Submitted by the Whatcom County Health Department
We’re all weary of the ongoing effort to protect our community from the impact of COVID-19. At times, we may feel angry, fearful, anxious, or overwhelmed. It can make it all the more challenging to practice empathy and show compassion to others. But there are many benefits to doing both. It reduces stress, builds trust, and strengthens the emotional connections we all need right now. It can also help resolve conflict. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we focus on supporting one another, showing compassion, and finding ways to work together to reduce the distress that COVID-19 has brought to our community.
How can I express empathy and compassion?
With friends, family, and neighbors
- Check in with someone who may be feeling lonely. Hearing your voice or finding your note in the mailbox can boost their spirits as well as yours.
- Older adults are most at risk from COVID-19 and may feel particularly isolated. Ask them to share their experience managing similar periods of global uncertainty. They may provide a reassuring perspective on this pandemic.
- Finding common ground about navigating COVID-19 risks can spark disagreements. Use your listening skills and kind words, even with challenging behaviors. Angry comments or actions can be a sign of significant stress or emotional stress. Allow for grace whenever possible and don’t shut the door on continuing the conversation.
Out and about in public
- Wearing a mask to protect others is an act of compassion. For a variety or reasons, some people can’t wear a mask. Be understanding, gentle, empathetic, and compassionate to those people too. Others will be wearing masks, but still tell you that they don’t believe that masks are effective. Thank them for compassionately protecting you.
- If you choose to dine out or shop in a store, practice empathy, patience, and appreciation with restaurant or retail staff. Many have worked hard to open up under the new guidelines. Wait times may be longer, and capacity to serve you is limited. Do your part to make their work environment less stressful.
- Parks are busy places these days. Set a good example by picking up after yourself so you leave no trace. Be considerate by respecting the rules: don’t gather with a big group and keep a six foot distance from people you don’t live with.
In the workplace
- We’re all operating in new work environments, whether you’ve been laid off, working remotely, or adjusting to new worksite protocols. And they all come with risk: financial, emotional, and physical. Be empathetic and non-judgmental with your co-workers. Showing care and concern increases trust and improves the well-being of the whole team.
- If you see a co-worker struggling with work-life balance, ask what they need to find firm footing again. It might be enough to know that someone recognizes their struggle and cares enough to listen.
- Employees report more satisfaction and commitment to their work when they experience compassionate responses in their workplace from both supervisors and co-workers.
Compassion leads to connection
Practicing empathy and compassion is good for us. Studies suggest that it can boost our physical health and mental well-being, improve our relationships, and make us more resilient to stress. Taking care of each other builds social connectedness and strengthens our community. Those bonds create a sense of belonging. A lack of compassion can lead to division between groups of people. We need a bigger ‘we’ to get through this pandemic. Show compassion for yourself and others.