5 ways NIH Director Francis Collins manages pandemic stress

Dr. Collins performs live music on stage.

Last updated on August 6th, 2021 at 11:47 am

“So many consequences of COVID-19 have made life extremely difficult for everybody in our country and across the world. Hardly anyone has been untouched,” says National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. While leading NIH during such a busy, challenging time, he says, “I am always looking for things that can help cope with the stress.”

Dr. Collins has found ways to stay connected and unwind during these difficult times—and they may help you, too:

On faith: “I’m a person of faith, and that perspective helps at times where the responsibilities are building up and the weight on my shoulders is more than I want it to be.”

On music: “Music is a great way to unload some of the stress. For me, that can happen by playing my baby grand piano or my guitar. I seek those out when I need to get up out of my home office chair, and at least for a few minutes use a different part of my brain.”

On physical activity: “I have a trainer who Zooms in twice a week at 5:45 in the morning. By the end of an hour I have been completely reduced to a puddle of sweat by weight training and cardio. But it makes me feel alive again and ready to face the day. And on the weekend, if it’s not too cold, I’ll get on my bike with my wife, Diane, and we’ll pedal 15 to 20 miles together.”

On finding support with relationships: “I’m very fortunate to have a soul mate in Diane, who is walking this road with me. She has the amazing ability, when I’m having a tough day, to provide a listening ear and wise counsel. I hope I do the same for her sometimes too.”

On staying connected with family: “I think I know more about my two daughters and five grandkids than I did a year ago, because we gather every Sunday in a Zoom call and talk about our experiences that week. Maybe there’s a small silver lining there.”

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