Michael: Welcome everyone. I've seen a couple of questions from people. People may be having trouble seeing us. Hopefully you can see us. If you can't, if you could just let us know. But welcome everyone to our webinar on Mental Health in an Age of Dramatic Change and Uncertainty. I'm Michael Herman, a partner and general counsel at Gowling WLG Canada, based in Toronto. We wanted to hold this webinar for our clients and friends of the firm because we realize that as important as mental health issues were before the COVID-19 pandemic, they will be much, much more prevalent in the weeks and months ahead as we all grapple with the issues and the changes and uncertainties that none of us were prepared for. We hope that today's program will contribute to the essential discussions we must about everyone's mental health and well-being, including our own. Before we begin I have a couple of housekeeping items I'd like to mention. Hopefully we will have some time near the end of the webinar to answer some of your questions. If you want to ask a question we ask that you use the Q&A button at the bottom of your screen. If you would like your question to be anonymous please click on send anonymously before submitting your question. If we don't have time to answer everyone's questions, we will respond to them in writing following today's program, and distribute our answers to everyone who is registered for the program. We will also put up our email addresses at the end of the program and you can send us your questions by email. Next, if our faces cover a part of the presentation on your screen, you can try clicking on view options at the top of your screen, then click on zoom ratio, and finally, click on fit to window. Hopefully that will fix the issue. Our program today will begin with a presentation by Dr. Jennifer Laffier. Following Dr. Laffier's presentation I will share with you my story about my experience with depression.
Dr. Jennifer Laffier is an assistant professor with the Faculty of Education at Ontario Tech University. She teaches and researches in the areas of mental health, trauma, emotional intelligence and healthy human development. She is also a licenced therapist and has been in private practice for 27 years, supporting individuals across the life span, consulting with companies and educational institutions and offering training related to mental health and performance. Dr. Laffier, I turn it over to you.
Jennifer:Thank you very much, Michael, and welcome everyone to a really important and timely presentation on mental health. I'm sure we're all experiencing some changes, some added pressures, some added stress, so I'm really happy Gowling is offering and hosting this important presentation. As Michael said, I'm an assistant professor with Ontario Tech University, and I teach in the area of mental health. So my courses often center around mental health, specific graduate course I teach, for example, is called Mental Health in the Digital Age, so it looks at how technology has impacting our mental health. I'm also a licenced therapist so I've worked with various different age groups over the years and often specializing in the areas of stress and anxiety and depression. Today what I wanted to do was give some information around mental health, especially in times of change and times of crisis. It's a little bit of a different situation. So, I have brief presentation to bring up and go over some key points, some tips, some ideas of detecting where we might be on the mental health continuum and what kind of coping strategies can we use, can we think of, that support us, support colleagues, family members, performance. As Michael said, we will be sharing our information at the end as well, including my contact information and my email in case you would like to send me an email to ask a question. May be it's family related. May be it's more personal, and by all means feel free to send an email, if you like.
We went back and forth a little bit on the topic. There's so much we could talk about right now and what could we do for a really effective one webinar. We wanted to look at, specifically, managing our mental health in times of uncertainty and change, dramatic change. I always like to start off, when we talk about mental health, talking about the mental health continuum. Old views of mental health used to be either you were healthy or you were not. It was an either/or. Black or white thinking of health and mental health. But we've really come a long way in realizing that mental health falls on a continuum. We range on any given month, or week, or day, somewhere on that mental health continuum. Sometimes we feel healthy and we feel good and there are no changes or disruptions to our moods, our thinking and attitudes and behaviour, physical or substance use. Then there are times where we move into what's called a reacting mode. Which is we're adjusting to changes or things are starting to happen to us and we're starting to experience those first initial signs and symptoms that maybe we're not doing well. Then we might move into injured which is now these signs and symptoms are starting to increase and our functioning is decreasing. If this continues for a lengthy period of time then we may move into mental health illness, which is now where we might have a diagnosis of mental health problem. Understanding as well that mental health diagnosis are not permanent diagnosis. I might be diagnosed with something when I'm 20, 25, 50 years old and a couple of years later I no longer have the signs and symptoms. My coping strategies are working. My interventions and supports are working. You'll notice an arrow at the bottom of this chart. This arrow identifies that we move back and forth and we have the ability to move back and forth on the continuum. We may move into reacting. You might experience that for a week or two. But we put in effective coping skills and we move back to healthy. We may move into injured. But again, we get proper supports, we move back to healthy. How long we stay in each of these areas depends on a number of factors. Resiliency levels, supports, coping mechanisms and how early we try to apply those coping mechanisms. That early piece is a focus in this presentation. Early intervention. Early recognition of what we're experiencing, our co-workers are experiencing, our family and friends. We need to do that because this current situation is very unique and it is causing unprecedented changes and losses that are happening very quickly. This plays very differently on mental health for individuals. Typically in life we may experience changes and losses. That's part of human development. We have changes and we have losses. But when changes and losses happen extremely quickly, and they happen to be compounded one on top of the other, it can actually start to impair our mental health. This is what we see happening with the COVID-19 pandemic. We're experiencing dramatic changes that are happening very quick and requiring us to adjust very quickly. We're experiencing numerous losses, whether that's loss of our jobs, our structure, the way we used to things. Isolation, loss of social connections, children losing school. This is challenging our ability to adapt, and we're all varying in the way that we're adapting and how it's influencing us, because everybody's different.
What we saw from some recent research was by the end of March 40% of Canadians reported being extremely worried about COVID-19 and what was happening in their life. 75% report feeling anxious. That's an extremely high number of people experiencing feelings of anxiety that are disrupting their every day life. 32%, by the end of March, had reported trouble falling asleep. By early April we say an unprecedented wave of people accessing mental health supports. Which still continues to today's date. I've been working on the frontline these last 6 weeks offering therapy. A number of us have been offering sort of pro bono therapy work for frontline workers as part of a support network across Canada. Working with frontline nurses and doctors, essential workers, first responders, also providing therapy to parents and people in different industries, different companies, children and we're really starting to see a mix of mental health struggles. One of the very first things that usually will come out in a time of change is what we call distress or adjustment related problems. I think this is probably what a lot of us have been experiencing these last 6 weeks and, really, in this first few weeks that this started to happen. Distress is when we experience an overwhelming sense of confusion or stress because our regular coping skills are not working. We don't know what to do in the moment. That's distress. Adjustment related problems are when we have to adapt and readjust to changes. We have to find new expectations. We have to find new habits. New coping skills. It's an adjustment period. A lot of individuals have been going through this trying to adjust. Some might also experience grief and grief is a normal, healthy human emotion that we all experience to loss. Real or perceived loss. Whatever we perceive as loss. It's a normal, healthy human emotion. We know we've been experiencing a lot of losses due to COVID-19. Especially when it comes to work and we think about the way we used to work and structure and who we socialized with and where did we go everyday for work, what was our routine. It's a lot of loss there and change. So grief is a normal, healthy emotion that we're seeing across people of all ages, right now, is grief. Sadness is also a normal, health human emotion to loss or change. Every intro psych textbook always had 8 basic human emotions. If you ever watch the Disney movie about the different emotions people can experience; happiness, joyfulness, sad, and sad, we should experience it. It is something that we experience to loss or change. Again, whether it's real or perceived. It's all how the person perceives it. So we have seen sadness, and we've seen grief, and we've seen distress and adjustment related problems in people, and people are talking about this. But we're also starting to see, as time moves on, some more serious problems. Things that are lasting past a week, past 2 weeks. Maybe we've moved past that yellow zone of reacting and maybe now we're moving in to the orange zone.
Where now we're experiencing stress and anxiety or even depression. Stress and anxiety are different. A lot of people get these two things confused. We use the words interchangeably. Stress. Anxiety. They're actually not the same. Stress is due to pressure you feel. So, pressure you feel from time or quality expectations. I have to get to work on time. There's traffic. I'm being blocked. I feel stressed. The pressure is I have to be at work. The expectation is the time. Stress is always worse when things are uncontrollable and unpredictable. The exact definition of what we're all going through right now during COVID-19 pandemic. It is uncontrollable and it's unpredictable. The more we perceive it that way the worse our stress will be experienced.
Anxiety is not about pressure. Anxiety is about fears and worries that we have that cause symptoms, specific type of symptoms. Heart palpitations, sweating, not being able to sleep, concentration problems, nausea. Fears and worries that are either founded, I know what's causing my anxiety, or I don't know. I have these symptoms. I just can't put my finger on what's causing it. You hear that from a lot of people. I have this overwhelming sense of doom or just panic, all day, but I don't really know what it is. That's very different from stress because stress you can usually pinpoint what's causing it. With anxiety, not always. That's partly because we don't know what's causing it because there's so many different causes. Anxiety can be, yes, from something that happened in your life but it could also be from too much caffeine, too much sugar in our diet, not sleeping properly. People who are nightshift, or shift work, have 2 to 3 times higher rates of anxiety than other individuals. It could be a side effect of the medication you're taking. Side effect of another illness.
Then there's depression. So depression is different from sadness. Sadness is a normal, healthy human emotion we experience. It's an emotion. Depression we describe as a state. It's a state that you enter into because it affects the whole being. It changes the brain. It changes the body. Emotional changes, social changes. It's a state you enter into. It's very, very different from sadness. There's feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that come with depression. I can be sad but still have hope, still look forward to things, still find joy in other areas of my life. But with depression it's generalized across all areas. So it's really important that people start to understand the differences in some of these so we can identify maybe what we're experiencing, and maybe what others are experiencing as well, in order to apply effective coping strategies.
All these things that we talked about, stress, anxiety, grief, depression, it's no wonder that we're experiencing this range of mental health problems. When you think about COVID-19, it's uncontrollable, it's unpredictable, there's pressure, especially if we have pressure on ourselves to continue to perform the way that we did before. Pressure to do our full-time job but also home school our kids. Pressure to have multiple roles going on and be able to accomplish everything we did before at the same level. There's a lot of fears and worries. There's loss. There's grief and there's adjustment related problems. It is bringing all of these potential mental health problems out. These are, in a way, normal responses to an abnormal event. The abnormal event is the pandemic. Is the changes we're all be asked to go through. Us responding with stress, with fear, these are what we would consider normal responses. It's no wonder that we're reacting this way. I think that's important because it should reduce the stigma around mental health. How could we expect it to be not feeling this way? When you look at the this continuum I'd like you, just for a second to even think for yourself, where are you? And what we're hearing a lot of people say, with COVID-19, is that they feel like they're moving back and forth. We felt great. Everything got thrown in a blender and turned upside down and we went into reacting. We had to readjust, find out where we're going to work from, make office space at home. We're reacting. We think we've got it settled. We've got things in. We feel a little good. We move back into green. Oh! We've got new news coming out. New announcements, new changes, then we're back into reacting. We adjust find some coping skills. We go back to healthy. New things come back. We move back to reacting, or maybe we're even moving further into injured, especially now that we're entering into that week 6 and 7, we're starting to see more people move towards injured. Those symptoms are starting to increase. Sometimes those symptoms are very evident to us and sometimes they're not. We think about symptoms for stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are very hard to diagnose. People present very differently when it comes to stress and anxiety. It can have physical problems where it causes headaches and backaches, stomachaches and digestion, fatigue, tiredness. I think the one thing I'm hearing, probably the most common symptom right now or two most common symptoms, are problems sleeping and irritability. Just feeling really irritable about everything that normally wouldn't upset you, but it's sort of like with stress, we're always on edge. We're just a little on edge so any little upset kind of sets us off and that's that irritability. We might also have problems with memory, concentration, attention. Stress, anxiety, depression, they have major effects on the brain. I won't go into, this is a 3 hour grad class just on the brain's reaction to stress, but if I could quickly tell you, because I think it really helps you understand, maybe, if you're feeling really forgetful lately or just really having a hard time concentrating, when you're stressed your body releases cortisol. Your heart rate goes up. Your blood pressure goes up. Your body temperature goes up. There's a part of the brain that can detect when you're stressed. So what it detects that your stressed it puts you into survival mode - fight or flight response. We call it the hijacking of the brain. When it detects that you're stressed, and it hijacks you, it actually alters the roots of all information. So normally, maybe things would go to be my pre-frontal cortex, my planning and executing of thought and task, but now because I'm stressed it re-routes the brain. Instead of sending it my frontal lobe, to help me think, concentrate and perform tasks, it actually sends it into the center of my brain, the limbic primitive evolutionary part of my brain, and it goes there instead. Now I'm not thinking clearly. I'm not able to retrieve memories very well. I can't concentrate very long because the brain has shifted under stress. I teach future teachers, we're always talking to teachers, one of the first signs with little kids with bullying, for example, is their grades will dramatically drop because, I'm sitting in class all day but yet I'm worried because someone said they're going to beat me up after school or somethings going to happen, I'm being brain hijacked all day. Therefore I can't remember anything. I don't remember what the teacher said. I'm forgetting homework. I'm not doing the things I'm supposed to and my grades drop and I perform poorly. We see that in the workplace too where, in an unsafe environment or perceived unsafe environment, or if there's a lot of stress with employees, their performance starts to decline due to what's happening to the brain.
It's not always stress that happens to do that. It's also depression. Depression can cause those changes in the brain as well. I think right now, for all of us, it's really important to know the difference between grief versus depression. Because we might have co-workers, employees, friends, family members that are experiencing grief, and that's okay, because grief is a normal, human reaction to loss. But when should we be worried? When does it move to depression? There is a very clear distinction between grief and depression. See grief is an intense sadness I feel whenever I think of my loss. Or whenever I'm reminded of my loss. That's grief. So when I think about how much I miss going to the office and seeing co-workers, and it makes me feel sad, that's grief. If I have lost somebody in my life and anytime I'm reminded of them, that's grief, and I feel that sadness. Now, if I asked you the question, "When do you feel sad?" and you said, "Whenever I think of my loss." I know that's grief. If I come back to you a month later and I say, "When do you feel sad?" and you say, "I don't know now. All the time. Not just when I think of my loss. All the time." We usually know that that indicates that has moved into depression because it's generalized now. It's not just when you think of your loss but it's all the time. That is a shift from grief to depression. That's something that maybe we want to pay attention to during this time right now.
All of us have different thresholds of our mental health. How much change can we handle? How much disruption can we handle? We're all different. We have different coping skills. We have different problem solving skills. We have different levels of emotional intelligence. We have different tolerance for flexibility or control. This is something a lot of people don't really realize when we think about ourselves in context of work. You could Google this and try it yourself as well. There's no official test out there but we do have an assessment called the locus of control which talks about your level of control. Do you have an internal versus an external level of control? External locus of control is when you believe in fate, luck, chance, things will come as they come and I don't always have control of things. Maybe younger kids feel like their parents control them. Their teachers control them. That's external. Internal is when you have a strong sense of control over what happens to me is due to me, my decisions, I can control things. It's obviously a little bit healthier to be on the internal side, but not 100%, because you cannot control everything. During times like this, times of uncertainty, times of crisis, people who score extremely high on internal locus of control often struggle more because this is something they can't control but they want to control. Or they're used to being able to control. It can be difficult. We have to learn to be flexible and I like the word, and I think the word that's really important throughout this whole crisis, is to be nimble. To be flexible. To have the ability for what is called cognitive redirection. Emotional redirection. To change our expectations and to look at things like I cannot control the outcome but I can control the effort. Really doing some drastic changes here around what we're used to and how we think about things.
Looking at some coping strategies. Let's keep in mind that idea about to be nimble. Crisis, the very definition of a crisis, is that it's unpredictable and it's uncontrollable. It brings surprises and we need to understand that. That there will be surprises. There will be errors. We need extra time to do things. What took you an hour now takes maybe 2 hours. We have to reduce the pressure on ourselves. Maybe I'm used to being able to do all these things in 1 day, personally I'm happy if I get one done, with everything that's going on right now. Trying to home school two kids, run a private practice, teach, I'm happy with one. That is an adjustment I've had to make in my thinking around expectations and trying to be nimble. Being nimble is actually a characteristic of resiliency. We know that the research shows a characteristic of resiliency, high resiliency, is people's ability to be nimble.
We want to walk a fine line here when it comes to something we can do to help ourselves and that's balancing predictability with flexibility. To reduce stress, always the most common recommendation is, if stress is due to pressure then we should reduce the pressure. If it's due to feelings of uncontrollability and unpredictability try to get a sense of control and predictability. It's the number one therapy approach for stress. Control those elements. We know this is what it is. Let's control those elements. It's good in a way but in a time of crisis you have to balance in flexibility. You're doing a bit of a walk here. You can predict, for example, various outcomes. Scenario A goes this way and here's my response. But it might also go scenario B and here's my response. It might also go scenario C, here's my response. That's okay. You can do that. It gives you a sense of control. It helps alleviate stress. But in times of crisis you can't predict every scenario so there always has to be that scenario D of the unknown, the unexpected. If you're cognitively prepared for that it doesn't come as much of a surprise and you still have a feel that a bit of control is there. The other thing you have to consider about in times of crisis is, predicting is good but you can't predict too far into the future, in a time of crisis. Right now, for me, I'm 2 days. 1, 2. Maybe even just 1 day. Maybe by noon I'm having to change what I predicted for today. You can't go too far into the future where that actually starts to cause too much stress, and too much anxiety, because things are changing too fast. There's new announcements. There's new things coming out every day, every week. So we really have to think what can I predict maybe today? Maybe the next 2 days. And look at what you can control. So what can you predict and control and recognize what things you cannot predict and control.
Can you plan alternatives? So this is what I expect to happen but if it doesn't what's an alternative? We're almost creating a little bubble around ourselves of predictability, but that bubble does not go too far into the future, and we are allowing some flexibility within that bubble. That can really help with our mental health. What also helps with mental health in times of crisis, especially, is organization. Is trying to find, as much as possible, some level or organization. So maybe that is organization around your goals for the day. So you might create a list of all the things you want to do in one day, and this is your ideal list, but then you look at that list and you think I probably will not get to all of this at all. Maybe one or two things. So if I had to create a priority list what are the absolute musts for today and what can be put on the backburner for later, if needed. Really getting used to that idea that we have to adjust the expectations, perhaps, throughout each day and we have to reduce that pressure on ourselves that we will be able to perform to the exact degree that we did before mental health problems, before crisis, and try to find some new ways to work, to schedule, to organize. In organizing space, there's quite a lot of research around how just organizing your space can actually help with mental health. Removing clutter, determining where are the different work spaces in your house. Maybe you've got two people trying to work from home, there's kids home schooling and everybody needs separate spaces. Trying to get this all set up, this is part of the adjustment phase, collect, layout the items that we need. Organize our time. Look at our schedules. What are busy times? What are impossible times? What are conflicting times? And trying to organize that with whomever we're living with and try to determine. So, again, this is all part of the adjustment related phase. Okay, so organizing time.
A really great CBT strategy, and CBT is actually cognitive behavioural therapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy is when we adjust the way that we think, changing the way that we think so that it helps us with our emotions and our behaviours. So, it's strategies for the brain, we call them. One of the things that will happen with stress, anxiety, depression is the brain will want to think of negative things. That's just the way the brain works. It wants to go to the negative. It's why it's very hard for a person whose living with depression to think of the positive because the brain actually won't let them. It wants to retrieve memories that are negative. It wants to tie together all the negative things. So what we have to do is almost retrain the brain, or trick the brain, into being more positive. We do that by thinking each day of some positive accomplishments we did. Maybe if it's just one thing we were able to accomplish today that we weren't quite sure we could get done. Maybe it's something we got started. Maybe we didn't fully finish it but we actually got it started. So we have to use this CBT strategy to train the brain to think more positively, to access positive memories. It's a great strategy. I talk to my future teachers about, I always say, "At the end of the day, before your class leaves, ask your students what went well today." and that is a great strategy in the workplace. What went well today because sometimes I can go to the twenty things that went wrong, and the twenty things I didn't do right, and if I constantly do that the brain will automatically start to do that. So I have to train the brain to think of the positives. Which actually changes my mood, changes my performance level, changes my motivation level. Even using this strategy first thing in the morning, the end of the day, can be really helpful. With CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, we're trying to control the negative thinking. We're trying to replace unhealthy thoughts with healthy thoughts. Instead of saying I can't do this we might say, "Well, I've definitely never done this before. I've been asked to do this but it doesn't mean I might not be able to. Let's try it." It's about training you and your brain to think in a more positive light and, often with CBT, a CBT therapist will ask you to say things out loud. There's a scientific reason for that because you can think things to yourself, but you actually almost solidify it, and you're more likely to follow through if you actually say it out loud to yourself. So if you see people talking out loud to themselves about certain things, you can do this, you've got this, they're using a CBT strategy. A very well known CBT strategy. We have to cognitively adjust our expectations and our goals. Again, under mental health distress we perform differently. Our memories are different. Our concentration is different. Our tolerance levels different. Our irritability. So we have to think of this, I'm functioning in a different way, therefore how might it affect my job, what I'm doing right now. Maybe instead of that 30 minutes it normally took me to accomplish this it's going to take me an hour. I need to plan for that. That way I'm setting myself up for success because I'm thinking about the accommodations that I need to get things done. If we keep putting pressure on ourselves to do exactly everything the way it was that can bring on the extra stress, because remember stress is due to pressure, that we might have.
If we have friends, employees, co-workers, family members, how do we support them? Check in on each other. Is really, really important. I think it's extremely relevant to understand that when it comes to mental health we may have the symptoms, the thoughts, the feelings, but we may not all show the signs. Some people can continue on their day as if nothing's wrong and we think they're doing well. We actually think they're doing quite well. But it doesn't mean that they're not experiencing the symptoms. Even if people are not showing the signs we should be checking in on each other. That's one thing I've been hearing a lot from parents. All in all I think my kids are doing quite well. I think they're liking the home schooling. They're doing really well and then I get an email or a call saying, "Well, I guess I was wrong about that. My daughter just had a breakdown yesterday." Some people just don't show the signs. Some people in a state of crisis will work harder. They'll work longer. They'll become workaholics. It's actually a symptom, or a sign, sorry, of anxiety and depression to actually increase our work, because it allows us to not think about what we're feeling and bypass it and just have a sense of control and structure. Do check ins. We actually know that when we have random check ins, it's even better. When you get that unexpected text, call, message from someone saying, "Hey, thinking of you. Just want to make sure everything's okay.", people really appreciate that. We should also be discussing ways to be successful. So what do we each need to be successful during this time? Any changes, accommodations, what can we do to support each other? We also have to consider the importance of validation. Right now, when I listen to people talk about the crisis, and they're talking to friends or family, you've probably noticed this as well, we often go straight to the fix. Someone says, "I'm not doing really well. I'm having a hard time. Just really struggling with this.", human nature, we want to help, we want to fix and we say, "Oh, it's okay. Everything's going to be alright. This is going to pass. It's going to end soon. You're going to be good. You have lots of supports." We go straight to the fix. That's actually not helpful for people. People don't want to be fixed. They want to be heard. So the best thing we can do is always respond first with a validation. It shows that we heard them. We recognize what they're going through. We understand and that they have the right to feel that way. So instead of going straight to the fix I might say, "Wow. I don't even know what to say right now. It really does sound like you're going through a lot. You have a lot on your plate. No wonder you're feeling this way." A validation, if it's started off with a validation and this is what all good 3, $400.00 an hour therapy sessions are, is pure validation almost the whole time, is it de-escalates people because it makes me feel normalized. Like, "Hey, I'm allowed to feel this way and this person recognizes that I do." After I validate then we can move into a conversation around supporting that person of yes, it will end, and there's hope but we have to do the validation first. That helps in all context, co-workers, family, friends, our self. Also with employees and co-workers try to think of set timeframes for communication. I know a lot of people are struggling with boundaries. Boundaries between work and home and ourselves and that's what a crisis can do. It can really push the limits on our boundaries and sort of mesh our whole life together. The more we can create boundaries the better our mental health will be. What's my work time? What's my time with family? When can clients call me? When can I check in on co-workers? Having sort of an idea of timeframes sets those boundaries and allows us to support each other better.
It's also good to consider your own emotional intelligence during this time. Thinking of emotional intelligence as our ability to recognize our inner selves, our emotions and our behaviours, what we're going through. Knowing how to manage that, recognizing what's going on with others and being able to have healthy relationships because of it. Emotional intelligence, right now, comes in handy because it helps us identify our own signs and symptoms. How our behaviours might be changing. How we might be responding and then be able to put in effective coping strategies to support that. Really try to think of some of, what we consider, the top mental health aspects. Now medical field will often talk about the big three. It's called the big three. You big three is always about sleep, exercise and diet. Three things that we know heavily affect mental health. Our we getting some exercise in every day? Sleep hygiene is how are we sleeping and are we getting a good nights sleep? Are we getting deep sleep? That's one of the things we've seen a spike in the last 6 weeks, is people using prescription medication for sleep, and it can be great in some cases, and other cases not. It's a bit of a catch-22, with sleep medication, because even though it can help you fall asleep it may not allow you to go into stage 4 deep sleep. So you wake up in the morning and you still feel quite groggy, quite tired still. So a lot of people are struggling with what to do around sleep, for sleep hygiene. Diet, when we're stressed and when we experience feelings of depression, we do crave sweets. We crave carbs because what's happening, the cortisol that's released in the body from stress, sort of eats away at glucose in the brain, and glucose is the brain's food. Because it's being depleted due to the stress we crave it, the brain craves it. Needs it. So you'll see that what you're craving during times of crisis is actually different. But we need to ensure that we're having a health diet to support the brain during this time in a healthy way. Don't forget to breathe. In times of crisis and stress we actually change the way we breathe. We breathe quicker and more shallow. This actually exasperates symptoms of stress and anxiety. We should be taking deep breaths in through the nose, in for two, hold for two, out for two. People have different strategies but we need to go back to breathing deeper and longer. There's been a lot of conversation about that over the years. We've actually changed the way we breathe. Nobody breathes properly anymore. We're always in a hurry. We're always in a rush. We never have enough time. So our breathing has changed. So really trying to breathe and there's great apps out there to help breathing. There's great mindfulness apps and meditation apps. I use the calm app on my phone. I love it. I use it for 10 minutes, 3 times a day, and it just really helps me with mindfulness and breathing, especially before maybe I have a stressful meeting online. I do it for 10 minutes, use the app. Some great tools out there. Nature is another powerful, powerful tool when it comes to mental health. There's some great books out about the research of nature. Trees give off a chemical that actually changes brainwave patterns to help us be more calm. Even being next to a tree, or hiking through the woods, or taking a walk around trees can actually really help the brain and mental health problems. Don't forget about social connections and trying to find healthy social connections that we can have on a regular basis.
I'm going to mention here, just because I'm doing a study on it right now, is to even think about how we use social media. So my research study right now, it's exploring how people are using social media during the pandemic. Are they using it more or less and are they finding it's helping them or it's making it worse? We're actually seeing from the results that social media, right now during this time, can be a double-edged sword for a number of us. It does help remove isolation. I personally am getting some really great ideas on what to do for home schooling for my kids. But on the flip side maybe we're bombarded with negative news. Maybe we're social comparison. We're comparing ourselves to others. We're seeing all the great things that everybody's doing during this time yet we're barely getting through a day. So really try to assess what healthy social connections do you have going on right now and any changes that you might need to make. If we could just even try, each week, one or two things that we can do of coping strategies, we don't have to try ten different things in a week. But one or two things that we can try to really support ourselves. Moving back to that green healthy. It's okay if we're not in the green all the time. It's okay if we're moving back and forth. But our aim is to always try to put in some coping mechanisms, as soon as we can to try to get ourselves back to green at earlier time slots, and to not let this progress. If we do feel that it's progressing, and these things that we're talking about we can't do on our own, then by all means we should be reaching out for help. To get support. To talk to different people. There's a lot of great online supports out there right now, and maybe to explore some different avenues for supporting our mental health, or friends and family, or co-workers as well. If there's any questions on the things we discussed, by all means you can email me. Some people might have more specific questions and I'm happy to give further information on this. I'm going to turn this over to Michael now to talk about his story. He might be finding some connections to some of the things we pointed out here. So, Michael, I'll turn it over to you now.
Michael: Thanks, Jennifer. I wanted to just make a couple of comments because we received a couple of questions from people. Number one, there were some little technical glitches which is not unusual with these Zoom things. I actually got thrown out and had to reconnect. But we are recording this session and it will be posted on our website and you will get information about that. Just in case you are having trouble with the technical connections you'll be able to go in and watch it on the recording. I'm not an expert in the mental health field. All I can do is talk about my own experience with depression and the lessons I've learned, and continue to learn, as a result. You will find that my story includes many of the themes that Jennifer has talked about. I hope that you will find that my story is also relevant to the issues that we are facing as a result of this COVID-19 pandemic.
Imagine, for a moment, that you wake up every morning and immediately feel as if you are being sucked into a deep dark hole. Into which no light enters and from which there is no escape. It's as if you are falling into an abyss. Every single day. That's what depression felt like to me. I had been by all measures a successful lawyer and corporate executive over a 35 year career. If I had problems I would ignore, avoid or mask them and not let them get in the way of doing the best job I could. But in 2016 my world crashed. Eventually I started to wake up every day and fall into that deep dark hole. To avoid the anxiety and fear I would often numb myself so as to feel nothing. No emotion, no interest, no reaction to anything. At other times I'd feel a profound sadness that hurt more than any physical pain I had ever experienced. On rare occasions I felt as if I was being buried alive and was consumed by fear and panic. My story is unique, as is everyone's experience, of depression and anxiety. But there are common denominators to everyone's experience. Such as the enormous impact on each person's health and well-being. Their feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing. The almost irresistible urge to stay in bed, pull the covers over their head and shut the world out.
Looking back over my life I now realize that I've lived with mild to moderate depression since I was quite young. As a young child I was characterized as being very sensitive. As if that was a genetic condition and explained everything. Couldn't be changed. It was just something I had to live with. I've also had bouts with severe anxiety that generally hit me during periods of major change and transition. Let me give you an example. Some of you may remember the movie The Paper Chase. On the first day of law school the Dean addresses the incoming students and says to them, "Look to the person on your left. Look to the person on your right. One of you won't be here by the end of your first year." Well, that was also the message in McGill, my law school. In addition, all of the students were used to being in the top 10% of their classes. Obviously that would no longer be the case for 90% of us. By the third month of my first semester I was suffering every day with severe digestive problems and an overwhelming fear that I was not good enough to survive. I went to a doctor who gave me valium and sent me back to do battle. The message was push through. Which I now realize had been the message I had heard all my life when dealing with the anxiety of starting something new. I was able to keep doing what was needed and I did survive. But at a terrible cost.
In 1980 I graduated from law school, moved to Toronto, started articling at a law firm and got engaged to my now wife. I had hit the trifecta for stress and anxiety and I was sick for 2 straight years. I didn't really share with anyone, even my wife, what was going on inside me. I suffered in silence. Again, I pushed through. Somehow got hired back as a lawyer with the firm in which I articled, got married and eventually the symptoms receded. But they never completely went away. I thought this is just the way I am and no one would want to hear me complain. Over the years the symptoms would come and go and my moods would vacillate. But I lived with a constant feeling of dis-ease. In hindsight I am astonished at my failure to recognize that I had mental health issues that needed to be addressed. Until. In early 2016 I lost a lot of weight. Was getting colds and viruses that wouldn't go away and started having terrible digestive problems. Not that I had much of an appetite to begin with. Not surprisingly I started feeling sacked of all my energy and lost my ability to focus and concentrate. I eventually hit a wall and concluded I had no choice but to take a few months off to rest and recuperate. I thought that would solve the problem. In early 2017 I did take a 3 month leave. During that period I started to improve physically and at the end of 3 months I returned to work, ready to go. Well I was never more wrong.
My body and my mind were not able to manage the return to work. After several weeks I realized I was in no shape to be back. I couldn't think straight or concentrate. I was still having terrible digestive problems. I was constantly exhausted. Depleted of all energy. So I went on indefinite leave. But I thought I had to figure out, and address what was causing, and then fix the physical symptoms. Until. It was a beautiful sunny early summer morning. I was standing on my balcony, drinking a cup of coffee and looking out over a gorgeous panoramic view of the city, and of the ravine which backs onto our condo. Then I had a thought. What's the point? What's the point? It seemed to come out of nowhere and it so unnerved me that I reflexively staggered off the balcony and back into my apartment. Somehow, and I don't know how, but somehow I realized in that moment that my issues weren't physical. Somehow I knew that I was in the midst of an acute depressive episode. If I was going to get better I needed to shift my mindset completely. And so began my long journey to recovery. A journey which continues to today and will continue for the rest of my life. My moment on the balcony offered a glimmer of light into the darkness of the deep dark hole. Over a period of 9 months I solely climbed a path that emerged as the darkness started to lift. Often slipping backwards, and having to retrace my steps, but gradually making my way to the surface and climbing out into the light of day.
Eventually I was able to return to work on a full-time basis. I could not have made it without some very important assistance. I was able to get professional psychiatric support. The first thing my psychiatrist told me is that I would get better but it would take much longer than I thought. It took a while for me to actually accept what she was saying. Initially the words did not sink into my thick skull. I expected to wake up one day and feel magically better. It took several weeks to appreciate that getting better was going to be a long process. I benefitted from antidepressant medications thought not without some side effects. I incorporated new self-care activities and Jennifer talked a lot about these. I incorporated these activities into my daily routine. Related to nutrition, exercise, mindfulness meditation and journaling. The combined effect of these changes is that I now approach every day very differently than I used to. For example, I used to wake up early and just go as hard as I could, as long as I could. Now I wake up, stop, and spend 15 to 20 minutes journaling. I write whatever comes into my mind. Just stream of consciousness stuff. If I look back on what I'd previously written I often can't read my writing. Or if I can I have no idea what I was thinking. But the activity of stopping and writing is like taking a pause before I move forward with my day. Instead of frenetically and mindlessly rushing to do what I think needs doing, I give myself the opportunity to slow down, be with myself, reflect and then begin the rest of my day. It puts me in a different head space as I move forward with the day. These things worked for me. Everyone needs to find their own self-care tools. Things that work for them. Fortunately, my wife was present for me. Providing unconditional love and support. Listening to me when despair became so intense that I simply had to express it to someone and motivating me not to give up when I felt totally overwhelmed. I received, and this is really crucial, I received consistent support from the leadership of my firm. I can't overstate how important this was. I made it my goal to return to work and the firm made it clear that they wanted me back when I was ready. People would reach out to see how I was doing. When one is home struggling with depression it is extremely isolating. The simple connection to, and with my firm, let me know that people were thinking about me and that I still belong to the workplace community. As I started to recover, the firm worked with me to slowly start the return to work process. Which took about 6 months in total. The firm was flexible in helping me, beginning with a few hours, a few days a week from home, and gradually getting back to full-time at the office. The firm was also very receptive to the return to work plan that was developed by my outside support professionals. More importantly, the stakeholders involved, including the firm, the insurance company, my doctors and I were aligned on my return to work plan, and recognized that it was just the plan and subject to modification each step along the way. The last think I needed, when focusing entirely on my recovery, would have been disagreements or misunderstandings between these various stakeholders. I focus on these themes of connection, flexibility and alignment, which Jennifer also focused on, not only because they are so important for how my firm and others supported me in my recovery. They were also key parts of my internal landscape. It enabled me to follow the path out of that deep dark hole. I was learning to connect with it or become aware of the thoughts, the feelings, the emotions that manifested as physical and mental illness, and learning how to work with those thoughts, emotions and feelings in a more constructive way. I recognized that I needed to be flexible and patient as recovery was a process with lots of twists, turns and setbacks. I began to understand that I had to align the things I was doing with both my goal of trying to get better and the values as a person I want to embody.
I'll touch on just a few of these in the rest of my talk. I appreciate how fortunate I've been with my recovery. Each person's recovery is different. The important thing is that the process of recovery enables each person to reach the best state of mental wellness possible given their particular circumstances. There are a number of lessons that I've learned as I continue with my journey. Like many lawyers, I'm a type A personality. Driven to succeed often at the expense of my health and well-being. I'm also a perfectionist. Afraid of making mistakes. Even if I realize that being human, by definition, means I will make mistakes. Even though I'm quick to forgive mistakes other people make. I've also always feared that people would eventually realize I'm not such a hotshot as a lawyer. I felt vulnerable and at constant risk of being exposed as a fraud and a phony. One of the things I've done to protect myself is to try to please others. Particularly those in positions of authority. Even when it's not in my own interest. Why? So I could maintain control over how others see me. Control over what they think of me. But this strategy means I have to remain constantly vigilant since exposure can be right around the next corner. Not surprisingly this hasn't been a particularly healthy way to live my life.
I've come to control just a little bit differently than Jennifer did, although it's really the same thing. In his most recent book, Thank You For Being Late, award winning journalist and author, Tom Freeman, recounts an interview with guy named Eric Astro Teller who is the CEO of Google's X research and development lab. Teller draws a graph in which the X, or vertical access, is rate of change and the Y, or horizontal access is time. The line for rate of technological and scientific change starts out flat and escalates very gradually over hundreds of years. Then it takes off upwards like a hockey stick starting in the late 20th century. In the past very few years the speed of change has increased exponentially and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The second line on the graph represents the rate at which human beings adapt to change in their environment and reveals that over human history we do improve but a snail's pace. According to Teller, the pace of technological change has now surpassed the capacity of most of us to adapt to and absorb it. The gap will only continue to increase. As a result, and this is the key point, Teller notes that we have less and less control over what is happening in the world around us. As Jennifer pointed out, research shows that a rapid change, good or bad, can negatively affect our mental well-being. We feel less control over our lives during periods of rapid change and feel much more stress, anxiousness and uncertainty, even when the changes are positive. I know that's true for me. When I feel like I can't control changes happening, to and around me, my mental equilibrium is totally upended. Needless to say, it's been quite upended over the past few weeks. But if we have learned anything from this pandemic, it is just how little control we have over certain things, that can have an enormous impact on all aspects of our lives. I understand that the causes of depression, anxiety and other mental illness are complex and numerous. Genetics, the way we were raised. Our life circumstances and they way our brains are wired. All play a role. However, if feeling out of control in our rapidly changing world, is contributing to mental dis-ease, what can we do about it? Jennifer gave us a lot of good ideas. For me, one of the things that I try to focus on is focusing my attention on things that I can control, and recognizing that there are many things I can't. It sounds simple but if you are like me it isn't easy. We often can't control the outcome of something. There are just too many factors outside our control that affect outcomes. Let me give a simple example. If I'm a trial lawyer, and I'm actually not, but if I was a trial lawyer and I prepared for a trial as best as I can, the judge and jury may still rule against my client. If the client wins I'm a hero. But if the client loses I'm a bum. If I focus on trying to control outcomes, or to prevent bad things from happening, it's inevitable that I'm going to end up feeling anxious, beaten up, defeated and, in my case, depressed. I can control how I live my life. What I try to accomplish with it. How I treat other people regardless of how they treat me. Much easier said than done. I want to be the hero. Not the bum.
I can control my decision to speak to you, and to prepare as best I can, but while I want you to feel that my talk today has been informative and helpful, I can't control whether you'll feel that way. I'm not a fatalist. It's important that we set goals for ourselves. However, what we can control is our effort to accomplish those goals. The process to reach the goal. Not necessarily the goal itself. Our efforts may get us to the goal, the outcome, but whether we get there may be affected by all sorts of factors outside our control. My journey to recovery began on a balcony. My goal was to return to work and resume the professional life that I had before my illness. Especially in the early days I had no clue or even belief that I would get there. What could I do was take steps that I hoped would help me. Seeking professional help. Finding ways to take better care of myself and slowly trying to reintegrate back into the workplace. For most of that journey I really didn't know where I was going to end up. Fortunately I did recover sufficiently to return to work and resume my career. More importantly, I'm able to share my story with you today. During this pandemic there are things that we can do. Jennifer listed a whole bunch of them. Others are practice social distancing. Wash our hands frequently. Cough into our elbow. I still have trouble remembering that one. Learn how to work more productively while we're remotely connected. Limit our exposure to the news. I find watching or reading too much news freaks me out and I immediately feel the need to go and take my temperature. But to a great extent we can't control what has happened to all of us and the tremendous uncertainty of what life will be like for the foreseeable future. What we can try to control is how we respond, as Jennifer said, how we respond to the dramatic change and uncertainty we are experiencing. So what else can we do to help ourselves if we're struggling with mental health issues? If we're fortunate not to have such issues, how can we help those who do? If you think you may have an issue with depression, anxiety or substance misuse, find a way, as Jennifer said, to tell someone you trust. Seek professional help. Change your routine to incorporate self-care as part of your daily life. Again, it sounds simple but it's not easy and there are no guarantees as to the outcome. But it's definitely worth the effort. If you find no one's listening to you then cry out for help. I understand how frightening it can be to tell someone you are living with mental health issues. We worry that people will look at us differently and think less of us. That speaking up will negatively affect our careers and our employers won't understand. I also know that we tend to blame ourselves and think we should be able to just snap out of it. But no one should have to struggle in silence and you deserve to be heard and get the help you need. You are most definitely worth it.
Within our organizations we can take steps to make it easier for people to safely come forward with their issues, and if they do, make sure that it'll be treated with respect and without judgment. At Gowling WLG we have adopted a comprehensive mental health and wellness strategy that focuses on awareness, resilience and empowerment for all of our people. We have taken a number of initiatives to implement our strategy. We provided a variety of different resources to our people, including our new Minds Matter app that people can download to their mobile device. On our COVID-19 internet page we have included a specific section devoted to people and wellness. We've improved benefits coverage for mental health support, including the type of counselling and therapy covered and the amount that is covered. A few years ago we introduced mental health first aid training, a certification course offered by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, to equip people with the knowledge and skills to have helpful conversations with someone who might be struggling. Today we, or I should more accurately say Jennifer, has trained over 150 of our people including all of the firm's leadership. We run annual campaigns in which we ask everyone to commit to supporting their own and everyone else's mental being. We are learning how to consider the mental health consequences on our people of all the decisions we make. Particularly today. Organizations are being forced to make very difficult decisions and it is really important that these tough decisions not lose sight of the impact they will have on the mental wellness to the people within the organization. Ultimately, our goal is to embed mental health into the fabric and culture of our firm. All sorts of organizations are coming up with innovative and effective ways to enhance the well-being of their most valuable resource, their people. We can adopt the best practices from what others are doing. We may not be able to change the structural issues our industries confront. Including the dramatic changes due to this pandemic that contribute to mental dis-ease. But that doesn't mean we can't make a difference. The business case for supporting these types of initiatives, it's too compelling to ignore, and the moral imperative is all too clear. If there was ever a time for our organizations to step up and help their people this is it.
I wouldn't wish major depression, anxiety or other mental health issues on anyone. However, during my journey I've learned a lot about myself, and I now there's much yet to be learned. I had always thought of myself as someone who didn't stigmatize those living with depression or other mental health issues. I failed to realize that this attitude did not extend to me. One of the insidious effects of stigma about mental illness is that many of us unconsciously buy into the idea that if we have mental health issues we are weak and to blame for our condition. I now know that I did. To compound the problem I also thought I should be able to solve my issues on my own. In other words, when it came to me, I bought into stigma hook, line and sinker. Self-stigma inevitably leads to feelings of shame. I'm not sure there's a more toxic emotion than shame. Especially when you can't admit to yourself that you feel it. I was ashamed of feeling shame. It was really important for me to challenge self-stigma and shame because it held me back from seeking the help I needed. And from doing things it will hopefully make and keep me healthier. By challenging my self-stigma I was able to start incorporating time for self-care because I felt that I was worth it. I was able to start finding ways to remind myself that I'm okay. Not worthless, weak or undeserving. As we're trying to focus on controlling things that I can, and not those I can't, I believe that this awareness will help me build resilience to better handle things that happen in my life. I try to remember when journaling each morning, it's interesting that Jennifer talked about this, I try to remember when journaling each morning to write down what I accomplished the prior day. It's a very simple way to try and stop the self-defeating thoughts from taking hold, and sending me into a downward spiral, back into depression. I wish I could tell you that I no longer struggle with self-stigma and shame. Or that I completely trust that I will not relax into another acute depressive episode. For me, it doesn't seem to work that way. I know that the odds are high. That I will have another severe bout of depression. I want to be able to control it from happening and I'm trying to take steps to prevent it. But there are many factors outside my control that may cause it to happen. So I still frequently feel as if I'm on the edge of a cliff. At any moment I could lose my balance, or get hit by a gust of wind and fall off, back into that deep dark hole. However, I believe that by confronting my self-stigma and shame I've been able to introduce things into my life that will help me recover more quickly should a relapse occur. I have moved from hopelessness, when I was in the depths of depression, to hope and now to belief. The final stage will be self-trust. I'm not there yet but I'm working on it.
I'd like to conclude my remarks today with a brief statement about hope. Without hope we're lost. Before I had my moment on the balcony I was hopeless. Clueless as to how I was ever going to get better. Once I had that moment a sliver of light broke through the darkness of the deep hole in which I was trapped. I felt the first stirrings of hope and having hope propelled me forward. I can understand how for many people today it is extremely hard to feel hope. Many of us fear that we, or those who we love, may get sick from this virus or have actually contracted the virus. Many people don't know how they're going to pay their rent. Buy food for their families because they're no longer employed. However, even in such dire circumstances there is something about hope, and about holding on to hope for dear life, that can sustain us. Vaclav Havel was a statesman, dissident and writer. He became the first president of Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic after the fall of the Soviet Union. Havel said that hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something make sense regardless of how it turns out. What makes more sense than striving for the physical and mental health and well-being of every single one of us in the midst of this period of dramatic change and uncertainty?
Thank you for taking the time to listen to me today. We do have a few minutes for questions so I'm going to open it up and ask a couple of questions. So, one of the questions that I saw earlier, and I don't see it now, but one of the questions that I saw earlier, Jennifer, was a question about when you're talking to people in your family, or friends, or loved ones and you think they're in denial. You think they're not really recognizing that they're struggling. What is it that you can do that may help bring it out from them so that they can recognize what they're experiencing?
Jennifer:Thank you. I did see that and I thought that's a great, great question. A very common question because we're always torn, right? Do I push the topic? How much do I push to get them to talk? What if they say, "No. I'm fine.", but I really don't think they are? What do we do? That's something we've talked in mental health first aid about is how do you approach that conversation. One of the things we talk about is it's always important to validate the fact that a person might not be ready to talk. They might actually truly believe they're fine and they might not recognize their own signs and symptoms. I think what we can do is take the opportunity here to validate the fact that maybe they don't want to talk about it, or that they believe they're fine, but I might use this opportunity to talk about common signs and symptoms. Maybe I present it as what I've been going through. I don't know if I'm fine. I've been experiencing this or this is what I've learned are some of the signs and symptoms of stress or depression. Because I think just hearing sign and symptoms is good for people. In therapy we call it poking a hole in the cognitive theory. Your own theory, your cognitive theory, is that you're fine. I've now presented some facts around signs and symptoms that might make you think the next time you go off and do one of those signs and symptoms. It might cause you to have an ah-ha moment. Like, this is actually a sign or a symptom of anxiety. Maybe I'm not fine. Because we can't force people to see they have a problem. People have to see it on their own and we're kind of helping the process by pointing out signs and symptoms. So that's maybe a strategy we want to use.
Michael: Next question, this is the 60 million dollar question, how do I stop worrying about things I have no control over? It's so easy for my mind to go to the worse case scenario. I don't know how to stop this. <laughter> Jennifer?
Jennifer:That is the big million dollar question. I've actually been reading a lot lately on the research on this. So one of the things we know when we think about cognitive behavioural therapy and cognitive science, the way the brain works, the more we try not to think of something, the more we think about it. Right? We know that. You used to say, "Don't be anxious." We're anxious. Stop thinking about this. We think about it. In therapy we call it leaning in. Leaning in to the emotion or leaning in to the thought. Try not to completely avoid it because completely trying to avoid the thought actually causes more stress. Allow the thought but fact check the thought. Thinking to ourselves, and remembering that strategy actually saying things out loud, is actually better. So I might have this conversation with myself, like, "Yes. That actually could happen but realistically what's the percentage chance that it will? Maybe 5%? And there's probably a lot of other things that could happen. What might those be?" Then I try to walk myself through all the different scenarios. Try to get sense of control and predictability as in if each of these did happen what is a potential response I might have? Because that helps with the control and predictability. Be able to do that. So allow the thought, try to fact check it and then put in all the other options as well. This brings us a bit more of a realistic view of what can happen. I highly recommend not trying to push those thoughts completely out of our mind because it may bring more stress.
Michael: So there is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy that's called mindfulness base cognitive behavioural therapy, or MBCT, that I am familiar with. I actually haven't done it but I am familiar with it because I know one of the founders of the practice. What it does is it takes mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy and puts them together. The idea of mindfulness practice is really to do exactly that. To be with your experience as it is and then to be able to explore it. Just see where you're feeling it. Where it's touching you on the body. What it's doing to your mind and then be able to bring yourself back to what is actually happening in the present moment and how you can respond rather than react to what is happening around you. That's a very sort of not particularly elegant way of describing mindfulness. But that's one tool that may be available to try and help with trying having to stop worrying about things that you have no control over. We all do it. The question is how do we learn to work with it, I think, from my perspective anyway.
The next question is, Jennifer, if there's one thing you think a company should do to better support their employees, as we now start to plan to gradually go back to the office, and we expect people to have much more in the way of mental health issues. What would be your sort of most important piece of advice for the leaders of organizations who are going to now have to work with the gradual return to work process, which I suspect is going to be as discombobulating for people as going to work remotely process was.
Jennifer:I actually just had a conversation about this with an organization that wanted to run a webinar, joint together, to talk about what we're discussing right now. Changes that are going on and returning to work. My recommendation was actually don't try to do both at once. Right now, people are just trying to adjust for the last 6 weeks to what's happening. The topic of returning to work is a whole other topic and that's probably something we're maybe moving into now, during the pandemic. So the last 6 weeks was adjusting. That yellow reacting phase and now we're moving back into the possibility of returning to work. So now we can start having those conversations and thinking about that. There's a lot of research and documents, if you look online, about what's called transition planning. Which is returning to work. Returning to school. Returning to whatever was our norm before. So when we talk about transition planning it's about getting people ready to either go back to the way things were or to go back to something that's new. The first step is to think what is returning to work going to look like? Will it look the same as it was before or do we have new normal? And, what is that new normal going to look like and what are those expectations? Because the more people can picture that in their mind, the more they can prepare for it, and feel more comfortable with it. So we always try to do that first and then we look at, so if this is the new norm, what resources do you need to be successful? For example, maybe it's working from home more often but I need a bit more technology training. So then we look at what are those resources that we need. Again, it's about building our self-esteem, our self-advocacy, our belief that we can do things. We have the resources and I think organizations, companies, they really have the power to help develop self-advocacy in employees by understanding what is that new norm, what are the resources, the skills required, the resources needed and then being able to help provide those resources to employees. Maybe that involves environmental skin, or communicating one on one with employees, but really trying to get that communication going and transparency is very, very important in times of change and transitioning because the more transparency there is in timely information, the more trust people have, and the more confident they feel. So that would be my short answer. But for additional information anyone can contact me on transition planning. I can lead you in the right direction for some good reports and resources on that.
Michael: Jennifer, why don't you put up our email addresses. We are at the end of our allotted timeframe. There are some other questions and as we indicated to everybody we will respond to them and send them out. Also a reminder that this webinar has been recorded and you will be able to go onto the website, our website, and watch it again or watch parts of it again, if you'd like to. Again, if anybody has any questions for either Jennifer or for me, please do not hesitate to email us with those questions. We'll be happy to answer them. We hope you have found this presentation, today, this webinar, to be helpful. That was our purpose in providing it in terms of just trying to help with what our enormous challenges that we and our organizations are facing. We thank you for taking the time to participate with us today. We look forward to seeing you in the near future.
Thank you all very much. Bye-bye.