HomeOpinion & AnalysisMaking mental health priority during trying times

Making mental health priority during trying times


The world has now changed. COVID-19 pandemic, quarantine, lockdown and exposed, are words that have suddenly become part of our everyday vocabulary. As this pandemic continues to grow, so does our anxiety. When a message which shows the COVID-19 statistics appears in our phone it keeps recurring in our minds as it becomes overwhelming and scary. Almost everyone has thanatophobia (fear of death) and the question everyone has is “what if I am next?”, this has caused a lot of mental health challenges.

Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. So, it is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and can cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety.

Impact of isolation

One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic for many people has been isolation. Even those living in areas relatively untouched by the COVID-19 virus have faced precautionary restrictions on public gatherings and other forms of social interaction. Proximity to others, particularly trusted others, signals safety to our wellbeing.

When we lack closeness to family and friends, our brain and body may respond with a state of heightened alert and can result in high blood pressure and stress increasing the risk of contracting chronic illnesses.

Just being away from co-workers for long can have a big impact on staff. When in quarantine or isolation for a long period — whether you are working from home voluntarily or are involuntarily quarantined people might start feeling low due to a lack of human interaction, or even worse, depression.

Develop and stick to routines

Many of us are missing our normal routines during the coronavirus-induced lockdown. There is no question that remote work is a change from getting up and going into the office everyday.

But developing and sticking to a regular routine create a sense of normalcy, and it’s something managers should encourage.

Without routine, you may be tempted to engage in unhealthy behaviours such as overworking or watching television simply because you feel there is nothing else to do.

To stay organised, make a to-do list of the items you want to get done throughout the day.

If you are struggling to find enough activities to fill your day, try making a list before you go to bed of what you need to achieve the following day, even if there are only a few items on the list. Do each one in order, if you can, tick them off, so you can see and chart your achievements.

Information is key

One of the biggest factors leading to employee anxiety is fear of the unknown. Many people have a tendency to assume the worst when faced with uncertainty. Anxiety is reduced with facts, hence you are to set limits on news about COVID-19 especially from information sources that are not recognised. In these trying times, one must learn to manage stress and positively cope with stressful situations.

Try to make a conscious effort to disconnect and adopt healthy news habits, turn off pushy notifications from news apps and seek factual information from trusted sources.

You are also supposed to set limits on your media consumption. Excessively checking updates of coronavirus news can leave you stressed and emotionally exhausted.

Be active and exercise always

Being physically active helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol and can significantly reduce the risk of heart diseases, stroke and diabetes.

Staying active not only ensures you keep your body moving, but exercise also helps to reduce stress, boost your energy levels and keep you more alert.

Throughout this time of uncertainty, something we can take control of is our health and well-being.

We should try to keep active, eat healthy and exercise.

Stay connected

Self-isolation can get you pretty lonely, especially if you are a sociable individual. Thankfully, technology can facilitate almost the next best thing: online chats and video calls etc. Communication is key to know what is going on with your colleagues, and also for your own mental health. Keep in touch with your family, friends and colleagues via Skype, FaceTime, a phone call, texting etc. Keep in contact with a trusted other, know their phone number and check on them. Talk to trusted friends about how you are feeling. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support.

Staying connected is important as it helps us to manage stress and studies found it helps us to live longer and happier lives. Social connections are the threads that bind our communities together. By prioritizing human interactions and finding meaningful ways to connect during this time of physical distance and social isolation, we can support each other and our own health and wellbeing.

Learn to manage stress

We all feel stress at one time or another. It’s a normal and healthy reaction to change or a challenge. But stress that goes on for more than a few weeks can affect your health. We should make sure that stress does not go to the extent of making us sick by learning healthy ways to manage it. You should be in a position to identify the situations that cause you stress, these are called stressors. Once you understand where your stress is coming from, you can come up with ways to deal with your stressors. If you can’t manage stress on your own, you may want to talk with your healthcare provider. Or consider seeing a therapist or counsellor who can help you find other ways to deal with stress.

Most organisations offer health insurance and wellness programmes to ensure they are protecting their staff’s physical health. Yes, that is laudable but if they forget the mental health, they would have missed it because physical health is as good as mental health. Improved mental health in the workplace leads to decreased absenteeism, improved recruitment and retention, lower healthcare costs, and increased productivity. Promoting treatment of mental health in the workplace makes your employees, and the organisation as a whole, more successful.

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