Self-Care for HR in the Time of COVID-19

Self-Care for HR in the Time of COVID-19

HR Burnout is Real

It’s no surprise that those in HR are some of the most stressed professionals in the workplace (Perkbox, The 2020 UK workplace stress survey). They wear multiple hats and deal with workplace politics on a daily basis. Human Resources is required to address employee-related emergencies, conduct terminations, deal with bad behavior and work long hours to complete heavy workloads. Now, organizations are asking HR to provide even more support and leadership during an unprecedented public health crisis, COVID-19. Without proper self-care and stress management, the chances of burnout and more severe consequences among HR professionals are high.

PIHRA hosted a #RealHR event in Riverside that addressed this exact issue of self-care on March 5, 2020. PIHRA #RealHR – Riverside “Who cares for HR?” took place as the COVID-19 public health crisis and response started to unfold in the United States. During the event we jokingly used elbow bumps instead of handshakes to greet each other and had bottles of Purell handy, but we didn’t realize how important and relevant the speakers and their presentations would be to our community in the coming weeks.

Now it is more critical than ever for our community to care for themselves as the COVID-19 pandemic impacts their professional and personal lives.

Take care of yourself

Taking care of yourself is paramount. As a role model in the workplace, you need to maintain your composure and a strong immune system to help yourself, your workforce, and your company through these times of uncertainty and illness. You are responsible and in control of your health, mind, and body, so it’s up to you to recognize and be proactive if the negative effects of stress or burnout start to take their toll.

Neuroleadership: Emotions, Thoughts, and Actions

We’ve all been there. Emotions are bound to bubble up at work. Sometimes you feel angry, sad, disappointed or neutral. Your emotions can run the gamut. It’s very human to quickly follow an emotion up with an action. For example, many can identify with getting angry with a co-worker or direct report and quickly writing an angry email or yelling at them in the office. Mike Warren, Executive Coach and Strategy Consultant, explained how changing our automatic responses in situations like this is beneficial to everyone. Instead of emoting then acting, those who pause long enough to think and then act experience far more positive and successful interactions in their professional and personal lives.

As we grow as professionals, it is important to find ways to create awareness about the way we feel and how we react to situations. This process will help you reprogram your negative thinking patterns to more positive patterns. An easy way to interrupt a negative thought or situation is to take a break. Go for a walk. Splash cold water on your face. Call a trusted colleague that can help you reason things out. Avoid the temptation of thinking the matter is too urgent to take a break. The situation will still be there when you return. The only difference is that you will have had more time to reflect and act in a way that has positive consequences for you, your employees, and your organization.


Food can affect your body by either feeding your anxiety, stress and/or depression, or boosting your energy, mood, and immunity. Jennifer Cassetta, a nationally recognized health and empowerment coach discussed how you can starve stress instead of feeding it by changing your eating habits, staying hydrated, and moving.

“There are two food groups in our office culture, caffeine and sugar,” explained Jennifer Cassetta. “These two things will feed your stress. Caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands, which are responsible for the fight or flight mechanisms in your body.” The infamous “donuts in the lunchroom” scenario also fuels stress.

What happens when you constantly stimulate your adrenal glands and/or ingest sugar? When caffeine starts overstimulating your adrenal glands, you can experience adrenal fatigue, or hypoadrenia, which is when your adrenal glands get exhausted and unable to produce adequate quantities of hormones that your body needs to function properly. Hypoadrenia is usually connected with chronic stress. Overindulging on sugar products such as donuts, bagels, and pizza, also has negative effects on your body. Sugar spikes insulin levels, increases inflammation and causes obesity. Admit it, you never feel good after eating that 2nd sugary donut.

Instead of drinking coffee and eating sugar products, below are some alternatives. Incorporate these beverages and snacks into your daily life today.

Caffeine Alternatives Snack Alternatives
  • Green, black, or white tea
  • Herbal teas
  • Flavored or sparkling waters
  • Matcha or turmeric lattes
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds

And don’t forget about proper hydration. Staying hydrated clears brain fog, increases cognitive function, decreases sugar cravings, clears skin and improves muscle endurance. “How much water should I drink?” Simply divide your body weight by two to get the number of ounces of water you should be drinking every day. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking 75 ounces of water every day!

Physical Activity can help you in difficult times

Jennifer, who has a 3rd degree black belt, spoke about finding martial arts during a very difficult time in her life and stated that it was key to helping her navigate life at the time. Movement and physical activity are key components of self-care.

Studies show that exercise and physical activity increase your self-confidence and overall, the quality of life. Here are a few exercises that Jennifer recommended doing while sitting at your desk. You will feel better and you deserve it.

Desk Exercises from Jennifer Cassetta

Body stretch:

Inhale deeply and on the exhale, stretch your arms to the right, stretching your intercostal muscles on the left side of your body. Inhale and come back to the center; on the next exhale,  stretch your arms to the left, feeling in your right intercostal muscles being stretched. Repeat two more times on each side.

Wrist stretch:

Stretch your arm in front of you with your palm facing upwards. With the free hand, grab your fingers and lightly pull them to the back. Repeat with the other arm.

Chair squats:

Lift your rear end off your chair and hold for a few seconds. Repeat 5-10 times as needed.

Seeking Treatment and Debunking Myths About Depression

Treatment of stress, anxiety and depression is not one size fits all. Everyone responds to stress differently because of past experiences and/or other unique factors. During the RealHR event the speakers, particularly, Dr. Ashley Zucker, MD, Chief of the Department of Psychiatry for Kaiser Permanente San Bernardino, discussed different ways to cope with stress, burnout, anxiety and depression.

There is no one magical treatment to help anyone battling stress and depression. Dr. Zucker talked about taking a more comprehensive approach to working through these types of issues. This can include daily meditation, altering self-talk, group therapy, and medication.

As an example, Dr. Zucker shared what she does to help her get rid of work anxiety before going into the house to be with her husband and kids. She does a “squeegee visualization” for 30 seconds before she gets out of her car. She visualizes a squeegee washing away all the incidences that created stress for her that day.

It’s also important to know when to seek treatment. When you start to notice any changes in your appetite, sleep, energy levels and a pattern of disengagement, you probably want to seek help and contact a healthcare provider to discuss your options. Seeking treatment is a sign of strength.

Thank you for being part of our community

We want to give a special thank you to PIHRA Riverside, our speakers, attendees, sponsors, food caterers and all our members for helping our community thrive. We look forward to seeing you at the next #RealHR event coming soon.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at or if we can be of service.

Eliset Zapien