EPSCoR in the Time of COVID-19

Image of covid virus next to epscor logo
Bill Michener March 27, 2020

All of our lives have changed in response to the latest pandemic. With respect to EPSCoR, most of us are working from home and are learning how to social-distance, video-conference with colleagues, and use Slack and other tools to maintain some semblance of normality in our workday. Upcoming EPSCoR meetings such as the All Hands Meeting, NSF Reverse Site Visit and, most likely, the New Mexico EPSCoR State Committee Meeting will become virtual—i.e., Zoom conference calls. In short, our way of life has changed, seemingly overnight and we do not yet see the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you are like me, you are anxious not only about the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and its impact on our daily lives, but also about the health and well-being of immediate family members, more distant relatives, friends and colleagues, and neighbors. Aside from hand-washing and Lysol’ing our doorknobs, how are we to deal with this upheaval?  I have talked with the EPSCoR office staff about this over the past couple of weeks and can offer a few simple suggestions based on our collective experience and wisdom. 

First, take care of yourself. We can’t easily provide emotional and physical support to our family, friends, and colleagues if our nerves are frayed to the max. So, avoid the constant intrusion of news and ease up on the work and task deadlines (the work will still get done and many activities can be assigned a lower priority). Take time out to go for a walk, play with your dog(s) or cat(s) or kid(s), listen to some new music, read that book or watch that old movie you’ve back-burner’ed, do yoga (online) with Adriene, meditate (e.g., see Tara Brach podcast for some wonderful guided meditations), attack that 500-piece puzzle, or discover some new recipes to try in the kitchen. And, most importantly, get your full complement of sleep.

Second, be kind and considerate of others.  We are all in this together and each one of us is dealing with our own unique set of individual and family circumstances. Now is a good time to phone or skype with friends and relatives; it will almost certainly brighten their day. Whether we are checking out at the grocery store or passing a stranger in the park, a look in the eye and a smile, a hand-wave, or a “good morning” or “thank-you” will help make your day as well as theirs.  Provide that extra space for your family members and friends and pardon the occasional gruff response and grumpiness.

Third, use your intelligence. Prioritize what is truly important, talk things over with your friends and family members, and avoid the 24-hour news cycle. This latter action was difficult for me, but I have been able to cut back to getting my news once per day; via listening to morning podcasts of “The Daily” (by the New York Times) and the less-frequent CNN podcast “Coronavirus: fact vs. fiction with Dr. Sanjay Gupta”—both of which are heavy on the facts and light on the drama. 

I and the staff at New Mexico EPSCoR hope that you stay healthy, provide the necessary emotional support for your family, friends, and others, and are mindful of how you respond smartly to this crisis.  We will be in touch with future news about EPSCoR activities and events.  In the meantime, feel free to share our ideas for coping and we would love to hear your best approaches.