A neuroscientist talks managing stress and carrying on research during the COVID-19 pandemic

How do neuroscientists manage stress? How is the research community adapting to the pandemic? We talked to our Director of Policy and Advocacy, Dr. Chantelle Ferland-Beckham and other CVB scientists to get insights.

Chantelle is a translational neuroscientist with more than twelve years of experience studying stress-related psychiatric disorders. Her research has focused on investigating the underpinnings of stress-induced pathology, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

How are you managing stress during the COVID-19 containment?

Being outside in nature has such a calming effect and my family and I try to get outside and be active every day. Although our choices are more limited now, it’s something we have prioritized throughout all of this. We have also been trying to get lots of projects done around the house and have found that keeping busy has helped our mental health a lot.

What advice would you share with other neuroscientists and the research community impacted by COVID-19?

I think it’s important for everyone to remember that you’re at home trying to work during a pandemic and not simply working from home. The distinction is important and allows us to keep expectations in perspective. Most of us are not able to work in the same way we are used to working and let’s face it, neuroscience experiments cannot be done at home at the kitchen table. But, there is still a lot of work that can be done, such as finishing that manuscript you’ve been putting off or writing grants, and as scientists, we are adept at solving problems using innovative solutions. Focusing on the positive of what we can accomplish, rather than what we can’t, helps to change our outlook of the current situation.

How have you adapted to the virtual working environment?

We are lucky in many ways because CVB was already a virtual organization and even before the pandemic, most of my department was virtual, meaning that in many ways, my work life has been one of the most consistent things throughout this changing environment. As an organization and department, however, we are taking extra time for virtual check ins with our team members and other partners that are experiencing remote work for the first time, offering them tips for making virtual work a success and seeing how we can help maintain progress at a time when many researchers want to do more.

Have you had to adjust or change your research processes?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all researchers to adjust their thinking about how we work together as scientists and how we move scientific progress forward. In our case, we are taking this time to plan out our experiments, work on data analysis and take deeper dives into the literature so that we can be ready to go the moment research becomes possible again. We are also taking the time to focus on other activities that allow us to make an impact on science outside of the laboratory, such as writing and submitting publications and attending virtual workshops. Because much of the work we do at CVB is done outside of the laboratory, we are able to continue pushing forward on many of our projects and have been easily able to adjust to drive innovation in a virtual environment. I think the long-term impact of this temporary stop to science is hard to really comprehend right now and may not be truly known for many years, but I think if any group can rise to the challenge, its scientists.

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About Cohen Veterans Bioscience (CVB)

Cohen Veterans Bioscience is a non-profit 501(c)(3) biomedical research and technology organization dedicated to advancing brain health by fast-tracking precision diagnostics and tailored therapeutics.