Behavioral health and resilience

Series of staff presentations about behavioral health and tips to promote personal, team and workplace resilience.

May 2023

Dr. Kira Mauseth presented information about behavioral health and shared tips to promote personal, team and workplace resilience. Key takeaways include:

  • Many of us are operating with a more active Limbic System which is an area of the brain that controls our impulses and emotions. Because of this, it is important to take some extra time to process a situation before acting – especially if it is emotionally charged. This will result in better decision making.
  • When engaging with someone who is angry or overreacting, use the following tools to assist with de-escalating the situation:
    - Be aware of the energy you are bringing to the interaction, stay calm.
    - Observe your surroundings (avoid tunnel vision), identify risks and exit options.
    - Use active listening to try and uncover the source of the anger. In many cases, anger is an expression of grief, sadness or fear.
    - Engage with others after a situation to process the interaction and recover.
  • We can reduce anxiety by orienting ourselves to the present. Consider trying mindfulness (the practice of being fully present in a moment), deep breathing, meditation or a walk where all five senses are active.
  • Positive relationships keep us happier, healthier and help us live longer.
  • To develop strong connections with someone, work on communication, be aware of how you express yourself and show gratitude.
  • Burnout occurs when too much energy is going out and not enough is coming in. Healthy relationships restore energy and help with burnout.
  • Two of the best ways for supervisors to assist with employee burnout is to model healthy boundaries and participate in active listening – listen to connect and understand, not to fix.

See video below.

August 2022

Dr. Kira Mauseth presented the latest findings on how we're coping with COVID-19. Key takeaways include:

  • We're currently in a complicated landscape with “big gaps” in individual experiences. Some are feeling good, other are getting better and some are still significantly struggling.
  • All of us are operating with a heighten limbic response. Some are responding defensively, aggressively and impulsively. It’s important to pause and consider options and consequence before acting.
  • Active listening is the most “helpful behavior health intervention” we can offer each other. Listen with the intention to understand and express care.
  • When interacting with someone who is angry, engage in de-escalation or calming techniques including, “walk and talk,” slow down the rate of your speech and/or take a breath.
  • Many of us are having trouble remembering or focusing – this is normal and to be expected. It’s not just you, it’s your body’s response to prolonged stress and uncertainty. Give yourself and others grace.
  • Resilience is a process, and it is going to ebb and flow.

See Dr. Mauseth's PowerPoint presentation (PDF 764KB) and view the video below.

September 2021

Dr. Kira Mauseth presents the latest findings on how we're coping with COVID-19. Key takeaways include:

  • We're in a "disaster cascade" within the pandemic timeline, so it's normal to feel anxiety, depression and exhaustion.
  • Depression/anxiety is expected to increase with the delta variant concerns and return of rainy/cold weather. So now is the time to start making plans for activities/actions you know help you in tough times.
  • Work/personal time boundaries, and good sleep schedules, are more important than ever.
  • Our brains are in "protect/battle mode," so we have to take extra time to recognize good things that are happening and to ensure we're calm before reacting impulsively or in anger.
  • Building resilience helps us deal with the ongoing stress and challenges of the pandemic, but it's an on-going process. It's not a task that you do once and never revisit.

See Dr. Mauseth's PowerPoint presentation (PDF 2.2MB) and view the video below.

This series of presentations, shared at our all-staff webinars beginning in October 2020, build on each other to show how we're coping with the many challenges created by COVID-19 and how that changes over time. Each presentation offers research-based tips to identify and manage stress while we work to understand how others are dealing with theirs. The third, and most current, presentation is listed first.

June 2021

The state Department of Health's Dr. Kira Mauseth presents the latest findings on how we're coping with COVID-19 as many of us contemplate a return to “normal” life and shares the need for a roadmap to guide our way. Dr. Mauseth also explains why and how many of us are still feeling the effects of dealing with the pandemic even with encouraging news about vaccines and rates of transmission.

Key takeaways:

  • Reducing burnout with healthy, clear boundaries between work and time off
  • Managing compassion fatigue by celebrating victories – even the little ones
  • Reducing moral injury by focusing on addressable external causes, not internal blame
  • Developing resilience with the ADAPT and THRIVE processes

February 2021

Dr. Kira Mauseth provides an update during an all-staff webinar Feb. 9, 2021. She discusses the science behind the emotional and physical responses many of us are experiencing, the importance of focusing on resilience by staying connected, adjusting expectations and engaging in active listening.

At the request of several employees, Dr. Kira Mauseth also shared her Feb. 9 presentation (PDF 774KB).

Key takeaways:

  • Your brain on COVID is like driving over Snoqualmie Pass with compact snow and ice with our tire chains on. You must proceed carefully. But our brains need a break from that kind of long-term stress.
  • Common stress responses range from irritability and trouble concentrating to aggression and substance abuse.
  • Keep a pad by the bed and write down the day's successes, however small. Give yourself credit.
  • Boost resilience by developing social connections, a sense of purpose (things larger than ourselves), adaptability, flexibility and hope.
  • Practice active listening to increase the connections between the speaker and the listener.
  • She presents methods to identify and de-escalate anger in ourselves and in those we interact with.

October 2020

Developed for an all-staff webinar on Oct. 12, 2020, this first presentation from Dr. Kira Mauseth helps to show that we are all affected by COVID-19 in our daily lives in ways that we may not recognize. It explains where we are on a larger scale with how we are each responding to this pandemic emotionally and physically at home and in the workplace. She explains the value of promoting personal, team and workplace resilience during COVID-19.

Specific ideas are shared about how to communicate and interact more effectively with others in the context of COVID-19, and how to increase our own sense of strength and resilience.

Key takeaways:

  • Active listening is not listening to respond, but truly listening to what someone is trying to tell you. Curious about what that means? Check out the video at the 28:00 mark.
  • Emergency responders and other “can do” people like the team at WSDOT are not immune to being affected by the stress associated with the pandemic and related issues.
  • Professionals use all the tools in the toolbox. Please avail yourself of the resources available to you.
  • You are not alone. We are all struggling in our own way and need our own recipe to manage the day-to-day and be resilient. Walking and exercise helps Dr. Mauseth a lot – about 50 miles a week and 30 minutes daily rain or shine. It helps clear her head, prepare for the day and concentrate. That may not work for you and that's ok! Try different things and find what sticks.

If you need assistance, Employee Assistance Program resources are available to help. Also check the Washington State Coronavirus Response webpage.

Slow down – lives are on the line. 

In 2023, speeding continued to be a top reason for work zone crashes.

Even one life lost is too many.

Fatal work zone crashes doubled in 2023 - Washington had 10 fatal work zone crashes on state roads.

It's in EVERYONE’S best interest.

95% of people hurt in work zones are drivers, their passengers or passing pedestrians, not just our road crews.