On May 28, the SAG-AFTRA President’s Taskforce on Education, Outreach & Engagement and the Motion Picture & Television Fund presented the livestream Maintaining Balance and Wellness During the Pandemic. Executive Vice President and New York Local President Rebecca Damon hosted the panel, which featured MPTF’s Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Scott A. Kaiser, Director of Campus and Community-Based Social Services Jessica Caughey, and Employee Wellness Program Manager Debi Conocenti.
MPTF is a Los Angeles-based charitable organization that offers medical, social and wellness services to those in the entertainment industry. During the panel, the group discussed the effects of stress, sudden changes and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also provided attendees with emotional wellness practices that promote relaxation and connectivity to others. More than 400 members viewed the presentation’s livestream and the replay is available here.
Here are some of the panelists’ recommendations:
Take time to think about what you can control. Said Caughey, “It’s very easy to feel completely out of control. But what’s in our control is [that] we can keep ourselves safe [from] the virus, we can be creative … and incorporate things that make [us] feel better.”
Remember that you can control your response to stressful moments. Personality plays an important role in people’s response to change during this time. While some have found changes like self-isolation to be beneficial, others have experienced increased levels of stress and anxiety. Regardless of your experiences, Conocenti spoke to the importance of knowing everyone has the power to control the way they react.
“It’s not about controlling everything around you, but just managing your perception of it,” said Conocenti. “Things will change every day … but you can teach yourself how to steel your mind and move your thoughts from negative to positive.”
Set limits as needed. As stay-at-home orders continue, many are passing the time by watching a season of their favorite show or just following the news to keep up with any new developments. While these responses are normal, panelists suggested limiting participation in these activities so as to lessen fatigue or other tolls on mental health. Other helpful suggestions included establishing a nighttime routine prior to settling in to bed and maintaining a proper sleep schedule.
Incorporate movement into your day. Kaiser noted that as time goes on, a more sedentary lifestyle may start to be the collective norm. However, incorporating an exercise regime or simply being more active overall can make a world of difference. He went on to say that it’s important to create a workout routine that is best suited for you, especially if daily activity is a new practice.
“It’s really hard to change our habits, but one of the things that works is breaking [exercise] down into bite-sized steps,” said Kaiser. “Go out and take a walk or do one jumping jack — whatever works to build up movement and get into a healthy routine.”
Be mindful of how you feel. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to promote wellness, and the panelists all advocated for activities such as journaling, yoga and meditation as ways of processing thoughts and emotions.
On meditating, Kaiser said, “Scientific studies of brainwaves show that you can actually shrink the amygdala, which is a part of the brain that activates fight or flight. And you can build up a [resistance] to stress.”
Connect with others. SAG-AFTRA members are all familiar with connectivity and solidarity, and maintaining relationships with family, friends and colleagues is more important than ever before. The panelists all advocated for remaining close to loved ones, even when far apart.
“There are so many ways to connect: There’s Zoom and FaceTime, texting and telephone calls,” said Caughey.
Volunteering can also help promote closeness, and among the panelists’ suggestions were signing up at phone banks or getting groceries for a neighbor. Even fostering a rescue animal can bring feelings of connectivity.
To learn more, watch the video below, and, if interested, become involved in one of MPTF’s many volunteer services such as their Daily Call Sheet and Grocery Relief programs. Visit their website for more information.
The views expressed at this workshop are not intended to imply an endorsement of any individual or company by SAG-AFTRA. The information provided through the workshop is given for informational purposes and may not be a suitable substitute for the advice of professionals. You should always use good judgment in these matters and should not act or refrain from acting based solely on information provided through the workshop.
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