Case Study: Managing Mental Health
By Amanda Thompson, J.D., senior vice president, PartnerSource
This is not your average case study, but then again, the people in this industry are not average. We all collectively operate with one mission: To get better medical outcomes for injured workers. Throughout your career, you’ve asked so many injured workers how they are doing, you’ve inquired after their wellbeing, worked hard for their outcomes, and taken great concern in how they are.
But how are you? How are you doing?
This question feels more important now than ever.
The number of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. are down. Masks are beginning to come off. Spring has sprung and the sun has started to shine. And, while all that may feel good, there are many among us who do not yet feel great. How about you? How are you feeling?
The effects of the pandemic on our mental health will be studied in the years to come, but some of the data is already known. As many as 30% of all Covid cases are estimated to be Covid long-haulers—those who experience symptoms and effects from Covid for weeks and even months after contracting the virus. But aren’t we all long-haulers in our own right? Post-traumatic stress symptoms are on the rise, and many have and will continue to experience sleep disorders, anxiety and depression. Whether you had Covid or not, the weight of the pandemic has taken its toll on everyone. Some of us were caregivers, many of us lost loved ones, our workplaces are not the same, and all of us experienced isolation like never before.
While everyone seems to be talking and writing about "the new normal" and the depression that will linger for many, there seems to very little written about what to do about it. Certainly, we advocate for good mental health and for talking to a professional counselor or physician if you feel like you need assistance. Therapy is a great thing and there are resources easily available at www.nami.org if you want to learn more.
For everyone, compassion – including self-compassion – is a great thing. The work PartnerSource has done for almost 30 years to get better medical outcomes for injured workers helps us to understand how important compassion is to show others and yourself. It is vital to engage in a little bit of recovery ourselves from time to time to ensure we are in the best position to help injured workers achieve the positive outcomes they deserve.
Here are seven tips anyone can use to become healthier and happier. So whether you want to be a less at-risk risk manager or a better-adjusted claims adjuster, read on.
SEVEN TIPS FOR BETTER MENTAL HEALTH
1. Repeat after me: I’m still me.
A popular narrative seems to be that we are now different people after two years of pandemic, but this is simply not true. You’re still you, just with two years of additional layers—many of them painful—that cannot be peeled back overnight. Step one is to tell ourselves, multiple times per day if we need to, that "I’m still me." If we say it enough times, we might even start to believe it!
2. Journal about gratitude – with a twist.
You’ve probably heard of a gratitude journal, but if not, a brief refresher: Every day, write down three things for which you are thankful. Whether you do this in the morning to set your mind on a path of positivity when it wakes, or in the evening when you contemplate your day, it’s up to you. Even consider writing down two things in the morning and save one for the evening to bookend your day with gratitude. Review your journal entries weekly. It may turn out that you have a lot to be grateful for!
3. Make someone’s day with your words and someone else’s day with your deeds.
Every day, attempt to make someone’s day with the words that you speak. Randomly remind someone how great they are. Call an old friend, call your mom, text a family member to tell them you love them, and even better, tell them why. Remember the name of your injured worker’s son, and next time you talk, ask about him.
As often as possible, find someone you can help. It can be a small act of service, but strive to go out of your way every single day. Drive for Meals on Wheels, help someone with groceries, pay for someone’s coffee, or be the first to respond when someone needs a favor. Making someone else’s day most often makes your own.
4. Smile more.
I don’t know about "talking less," but in the words of Aaron Burr in the musical Hamilton, "smile more." Did you know that forcing a smile on your face makes you feel better? If you fake a smile long enough, it will turn into a real one. An added benefit is that it will come through in your voice on the phone, too, and can potentially lift someone else’s spirits. Try it.
5. Judge yourself on your best.
Everyone has hard days and, sometimes, despite best efforts, things can happen. It’s important in those times to be as compassionate with ourselves as we are when we are at our best. At times, our industry can feel like one big "gotcha." The claims replete with problems are the only ones that get noticed, while the claims where we exhibited our best work can end up ignored. Even if this cannot change, we can change how we judge ourselves. Stop beating yourself up over the one ball you dropped, and take some time to recognize all the ones you didn’t.
6. Meet people where they are.
This industry can be difficult. Tough decisions are made that impact real people, and the stakes don’t get much higher. Additionally, sometimes news has to be delivered that someone may not like. This is a skill that should never feel easy -- even those who believe they do it well probably have some room for improvement. So, let’s ask ourselves: Are we meeting people where they are? Are we listening to them, and more importantly, are we actually hearing them? Can we bridge the gap between their perspective and ours? People always remember how they were treated. Could focusing on kindness and empathy make delivering bad news less painful? While no one enjoys delivering bad news, we can all commit to improving our delivery, and doing a better job of meeting someone where they are. Doing so can very well help us land in a better mental space ourselves.
7. Give yourself space.
We are living in the Information Age with a news cycle that moves at the speed of light. Things are happening so fast. How could we possibly process all of it? Have we all sat down and reflected on the last two years?
Workflow management is no different. Inboxes ding all day long while we spend countless hours on the phone and on Zoom. The nature of our work is service, and people want instant responses. Can we keep up?
The concept of "space" is different for everyone, but we all deserve to have it. Some may need to set aside a full day to work on something you’re trying to complete. Some may need to limit their exposure to minute-by-minute news. Others may need the space for self-care. Whatever it is, giving ourselves the space will benefit not only our own lives, but the lives of our families, our friends, our co-workers, and of course, the injured workers we serve.
8. BONUS TIP: Exercise.
Some people love and crave exercise while others just want to rest and sleep. But medical science agrees that healthy movement is good for everyone. Take the dog for a walk around your neighborhood, learn some new yoga poses or practice Tai Chi on YouTube, throw a dance party in your kitchen, show the kids who’s boss at a game of tag. It doesn’t have to be complex. Just get moving.
The journey toward wellness feels simple when you recognize it is quite literally putting one foot in front of the other, taking one step at a time. Achieving and sustaining good mental health is a journey, one that never ends. PartnerSource is here with you for every step.
We see you. We see your hard work. And you are appreciated.