October 18, 2021

"What's New with COVID-19" Panel Discussion with Megan Hays, Ph.D.

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image 5During UAB Heersink School of Medicine’s “What’s New with COVID-19” panel, Megan McMurray Hays, Ph.D., shared tips on how to maintain mental health and how to have conversations about the COVID-19 vaccine.  

Hays received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of South Florida in 2016. She is an assistant professor with the UAB Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and a leader within the UAB Medicine Office of Wellness.

Hays addressed the status of COVID-19 stress and exhaustion for adults and children 18 months into the pandemic. She touched on issues of weight management, sleep disruption, and burnout, especially among parents and essential workers.

To combat these pandemic side effects, Hays shares recommendations on maintaining mental health and wellbeing through exercise.  

Hays said, “The recommendation from the CDC is [to be active] 150 minutes per week. So, that’s something to strive for, but…something is better than nothing, and don’t get caught up in all or nothing thinking.”

Hays also recommended experiencing sunlight 15 to 30 minutes daily to boost serotonin, melatonin, and vitamin D levels and to rely on the social support of one or two trusted people.

Internal coping through mindfulness, assessing your feelings rather than trying to escape them, and practicing relaxation techniques, such as breathing, were other mental health and wellbeing tips offered by Hays.

Hays shared her advice on talking with vaccine hesitant and misinformed patients and parents.

“Stay curious. When you go into the conversation, you are not going into the conversation with the goal of persuading the person…It’s best to go in with [the mindset of] ‘I’m going to hear what this other person’s perspective is,’” Hays said. “It can help give the patient a sense of control and that they’re feeling listened to and heard.”

During the Q&A, Hays spoke on additional topics such as explaining the need for masking to children, managing burnout surrounding work, and supporting colleagues experiencing burnout.

Concerning workplace burnout, Hays said, “[To help prevent burnout, root] yourself back into your sense of meaning…It’s when we start to lose sight of our purpose and why we’re doing something that burnout can really get severe.”

You can hear more of Hays’ advice from the panel here