelings they are feeling right now. 

Signs of Distress in Children

Anxiety, depression, and fear don’t always look the same in children as they do in adults. Things to watch out for:

  • Loss of interest in play or other activity
  • Clinging to parent, afraid of being alone
  • Angry or tearful outburst unrelated to anything specific
  • Difficulty concentrating or completing a thought
  • Aggression
  • Temper tantrums
  • Change in appetite
  • Physical complaints: stomach ache, headache, or increased reactivity to minor injury such as stubbed toe 

*In some more extreme cases, young children can regress in their development. This can show up in toilet training or need for previously outgrown comfort items like pacifiers, blankets, etc. While this can be frustrating and even frightening for a parent to notice regression, this is a normal, protective response. Your toddler might need to go back to pull-ups again for a while and that is ok. Allow them to go back to a blanket or other comfort item. This will help them both in the short and longer term. They will catch back up.

Teens and Crisis

Adolescence time where it is developmentally appropriate, and necessary, for children to begin expanding their primary relationships beyond their immediate family. They are meant to be more independent, social, and less engaged with parents. Social distancing will likely feel more acute and even punitive to them. We tend to expect our older teens, who look nearly like adults, to respond like adults in crisis. It is helpful to remember (for our own sake) that their brains are still developing their pre-frontal cortex. They are more likely to be rash and feel invincible. Their outward reaction might be one more of anger than fear. It is important to normalize and empathize with those feelings. It does not mean, however, that you have to normalize inappropriate behavior that stems from the feeling. My 17 year-old is allowed to feel and express grief about the end to his track season; he isn’t allow to express that grief by picking a fight with his 12 year-old brother, however. Below are ways to help children of all ages express their feelings.

Helping Your Child Express Their Feelings

  • Don’t be afraid to talk about the coronavirus with your child. Kids worry more when they are kept in the dark. They are more likely to develop frightening fantasies to fill in the gaps of what they don’t know. 
  • Be age-appropriate. Older children can understand more of the complexities than younger children. For younger children, make sure that you are the one watching the news and then filtering it to them.
  • Follow their cues. Allow them the opportunity to ask questions. Answer them, again, in a developmentally appropriate way. If you don’t know the answer, it is ok to say you don’t know. Reassure them that when you do know, you will inform them. 
  • Model healthy ways to deal with anxiety. We want to protect our children and sometimes that means we are hesitant to allow our children to see our own emotions. While I don’t suggest falling apart in front of your child, it is ok to express that this is nervous time for everyone, and then together do something healthy to ease the anxiety. 
  • Stick to routine. Routines are comforting for children. It reassures them that there is control and order in their world. 
  • Play. Children communicate through play. Give them ample opportunity to express themselves and their anxiety through drawing, clay, and dramatic play. The CDC has a coloring book online, Coping After A Disaster. While it deals mainly with fires, storms, and other natural disasters, many of the pages are very applicable to dealing with the pandemic. Older children and teens can be encouraged to express emotion through art.

Most importantly, continue to give your child the love, cuddles, support, and care that you know best how to provide. Be well. Stay resilient.  



This is the fifth piece in an ongoing series on topics relating to how we cope personally and collectively in the midst of this health crisis. For questions, topic suggestions, resources, or other, please feel free to reach me at rb@reneebranson.blog

I will also be holding a FB Live each day that I post an update around 3pm EST on my Resilient.Bounty page. This will be a brief 10-15 minute opportunity to discuss the issue, connect with others, and get support. 

Rest and Resilience

Sleep and rest are some of the best things that we can do to increase both our physical and emotional resilience. When we are not well rested, we are less able to reason and problem solve. We are more likely to be short-tempered, pessimistic. We are more likely to engage in unhealthy coping behaviors. Also, with lack of proper rest, our bodies immune system is compromised and we are more prone to illness and infection. While meetings and travel have been cancelled, freeing up large amounts of time in our calendar, this does not necessarily translate into more ability to rest; our anxious minds can make sleep very difficult. Below are some tips for you to follow and share with your team on getting adequate rest during this time. 

Routine & Boundaries

Creating a work-from-home routine is new for many people during this time of social distancing. It can be easy to let the time of work bleed into the time for rest. To the best of your ability, set a routine and stick to it. Make sure that you allow for transition and wind-down time between work and when you officially go to bed. On the flip side, be careful not to nap too much during unstructured parts of the day as it can make sleep in the evening challenging. I won’t say don’t nap, because short 20-minute naps (or other rest) can be very restorative especially during times of acute stress. 

Transition Into Rest

About an hour (or even more) before bed, start to shift into a more restful mode. Turn off the news—and TV, in general. Play music, dim unnecessary lights, and limit use of electronic devices. Keep in mind that while people sometimes have a glass of wine or a cocktail to “unwind,” alcohol can interfere with deep, restful sleep. This is a time to be particularly aware of alcohol intake. Try using a mindfulness practice, take a warm bath or shower, or whatever helps to bring you a sense of calm and ease. 

In Bed, Wide Awake…Now What?

As counter-intuitive as it might seem, stop trying to fall asleep. Instead, 

  • Lay down with the intention of letting your mind and your body rest. 
  • Focus on relaxing your muscles and allow yourself to sink into your bed. If this feels particularly hard to do, go from head to toe first flexing and tightening your muscles, then releasing them. 
  • Use mindfulness and breathing techniques to quite your mind. There are several apps that can help with this including Calm, Headspace, and Slumber.
  • Listen to white noise or other soothing sounds to drown out other disruptive sounds. Rhythmic or repetitive sounds such as ocean waves can also help with mindfulness as they provide a focus to keep the mind from wandering to worries.
  • Enjoy sleep stories. This was a relatively new discovery for me. Apps like the ones mentioned above have sleep stories that are read aloud by different readers. The sound of the reader’s voice, combined with a story that often includes guided visualization or peaceful narrative helps to distract the busy mind and lull it to sleep. 

I hope that you continue to rest and be rejuvenated during this time. Be well. Stay resilient.  

RESILIENCE IN THE MIDST OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS: Learning-The Other Curve to Consider

This is the fourth piece in an ongoing series on topics relating to how we cope personally and collectively in the midst of this health crisis. For questions, topic suggestions, resources, or other, please feel free to reach me at rb@reneebranson.blog

I will also be holding a FB Live each day that I post an update around 3pm EST on my Resilient.Bounty page. This will be a brief 10-15 minute opportunity to discuss the issue, connect with others, and get support. 

Learning-The Other Curve to Consider

There are six domains of resilience that allow us to bounce forward and thrive in the face of adversity. One of these is the ability to learn and reason. For this purpose, I define reasoning as the ability to be resourceful, creative, and action oriented during crisis, challenge, or change. I have been so heartened to see how quickly and eagerly people have already begun to do this. Not only have people started adapting to the current situation, they are being generous and community-minded when it comes to sharing resources, ideas, life hacks, and tools. Teachers are flooding Facebook to offer help to parents who turned homeschool teachers overnight. Mutual Aid groups have popped up on social media to connect needs in the community with those who can help. Companies are offering online services for free for their customers and work from home capabilities for their employees. Restaurants are quickly shifting to delivery-based services. There are many times over the past several days when I have said to myself, “Wow…people are so smart, creative, and kind!” If there is hope to be found in this dark moment, this is where we can find it. 

Moments of stress can be an opportunity for growth. How can we increase our ability to reason and learn during this time of challenge? Here are four things that strengthen our reasoning: 

  1. A desire to learn. Be open, curious, and see things with a growth mindset. Set skepticism aside for a moment.
  2. Be adaptable. Be willing to be flexible and try something a new way—even when you might not see it as the ideal way. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.
  3. Recognize opportunity. When we are curious and adaptable, we are more likely to notice new opportunities. This can be a time of great innovation. 
  4. Anticipate & plan for different outcomes. Admittedly, this is particularly hard right now. Things are changing fast. However, like a muscle, the more we practice and plan, the more agile we become at being responsive.

Being able to reason and think through our stress first requires us to regain our composure. In fact, composure and reasoning create a healthy feedback loop for our well-being. It allows us to relax, focus, and then think and act strategically.

When our resilient reasoning is strong, it leads us to be more resourceful. Resourcefulness means that we develop new ways to access information and solve problems in novel ways. 

Resilient Reasoning Practice

Consider a problem you are currently having because of the pandemic. Keep it to something defined and narrow. Instead of “our problem is we don’t know how to work remotely,” choose to focus on one aspect of the larger challenge. Perhaps it is, “how can we maintain collaboration during physical distancing?” Then: 

  1. Identify gaps. Decide on what it is you don’t know. Where are the gaps in your understanding or knowledge? Note: we can be defensive about not knowing something even on our best days. Remind yourself that it is ok to not know. This is new ground to cover. 
  2. Create a database. Even if that “database” is on pen and paper, list of all the resources you already know that could help solve the problem. This could include online tools, books, previous crisis plans, and other teams or companies similar to yours. 
  3. Check your network. Not your Internet network (although check those, too). Look into your network of people. Who can help and advise you on this problem? Has someone dealt with this particular problem before? None of us have had to work through a pandemic, but perhaps you know people who have had to work remotely during illness, or had to manage a team through an emotionally trying time. 
  4. Make unusual connections. Is there something that is being done in an entirely different industry that you find creative or innovative? Even if it doesn’t correlate to your challenge, sometimes immersing yourself in someone else’s creativity can spark your own. 

Growing in our problem solving skills and in our creativity might be the biggest silver lining in this rather dark cloud. I hope that you stay well and stay resilient. 

RESILIENCE IN THE MIDST OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS: Maintaining and Conveying Grounded Optimism

This is the third piece in an ongoing series on topics relating to how we cope personally and collectively in the midst of this health crisis. For questions, topic suggestions, resources, or other, please feel free to reach me at rb@reneebranson.blog

I will also be holding a FB Live each day that I post an update around 3pm EST on my Resilient.Bounty page. This will be a brief 10-15 minute opportunity to discuss the issue, connect with others, and get support. 

Optimism is often hardest to grasp during times when it is most needed. Simply chiming in with a “we need to stay optimistic, everyone!” has about the same success rate as telling someone to “calm down”: zero. What we can focus on is a grounded optimism. This optimism is not the same thing as cheerfulness, so we can toss out the rose-colored glasses, Pollyanna chipper-ness, and the “Don’t worry, be happy” plastic smiles. It’s ok to feel confused, scared, sad, and just plain angry. Grounded optimism allows us to feel however we are feeling. This fact is important for you to know and important for the people you may lead and work with to know. Grounded optimism is the belief that despite the current crisis, three things are true: 

This is not permanent.

While it is true that we do not know the timeline of the crisis we are in, we do know that there will be a point where the crisis peaks and then declines. Could there be a new normal? Yes. But we will not live in a constant state of pandemic. Conversations that help us look beyond the current crisis could include: What are we learning about who we are as a company/firm/team during this time that will make us stronger? What are we doing really well right now that could apply to something different later? How do we want things to look when we get to the other side of this? Moments like this are a crucible; under the intense heat of crisis, new creations, innovations, and deeper relationships can emerge. 

This is not pervasive.

It sure feels like it impacts every single thing, doesn’t it? This has temporarily changed how we work, socialize, communicate, and even grocery shop. It is so important to find even small parts of our life that are not negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Make a list (both individually and as a work team) of the areas that are not impacted or may even provide new opportunities. Some examples:  

Work Life                                                        

  • Hold team meetings at same time as usual even if through Zoom or teleconference.
  • Read the articles or research that you’ve been archiving under “read later.” 
  • Continue to note progress being made in projects even if the timeline is disrupted.
  • Find creative ways to connect with colleagues in the absence of “water cooler” conversation. 

Personal Life

  • Keep the same home routine as much as possible (waking and bedtime, meal time, etc).
  • Get outside. During social distancing or even self-isolation, take some time to get out in your yard, enjoy a walk or hike, and take note of the natural world around you. It can be comforting to know that this pandemic does not impact the natural rhythm of the day and the seasons.
  •  Continue to invest in your relationships. Yes, it might look differently right now, but continue to call friends or FaceTime with distant family. For the family you have under your roof, connect more face-to-face. Don’t retreat to separate corners with Netflix the entire time. 

This is not personal.

This is not happening because of you (obviously), nor is it happening solely to you. We truly are in the same boat together. Or, perhaps, in separate, but identical boats more than six feet apart, but in the same ocean. While the pessimist might say misery loves company, the grounded optimist says we are happier when we feel we are not alone. We share a common goal to help each other get through this trial safely, with good health and a stronger community. 

Continue to take care of yourselves and each other. Stay resilient. 

RESILIENCE IN THE MIDST OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS: Easing Anxiety Through Communication

This is the second piece in an ongoing series on topics relating to how we cope personally and collectively in the midst of this health crisis. For questions, topic suggestions, resources, or other, please feel free to reach me at rb@reneebranson.blog

I will also be holding a FB Live each day that I post an update at 3pm EST on my Resilient.Bounty page. This will be a brief 10-15 minute opportunity to discuss the issue, connect with others, and get support. 

Easing Anxiety Through Communication

Fewer things cause anxiety more than lack of information and communication. During a crisis, however, rapidly changing dynamics, fluid situations, and the need to mitigate misinformation creates the need for careful communication. These two facts can sometimes feel at odds, but they don’t have to be. Here are 5 tips to help you communicate with the well-being of your team in mind:

  1. Understand the human stress response. When people lack information, the brain is wired to automatically fill in the gaps. Because the human brain is also wired to protect us, the amygdala (the “fight or flight” part of our brain) fills in those gaps with potential threat. This can lead to anxiety, catastrophizing, and unhealthy coping behaviors. Understanding this creates more sensitivity toward the need for increased communication.
  2. It’s ok not to know. The reality is that during a crisis, you sometimes simply do not have an answer or any new information to share. It is better to say that than nothing at all. Regular communication reduces emotional upset, even if that communication is, “The status has not changed from our last update,” or “There has been a question about X and while we do not know the answer to that right now, here is what we are doing to find out.” When possible, set a regular time for updates each day. Again, this helps to alleviate anxiety and helps to avoid catastrophizing. It signals, “We are on it.” 
  3. Acknowledge the emotion. It might be stating the obvious, but verbalize to your team and colleagues that this is an emotionally and mentally trying time. Acknowledge that nerves are frayed, tempers are short, and fears abound. Normalizing the natural, human response builds both connection and emotional safety. 
  4. Check-in. Whether through one-on-one or group meetings, take time to regularly check in with your team on their well-being. Remember this is impacting them in their personal lives as well as schools close and events cancel. Allow for time and space to discuss how people are coping. This is particularly important as more work teams are working remotely and away from their professional support systems.
  5. Have a larger communication strategy.  Plans help people feel safe. It provides a sense of order and control. This morning, Gina Furia Rubel of Furia Rubel Communications has posted a terrific resource, 10 Tips to Manage Through the Coronavirus Pandemic. I highly recommend it. 

Regular communication, led with compassion and empathy, goes a long way to improve well-being in the current crisis as well as build stronger work relationships beyond the crisis. 


This will be an ongoing series on topics relating to how we cope personally and collectively in the midst of this health crisis. For questions, topic suggestions, resources, or other, please feel free to reach me at rb@reneebranson.blog

I will also be holding a FB Live each day that I post an update at 3pm EST on my Resilient.Bounty page. This will be a brief 10-15 minute opportunity to discuss the issue, connect with others, and get support. 

Finding Calm in the Storm

As the COVID-19 outbreak has just been announce by the World Health Organization as a pandemic, now is a time of high anxiety. Anxiety about the implications to health, financial security, and societal stability is looming very large. What you are feeling right now and how you are reacting right is natural and normal. You might be wondering how I can assert that if I’m not sure how you personally are feeling and reacting. Let me throw out a few possibilities.

Have you flown into action to bring order to a situation spinning out of control? 


Are you responding with an over-abundance of levity and jokes in the face of the unknown? 


Have you found yourself losing patience or temper with those whose reaction is not congruent with your own? 


Are you measured and stoic during the day, but tearful and anxious when you are alone at night?


You are starting to get my point, right? Each response comes from an external alarm stimulus and each response is normal. This is how we react to try to help ourselves feel safe and regain the prior homeostasis. Reacting with our “normal” selves, however, does not mean we are acting with our “best” selves. We are much more likely to be reactive in this mode than we are to be responsive. What’s the difference? Reactive behavior is immediate and with little-to-no conscious thought. Reactivity is life saving when jumping away from an on-coming bus, but less so when we need to engage in prolonged problem solving. Reactivity makes our tongues are sharper and our feelings more tender. In this mode, we are likely to give and take offense much more easily. We can become downright angry when people aren’t falling in line with our reaction. Our unconscious belief tells us we could feel in control again if we just all got on the same page (whatever that page might be). Being responsive, on the other hand, is still being actively engaging in the current crisis, but in a more thoughtful, grounded, and impactful way. Responsiveness allows us to make more accurate assessments. Most importantly, responsiveness signals emotional resilience and allows us to maintain mental well-being.

So, how can we tend to our emotional well-being while being responsive to the current COVID-19 crisis? 

Be a Wise Consumer of Information

This one is tricky. In a rapidly developing situation, we need to stay abreast of changing information so we can make the best decision in the moment. And yet, if we find ourselves immersed in reading catastrophic scenarios, re-consuming the same news, or not being able to “step away” from media and social media sources, this too makes it challenging to make the best decisions in the moment. Called “amygdala hijacking,” our rational, thinking minds become flooded with the adrenalin from our fight or flight, “lizard” minds. We literally have a more difficult time making reasoned decisions. This is a sign we need to step back from the stimulus that is overwhelming us. Give yourself a specific time each day (or couple times a day because it is developing rapidly) to check updates and then step back to process the new information. 

Name It To Claim It 

The “it” here are your feelings. Stop and take your emotional temperature. Have the self-awareness to name the emotion you are feeling. Not just the surface feeling, but the underlying and motivating feeling. The surface feeling might be anger, which in turn triggers behaviors of short temper or judgment, while the motivating feeling is fear. Research tells us that having greater emotional clarity about one’s fears helps to lower reactivity to the stimulus causing the emotion. Simply stated, putting a name to our emotion helps us to feel better.

Say Grace

I don’t mean to pray here—although if your faith practice includes prayer, then yes, this could include prayer. What I mean by saying grace is giving yourself and others grace. Put differently: cut others and yourself some slack. Be more, not less, forgiving. Assume positive intent. Be compassionate and show positive regard to yourself and others. Kindness eases anxiety.

Self Soothe 

Slow down. Before responding, or whenever you feel your emotional response kick in, take a moment to ground yourself. When you feel more peaceful, then you can reengage, reconnect, and respond. Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Practice a simple breathing technique for 1-5 minutes.
  • Engage in self-compassionate talk, i.e. “This is frightening right now and I am having to do things I have never done before. It is normal to feel afraid. Right now, however, in this moment, I am safe.”
  • Find refuge. A refuge is anything that protects, nurtures, or uplifts you. Listen to music, call a friend, read something inspirational, cook and eat something comforting.

When we are intentional throughout the day in maintaining and regaining calm, we are able to be more resilient in the face of crisis.