The DEEL Reel – Using SCARF in the Time of a Pandemic

This blog was written and graciously shared with the PCS educators by Carolee Hayes. Carolee was the original trainer in Pitt County for Cognitive Coaching and is a wonderful soul and great mentor. The DEEL Reel at the end of this blog explains SCARF in a brief video.

SCARF in the Time of a Pandemic

by Carolee Hayes

            Much is being written and spoken about stress and grief during this extraordinary time.  The work of David Rock on SCARF describes the social needs of the brain.  Many of us are isolated with little regular social contact.  The impact of those conditions is worth considering since everyone is currently affected. When the social needs are not met, the stressed brain shifts from higher-level neo-cortex functioning to a fight or flight response.  Some examples that may describe how some are processing this experience follows.  Also offered are some questions to assist you in considering how to navigate this time of uncertainty.


One source of status is the rewards we receive from our work place.  When that is removed, we may suffer a sudden loss of what makes us feel valued and important.Having others who are dependent on us to provide and not being fully capable of doing so can also rob us of a sense of status.  Feeling helpless to support loved ones who may be sick or alone also causes us to feel loss of status.  My own identity as a helper who supports others is compromised by a feeling of powerlessness in trying to make a difference while being stuck in my home. 

Helpful questions:

What are some things and people that keep you centered and grounded?

What are some things that help you to feel productive and contributing?

What might you need to let go of during this time?


Without a doubt, the lack of certainty about our own health, that of our loved ones, economic concerns, and a wondering about when this will come to an end is a constant companion to our thoughts.  Without answers, it is hard to feel hopeful, and we are regularly tested in our tolerance for ambiguity.

Helpful questions:

What are some constants in your life that you still have to hold on to?

What are some healthy ways you use to escape the barrage of concerns you are feeling?

How might this time of uncertainty be used to tap into your creativity?


To feel autonomous, one must have a sense of being self-directed and of having choices.  Today’s world limits our choices and impacts our sense of efficacy and being able to take charge of our lives.  Others are making decisions for us and we have no input into many things that affect us daily.  Staying aware of where we have choices and what we have control of is critical.

Helpful questions:

What sustains you and reenergizes you?

How might this time be a gift to use on something about which you are passionate?

What might you want to learn from this time?

How do you find solitude when you need it?


The need for connection is at the core of our DNA and is fueled by mirror neurons which support our capacity for empathy.  Oxytocin is released and gives us a feeling of well -being when we are relating with others in positive ways.  When we are void of relationships, we feel threatened and cortisol is released, decreasing our cognitive capacities.  Many of our usual relationships are being renegotiated in this time of separation.  You may find yourself craving human touch when the wonders of Facetime and Google Hangouts fail to satisfy your most basic need for relatedness.

Helpful questions:

Who do you need to be for others right now?

What might be some areas where you might need to reach out to others for support?

How might this time create opportunity to refuel relationships that have sustained you in the past?


            Rock suggests fairness may be the strongest need of the five in SCARF and affects perceptions of the other areas.  There are so many fairness concerns in these times of pandemic.  It’s not fair that my age group is most impacted.  It’s not fair that some have better health care.  It’s not fair that I lost my job and others are thriving.  It’s not fair that my family cannot get our basic needs met.  It’s not fair that the behavior of some put others at risk.  Lack of perceived fairness thwarts the possibility for productive collaboration in a time we need it most.

Helpful questions:

How might I be the best resource I can be to others who may be struggling?

What do I need to attend to in order to manage my emotions?

How can I assist my community in serving the common good for all?

In times of uncertainty, there are no black and white answers, only questions to keep us resourceful in being conscious in a world of ambiguity.  As you focus on your personal wellness, consider SCARF as a lens for doing self-checks on your well-being.

“Every hand we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.”

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

Please click on the picture below to watch the DEEL Reel Video.

DEEL Reel: Using SCARF in the Time of a Pandemic

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