The coronavirus pandemic has brought about immense changes to our country and our workplaces.
Job security, our day-to-day role, weekly meetings and Friday night work drinks have been replaced by continued uncertainty, virtual calls, and feelings of isolation and loneliness. During this time, more people are finding themselves struggling with mental health issues (both pre-existing and new) as a result of increased depression, anxiety and other mental differences.
In these unprecedented times, mental wellbeing is more important than ever before. We take a look at how COVID-19 is affecting employees worldwide, and share some advice to help you with mental balance and wellness, both personally and professionally.
The impacts of COVID-19 on mental health
According to a study by The Guardian, 53% of Aussies are anxious about the threat of coronavirus — a 14-point jump on the week before. What’s more, 25% say they are worried about losing their job.
The uncertainty of job stability, coupled with the invisible, yet ever-present, COVID-19 threat means we are collectively feeling higher levels of stress and anxiety like never before.
On top of this, ReachOut says the loneliness and isolation brought on by social distancing and remote working can also leave people at a higher risk of developing mental health problems.
If left unchecked, these feelings could have significant negative impacts on your mental health, and in turn, your physical health.
How to spot the signs
All of us respond differently to stressful situations, and this is particularly the case when faced with the unknowns and changing challenges of COVID-19. Given the situation, it’s normal to experience some mental health impact — particularly when we’re isolated, working from home, and worried about job security and loved ones.
However, there are some warning signs that might suggest you’re facing depression or anxiety.
- Dips in mood or experiencing mood swings
- A general lack of motivation, or trouble getting out of bed at the start of the day
- Ongoing muscle tension or stress headaches
- Insomnia, restlessness or trouble sleeping
- Irritability or erratic behaviour
- Increased feelings of isolation due to social distancing
- Obsessive behaviours, such as washing hands compulsively
- Experiencing panic attacks
If you (or someone you know) is experiencing these signs, it’s time to take a step back, breathe deeply, and place a focus on your mental wellbeing.
Keeping your mental health in check during COVID-19
- Don’t underestimate the power of a (virtual) water cooler chat. Whether you’re dialing in for a Zoom meeting or catching up with colleagues over email, don’t just stick to business and work talk. Check in with your team, ask them how they’re doing and don’t be afraid to talk about trivial or mundane things. Equally, being honest about feeling low or sharing your ups and downs adds a level of transparency that allows your team to open up, showing that you are not alone in this.
- Allocate specific work hours, and stick to them. Resist the urge to check emails at all hours of the day. Work your usual hours (with regular breaks), and switch off when the day is done. If you’re having trouble with work-life balance, the Do Not Disturb setting on your phone can be your best friend.
- Focus on your physical wellbeing through exercise. Exercise is a natural mood elevator. Keep your body moving even in isolation — set aside 30 minutes every day to stretch, go for a walk, or do an online fitness class. Anything to get your body moving and up from your home office chair.
- Stay connected. Keep in touch with your friends and family with regular FaceTime calls, or on social media. Talking and laughing can help alleviate feelings of isolation through our important connections.
- Talk it out. Whether it’s with friends, colleagues, a therapist or a mental health hotline, it’s important to address your thoughts and fears. Talking through the situation is a powerful and cathartic experience that helps lighten your mental load.
- Avoid the news if it’s too much. While it’s good to stay informed, constant updates on the pandemic are hurting more than helping. Try to switch off (at least for a portion of the day).
Must-have mental health resources
If you’re struggling to stay mentally balanced, these resources can lend a helping hand:
- Headspace.This great free app encourages mindfulness and meditation in just ten minutes a day.
- Calm. Another app for meditation, Calm is specifically designed to help you sleep more, stress less and practice gratitude.
- Lifeline or Beyond Blue. If you need to talk to someone, these two support lines help you achieve better mental health during this difficult period.
- SWEAT by Kayla or Centr. For those who just need to move, these fitness apps will help you train, eat and live better while at home.
Now more than ever, it's important to look after yourself. With the right tools and support systems in place, you’ll be in a better position to navigate any challenges or negative thoughts that arise as a result of COVID-19.
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