Coping with COVID-19

The current coronavirus pandemic continues to cause immense suffering all over the world. Never before has the power of compassion to uplift and sustain ourselves, our loved ones, our frontline workers, and our communities been more clear. To help serve these needs, FACE has created this space to foster overall wellness by highlighting the compassion-driven work of our partners and allies in public health as well as resources to aid in self-compassion and self care.

Stories of Compassion

A few of our friends and colleagues describe why compassion is so important during COVID-19 and beyond. Their stories illustrate how people can come together even in these difficult times, and how approaching our work with a lens of compassion is more important now than ever.

Kenya Casey

Associate Director, Office of International Support, Health Programs, The Carter Center

How has looking at your work through a lens of compassion helped during the COVID-19 crisis? 

“We’re doing evacuations of our expats out of some of the countries. Some of them are able to get out; we’ve had some people get stuck in transit…Understanding the challenges and frustrations that they’re experiencing and assisting with the lens of compassion I think has been extremely helpful to decrease the amount of stress that people may experience when thinking about exposure to the virus, thinking about wanting to get to their loved ones and so forth and so that’s one area – assisting those who are trying to get home from their overseas positions.” 

Iyabo Onipede

Intercultural Development Consultant, Facilitator, Speaker, and Emotional Intelligence Coach

How has compassion impacted your life during COVID-19?

“I have really stressed expressing, to myself, self-compassion. I tend to work a lot, put a lot of stress on myself and I’m trying to be ok with: ‘Well I didn’t do all the cleaning and the spring cleaning and reorganizing of the entire house that I wanted to do and I haven’t yet written that bestseller book that I want to write during this time of COVID-19.’ So just having that self-compassion that, ‘wait a minute, there is something really big going on.’ Your expectations of yourself far exceed what your capacity is right now.” 

Dominic Vachon, MDiv, PhD

John G. Sheedy, M.D., Director of the Ruth M. Hillebrand Center for Compassionate Care in Medicine, University of Notre Dame

What is the role or value of compassion in global health?

“I’ve heard that some people in global health don’t always talk in terms of compassion, which is always surprising to me. Because to me the whole reason for the existence of global health is that, when there is suffering going on in the world, we notice that, we are moved by that, we want to do something, and we actually do something about it. So whenever one of those pieces doesn’t happen, when we don’t notice the suffering that is going on in the world, or we’re not moved by it, how can we respond to it? It’s extremely important in global health that we talk about compassion.”

Thupten Jinpa, PhD

Founder and President, Compassion Institute Chair of the Mind and Life Institute, Adjunct Professor of Religion, McGill University

How can we best cultivate compassion?

“I think the best way to cultivate compassion perhaps is to, first of all, recognize that compassion is a natural part of who we are as human beings — compassion is not something that we have to learn as a new skill. Secondly, we need to really pay more attention to everyday life, how compassion shows up. We take compassion for granted; we experience compassion, and then we move on. So, I think being able to pay attention to how compassion shows up in your own life and its effects, because when we experience compassion, we really feel a powerful connection with another person in front of us. Those are moments when we truly feel our humanity. Being able to recognize and pay attention to compassion, and then as much as possible, tie that part of who we are to our conscious intentions.”

Liz Grant, FRSE FRCPE MFPH

Assistant President, University of Edinburgh Professor of Global Health and Development, Director of the Global Health Academy

What is the role or value of compassion in global health?

“I think that compassion is the glue that holds all of the Sustainable Development Goals together. When we stand back and think about how these goals are going to be met, we realize that these goals are going to be met through collective action, which involves individuals, communities, and organizations making very particular decisions that depend on the belief that other people matter — that other people down the street, other people across the city, other people across part the country, other people on the other side of the world all really matter. Therefore, in order to actually make those decisions that involve change, people in global health need to have that  compassion in their heart. And believe that the actions they take are going to make something different in this world.”


“Global health is not just an academic discipline or one piece of work. Global health is really a whole movement. It’s about the whole values of healthiness across the globe, which manifests in a shared movement. To have a shared movement, we must have a shared heart, and compassion drives that shared heart.”

Shams Syed, MD MPH

Quality of Care Lead, World Health Organization

How can we best cultivate compassion?

“That is tough to answer because we are facing issues related to compassion throughout the world. Compassion becomes an increasingly urgent necessity to cultivate. Compassion is fundamentally a very, very local piece and fundamentally around human interaction. Compassion also goes much beyond health — I like to think that cultivating compassion can have an effect on hunger, poverty alleviation, and has an affect on a myriad of issues. Fundamentally, compassion enhances the health of an individual, the health of the family, the health of the community, and the health of a population.”

“Compassion is fundamentally important for global health and fundamentally important for personal wellbeing. Those that are working in global health often come into the field because of reasons related to compassion. Whether they’re able to keep that vision and drive is a question that remains unanswered. This is the type of question that needs to be explored more.”

Learn More

To learn more about the immense potential of compassion in addressing harms and fostering well-being during COVID-19, we invite you to engage with some of our partners in global health on compassion in healthcare during times of crisis.

Learn About Compassion in Action

Compassion in Action- Webinar Series | The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare

 

Read About Fostering Compassion in Uncertain Times

Blog | Center for Compassionate Leadership

Blog | Compassion Institute

Part of fostering compassion is extending self-compassion, especially during periods of prolonged stress. The following are ongoing resources to enrich mental health and cope:

Check-In with your Mental Health

Preserving Mental Health During the Coronavirus Pandemic | Global Health Institute, Emory University

Practice Gratitude

Practices for Grateful Living | NOW: A Network of Grateful Living

Meditate

Free Daily Meditation | Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics at Emory University

Hone Resilience Skills

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