A second special edition of MHW News with wellness resources to support you during the COVID-19 crisis



April 2020

In the face of challenges, and even more so in times of crisis, we draw on our reserves of resilience to persevere, to learn and adapt, and to move forward. The current crisis is unprecedented in modern times, yet many of the challenges it requires us to face are, at their root, timeless and universal. And many of them have been studied by experts whom we are fortunate to count as colleagues.


In this issue, the My Healthy Workplace network, also composed of our colleagues, is pleased to share evidence-based resources to support fundamental elements of self-care, care for others and for our community at large. This special issue’s Employee Spotlight, focuses on Christopher Carson whose work with the Campus Public Safety team supports the community by ensuring the safety of our colleagues currently carrying out essential work on campus.


In the current crisis, as always, a significant measure of our personal power lies in identifying and managing what is within our control and finding ways to accept the rest. We can all do our part to reduce the spread of the pandemic, but none of us can control the timeline of its story. We can take action to care for ourselves and others, and we can make a conscious effort to communicate with empathy and transparency about what we do know, as we also learn to accept that none of us know yet precisely how or when public health officials will green light everyone's physical return to campus.


We have seen proof again and again in recent weeks of our resilience as individuals and as an institution. Together, with compassion for ourselves and others, we can continue to reinforce and draw on that resilience to fulfill our institutional mission, on or off campus. McGill’s Dr. Tina Montreuil tells us how in this recent article (available only in French) from La Presse: Comment devient-on résilient?


Caring for Yourself 

As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, taking care of ourselves is more important than ever. According to Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “If we prioritize our mental health with the same diligence we wash our hands, we may emerge on the other side better equipped to cope with life’s daily challenges than we’ve ever been.” 


Taking care of our mental health comes in many forms, and we all have varying needs to ensure our wellness. One form available to all members of McGill's benefit plan is the Employee and Family Assistance Program. They offer counselling services, and resources available specifically for the current reality of the COVID-19 outbreak. Access them here by selecting Université McGill from the Search bar.


An additional free resource, is WellCan, a downloadable App available to all Canadians in English and French. It provides a hub of tools to help maintain positive mental, physical, social and financial health during the COVID-19.


Working at a world-class research-intensive university, we benefit from a rich resource of professionals conducting research, writing articles, and sharing their expertise on how we can take care of ourselves in various capacities. Equip yourself with the tools and resources below.


McGill Activities and Events


Coaching Our Disrupted Selves Through Global Crisis & Beyond

Friday, May 1st, 2020 (12:30-1:30)

Peer Connections - sharing tips and tricks 
Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 (12:00-1:00)

Changing How We See Mental Illness
May 6th, 2020 (12:00-1:00)


Achieving well-being in the midst of a pandemic

Dr. Richard Koestner, Department of Psychology, McGill (access recording here)


Grieving Losses of All Sizes


For a number of people, the COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in tragic losses of life, of health or of financial security. What might be less obvious are the losses of a less dramatic nature that also affect our emotional health.

They could come in the form of a cancelled trip, an unfulfilled family tradition, or the suspension of our stabilizing daily routines, to name just a few. The Harvard Business Review and the New York Times explain the grief of 'smaller' losses and propose ways to navigate and manage these feelings.


Walking and Running Tips


A great way to stay healthy and improve your mood during these trying times is to fit movement into your routine. Monica Slanik, Academic Associate from the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy asked the WalkBEST research group for tips on walking well during physical isolation. 


If you need an extra push for training, Jill Barker, Director Macdonald Campus Athletics and Recreation and regular Montreal Gazette contributor, provides an 8 week walk or run 5K training program to help you get started.


Managing Stress 

What can you do to manage your stress? Psychiatry Chief Dr. Gustavo Turecki’s shares tips on how we can manage our COVID-19 related stress and anxiety.


Emotional Eating


Emotional eating is a relatively common behaviour that can have unwanted effects on health. What can you do if emotional eating is something you struggle with? Here are 5 tips from Mallory Frayn, a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at McGill University and researcher in the Health Psychology Laboratory.


Caring for Others

These times are definitely not "business as usual." Our work priorities may have shifted, as well as our family priorities, changing our day-to-day tasks and realities. Like the classic oxygen mask metaphor, it is important to take care of ourselves, not just for ourselves, but also so that we can better care for our loved ones.

Coupling and COVID-19


Stay-at-Home measures can put a strain on our relationships. Dr. Heather B MacIntosh, psychologist, Associate Professor and Director of the MScA Couple and Family Therapy Program at McGill, has written a blog post about how the pandemic may affect couples and families and suggests 7 strategies for reducing distress and conflict that may arise in isolation. 

Balancing Work and Elder Care


While some of us are facing the challenges of working from home and parenting, as explored in our last issue some of us may (also) be looking after older loved ones or feel concerned about family at a distance, in senior residences or living alone.


Juggling work and elder care in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak comes with its own set of challenges. The Harvard Business Review explores the topic and how to manage.

McGill Parents Network


If you are looking to connect with other McGill employees with children, join the McGill Parents Network Yammer group by logging into Yammer and searching for the group name. This group was created to provide McGill parents with kids at home an opportunity to connect and support each other, as well as share resources, tips, insights, and funny stories!


Caring for the Community


The Corporation for National and Community Service says that "volunteering improves psychological and physical health. Volunteers reap the benefits of feeling a personal sense of accomplishment while building social networks that, in turn, support them in times of stress." If you find yourself with time on your hands, you can volunteer to help keep your team, other McGill colleagues, or your neighbourhood connected-- it's important for your health and the health of our workplace!


Connecting with Your Team


As a supervisor, you have an additional task to help your employees feel heard, valuable and safe. You may have questions on how to navigate this period of uncertainty while complying with social distancing measures. LinkedIn offers a few guidelines on adapting your leadership approaches, and tips on how to “virtually” connect with your team during these unique times. 


Employee Spotlight: Christopher Carson


When My Healthy Workplace (MHW) reached out to Christopher Carson, head of McGill’s Security Services, a few weeks ago, he was on campus in the heat of the action. At the time, some McGill essential services – including security and waste management employees were engaged in the much needed distribution of masks, gloves and gowns for the Jewish General Hospital and the Glenn Site.


As an active member of the MHW Working Group, Chris has always shared his appreciation for the incredible work that is being done across McGill to keep our community safe and healthy. Now is no exception.

Caring for Colleagues


We all have different ways of coping with stress. We cannot compare our challenges as this pandemic is affecting all of us in different ways. What we can do, however, is show empathy and kindness towards others. Find out more in this article from the Harvard Business Review which focuses on awakening compassion in the workplace.


Connecting through Yammer


Would you like to feel more connected to your colleagues? Do you have a hobby you would like to explore? Check out groups on Yammer like the McGill Parents Network and NCSocial Boardgames.

The well-established MHW Ambassadors Network is also accepting new members; be the first to know about healthy workplace opportunities, and make a difference in the McGill community as we work virtually.


Volunteer in your Community


Would you like to feel more connected to your community amidst our social distancing constraints? The Quebec Government, with the help of the Fédération des centres d’action bénévole (FCAB), has created a web portal dedicated to the pairing of potential volunteers with organizations that offer essential services.


Opportunities for Sharing


Do you have coping tips and tricks to share with the university? MHW would love to help you share your expertise with the community. 


The Faculty of Medicine has initiated a Thank Our Health Workers campaign. Learn how to take part and recognize McGill’s medical community for their dedication.

Mental Health Week - May 4-10, 2020


As we face COVID-19, we need each other more than ever. Mental Health Week is just around the corner and this year's theme is social connection. Visit www.mentalhealthweek.ca to learn more and download communication tools to share with your colleagues, friends and family.


A Final Message from My Healthy Workplace


How has social distancing affected your work? What have you and your area done to adapt? We’d love to see you in action! Share your story, and we will share it in the next newsletter with the rest of the McGill employee community.


We want to hear from you!


Send the MHW News editorial team an email to let us know what you think of this issue, to suggest an initiative to highlight, or if you are interested in sharing a story.





My Healthy Workplace