Resiliency: Bouncing Back from the Effects of the Pandemic
An interview with psychiatrist, Deborah Marin, MD
Resilience: the ability to bounce back
Before COVID-19, the word “resilience” was probably only loosely part of your vocabulary, but now that we are well over a year into a global health pandemic, many of us are asking ourselves how we can stay resilient, develop resiliency, or strengthen our resilience.
Our internist, James Lebret, MD interviews Dr. Deborah Marin, Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Director of the Center for Spirituality and Health at Mount Sinai.
In the recorded interview, Dr. Marin discusses post-traumatic growth, in which people can become stronger after a traumatic experience and how a little stress can be a good motivator. She also gives tips for how to orient yourself or a loved one towards resilience and when it is important to seek help from a behavioral specialist.
Continue on to hear directly from Dr. Deborah Marin, who as the director of Mount Sinai’s Center for Stress, Resilience and Personal Growth has been researching and treating the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and lives of frontline health care providers at Mount Sinai.
The Health Center has two full time psychologists, Anna Hickner, Psy.D. and Molly Sherb, PhD. available for one-time consultations and/or ongoing goal-oriented therapy. If you would like to consult with a professional, please contact our Personal Health Navigators by chat through the member portal or by calling 646.819.5100. There is no obligation to commit to ongoing therapy sessions.
How do you define stress and resilience and what are key features of both?
Key Takeaway: Stress is sometimes construed as a negative construct, but actually it isn’t necessarily that. We do well with a little stress – it motivates us. It becomes problematic when it is chronic and an individual doesn’t think they can manage it. Their body goes into a ‘fight or flight’ response or ‘fright’ response – overreacting to things that aren’t necessarily stress-related. Resilience is the ability to bounce back.
Can you describe some types of stress related disorders?
Key Takeaway: Up to 40% of the population is experiencing stress related disorders from the effects of the pandemic. For stress related disorders in general, many experience an acute stress reaction – they are exposed to an acutely stressful situation and become hypervigilant. Most (nearly 80%) can recover from this, but 18-20% have a chronic reaction and can go on to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The most common stress related disorders are major depression, prolonged grief, anxiety, over worrying, sleep problems, and increased substance use.
How would you orient someone towards resilience?
Key Takeaway: Social connectivity, self-care, finding meaning, facing your fears, and continuing to learn are key to resilience. Being altruistic and reaching out to others makes us feel better. You can physically distance yourself, but our brains need social connectivity. Take small steps to incorporate self-care back into your routine and do something that helps you find meaning – something you enjoy doing. Facing fears will be a big one with returning to the office. Fear of getting sick, fear of knowing whether someone is vaccinated. Try to differentiate fear from reality. And lastly, keep learning, our brains need it. None of these activities take long, but you have to practice them.
Is there a playbook I can follow for bouncing back?
Key Takeaway: Everything I am telling you, you already know – but what I am telling you is to practice them. Face your stressors in baby steps. Practice them daily.
For employees and employers, how can individuals in leadership help reduce stress in the workplace?
Key Takeaway: Employees do best when they have a good work-life balance. One cause of stress in the workplace is conflict. Workplace conflict, which research has shown occurs in 28% of the workforce, leads to lower productivity. Learning how to manage conflict is crucial – independent of resilience. Managing expectations and transparency between employee and employer can also help reduce stress.
For individuals experiencing stress, when is it time to see a behavioral specialist?
Key Takeaway: It is recommended that you see a specialist when these symptoms cause suffering or impair your ability to work at the level you want and/or socialize. It is important to know that someone can be very resilient, and suffer and have major depression at the same time. If a person is feeling negative thoughts, it is certainly advised that they speak with a specialist. Many people feel shame and they should not. These are not shameful behaviors. You can’t talk yourself out of a major depression on your own – please see your provider for help.
Dr. Marin attended The Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Mount Sinai Psychiatry Residency. Upon completion of her Residency, Dr. Marin completed a research fellowship in mood disorders at Cornell Medical College. Since her return to Mount Sinai in 1992, Dr. Marin has held several leadership positions, including Chief of Geriatric Psychiatry, Medical Director of the Department of Psychiatry, Dean for Clinical Research, and Chief Medical Officer. At Mount Sinai, Dr. Marin’s research focus has been in the area of memory disorders. She has been principal investigator in NIH funded grants that have investigated the clinical and biological correlates of normal aging and dementia.
In 2020, Dr. Deborah Marin became the director of Mount Sinai’s new Center for Stress, Resilience and Personal Growth.