Goldman Sachs’ Global Medical Director on How We Adjust to the ‘New Normal’
We sat down with Dr. Michael Rendel, the firm’s global medical director, to discuss how we can stay healthy – and build resilience – as we all adjust to the ‘new normal.’
This is an unprecedented time, and many of us are experiencing anxiety or sadness. What do you recommend?
Dr. Rendel: It is important to acknowledge how we are feeling during this extraordinary time. When you feel overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths and focus on the sensations that you are physically experiencing to evaluate what is actually happening in the present moment. This allows you to redirect your attention accordingly, helping you to manage your whole self effectively.
As you go about your day, remember that we are all adapting to this “new normal” and learning as we go. Avoid criticizing or blaming yourself and others, and instead try to adopt an attitude of experimentation. Reflect on each day or week by asking yourself questions like:
- What new thing did I do today/this week?
- What worked well? What didn’t?
- What did I learn? What can I try myself?
- What one thing will I do differently tomorrow/next week?
This will help you celebrate your wins, no matter how small, and empower you to engage in activities that can create positive outcomes. Visit the CDC website for additional guidance and resources, including when to contact your healthcare provider.
Many of us are working remotely full-time for the first time in our careers. How can we build routines that promote good physical and mental health?
Dr. Rendel: When working at home, it can be easy to stay in front of our computers for the whole day, without taking the normal breaks we are accustomed to in the office. Our usual routines and rituals are disrupted, so it’s important we put new arrangements into practice. There are a few simple things we can do to maintain a healthy routine.
- Take breaks throughout your day. Take time for short periods of rest at least once an hour; you can set an alarm or timer on your phone to help you. Look away from your computer, walk around the room or do a few standing stretches. Try to create a “work day” where you have designated start and end times.
- Maintain a schedule. Begin your day as would have normally -- doing all the things to get ready for your day. For me, making sure I complete my usual morning routine (e.g., shower, shave, brush my teeth, etc.) makes it feel more like a regular day. You may find it easier to follow an eating schedule when you are in the office, but your body still needs to be fueled on a schedule while working from home. This will help maintain adequate energy levels and optimize your productivity throughout the day. However, try not to snack mindlessly throughout the day, and keep those foods out of plain sight.
- Stay hydrated. Try to drink at least 64 ounces of water or other healthy liquids (e.g., unsweetened tea) each day. Keep a water bottle at your home workstation and take breaks throughout the day to refill it – even if your fridge is just a few steps away.
- Connect with colleagues and friends. It is important to proactively stay connected during this period, because it is easy to feel isolated. If possible, schedule video meetings with your team and virtual face-to-face conversations with family and friends throughout the week. Even a text message to check-in or sending a picture will help you stay connected.
Additionally, if you are caring for children, it is equally important to keep them to their routine. If they are used to breakfast at 7:30 am and dinner at 5:30 pm, try to maintain that. If you have a co-parent at home, work out shifts between the two of you for rotating between “on-duty” and “off-duty” throughout the day, giving both of you room and time to focus on what you need to accomplish.
What do you recommend for staying active in our homes (and especially in small spaces, like apartments)?
Dr. Rendel: Many of us may feel that we are given a free pass from being active now that the gyms are closed; however, it is more important than ever for us to incorporate physical activity into our days. During the workday, try to walk around your room or home while you are on conference calls. You can easily incorporate bodyweight movements, like squats, lunges and push-ups throughout your day as an active break. You can even run in place or do jumping jacks.
If it is available to you, aim to take a walk around the neighborhood or block each morning or evening, while maintaining an appropriate social distance from neighbors, of course. There are also many online resources where you can follow along with free fitness classes that require little or no equipment.
How do you keep an optimistic outlook during this period of uncertainty?
Dr. Rendel: One of the best ways to maintain a positive mindset during troubling times is to focus on expressing gratitude. Each day, mentally note three things that you are grateful for – for example, more time with your family, a video chat session with a friend, or your supportive team. When we focus our energy on being grateful, it puts things into perspective and we feel less stressed about seemingly bad circumstances.
Additionally, try to reframe this time as an opportunity to actually do some of the things you “never have time” to do. Whether it’s learning a new skill (which could be anything from calligraphy to a playing an instrument to Photoshop), meditating, home repairs, helping your children with their homework, or taking an online course, reinvest the time you would have spent commuting and prioritize those activities.
Any final words of advice?
Dr. Rendel: Remember, this situation won’t last forever. I recognize some of these things are easier said than done, so take it easy on yourself – temper your expectations and try not to harp on what used to be. While we aren’t sure when this period of uncertainty will end, there are many aspects of our lives that are very much still in our control. If we all approach this period with a positive mindset, prioritize our physical and emotional health, and utilize social connections for support, we can navigate this difficult period successfully.