It’s no secret that all of us have been impacted by COVID-19, whether it’s been financially, physically or mentally. It’s a challenging time, and a time that none of us were prepared to face probably ever in our lifetime. With no end date in sight and updates almost daily, it’s no wonder that it’s taking a huge toll on our mental health. It’s important to remember that mental health doesn’t discriminate. Last week, we held an important webinar with Dr. Jodie Lowinger, a clinical psychologist and anxiety expert, to discuss how we can best manage our mental health during this time. If you’d like to view the webinar, you can do so here. During this webinar, Jodie expressed that in times of uncertainty like COVID-19, it’s important we pivot and adapt to make the most of our situation. Naturally, as humans, we struggle with change. When we’re hit with something like a global pandemic involving a mandatory change, how do we adapt to a new kind of normal? How can you take care of yourself during this temporary normal we’re experiencing? We’ve gone through the crux of the crisis management phase, so how can we push through this and transform it into a high performing stage? As humans, we all experience anxiety to some degree. According to Jodie, 25% of people experiencing anxiety require clinical attention at some stage in their life. So with this being said, it’s no surprise that we’re currently experiencing an anxiety and stress epidemic as a result of the context we’re currently living in. At present, there have been almost 2 million reported cases of COVID-19 and over 120,000 deaths. This can cause severe anxiety, so it’s important to check in with yourself during this time of uncertainty when COVID-19 is front of mind.
How can we manage worry, stress and anxiety in a crisis?
We know that as humans, we struggle with uncertainty and it’s no different with COVID-19. It ignites our primitive instinct – we want to know what’s lurking around the corner. So how can we manage this when we naturally fight uncertainty? It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together and we’re learning to embrace a new normal. Seek out the silver linings and try to be purposeful in finding opportunities and the connections amidst the disconnection. If you or your employees are experiencing feelings of distress and anxiety, please do not suffer in silence. There are many effective resources and practical strategies available to help you through this challenging time. These coping strategies can help you and make a positive difference in your personal and professional life. The following resources are available for free:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- ReachOut at au.reachout.com
- Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) on 1800 008 774
Alternately, you can access an employee assistance program (EAP). An EAP is a confidential service you can provide to your employees that offers professional counselling services. If you’d like to learn more about how an EAP can help you and your team through this tumultuous time, you can learn more here. Alternately, if you’re already using Employment Hero, you can talk to one of our small business specialists to find out more.
How can you feel empowered and in control?
There are a number of ways you can turn anxiety into action. There is no need to continue to suffer as there are many strategies that can turn problems around quickly. Dr Lowinger emphasised the importance and power of breathing and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings. Remember that you are human and your thoughts and feelings are valid. Additionally, you can do a range of powerful things to feel empowered and in control:
- Exercise and get moving
- Meditation, mindfulness and relaxation
- An activity that gives you a sense of achievement, challenge or mastery
- Something fun
- Practice kindness and gratitude
- Connect with others
How can you boost the mood of your team?
There are many ways to boost mood and typically exercise is one of them. There are many variants to exercise such as yoga, low impact walking, etc. Look into different ways you can engage your team, even if it involves setting up different activities at different times. This also extends to ensuring that everybody is eating well, staying hydrated and getting sufficient sleep. This also extends to making sure your team is getting out in fresh air. While we are currently socially distancing, there is still the capacity to get fresh air and sunshine, and to do the things that our body typically needs to do. It’s important to remind your team that these things can make a big difference to your overall mood.
How can you encourage your team to look for the silver linings, when they are really not coping with isolation?
You can encourage each member of your team to build accountability around exercise and movement. Movement doesn’t have to be anything too extreme. They could also go back to ideas of achievement, mastery and challenge (as mentioned above) and do small tasks everyday to build accountability. According to Jodie, this is all evidence-based treatment for depression. Every day you should be doing one small thing, something pleasant and something fun. It’s also important to practice kindness and gratitude and engaging with others during this time, particularly people who may be more isolated than others. Human acts of kindness can go a long way and amazing things come from times of adversity. Amazing things can happen when we’re faced with these challenges, so it’s our duty of care to reach out to your community and make sure everyone is ok. Reach out to your network and leverage resources to help everyone through this.
How do you look out for someone who you think is struggling?
We always want to help others but we can jump to problem solving too quickly. It’s our job to help them feel more empowered so they can help themselves. We need to ensure their feelings are validated and regularly check in on the emotions that person is feeling. That is so helpful for another human being as you’re saying “I’m sensing you’re feeling stressed out – I’m feeling concerned, how are you going and what can I do to help you?”. Ask open ended questions and experiment with emotional validation to bring the walls down for the person you’re concerned with.
The wrap up
With so much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, it’s normal to feel anxious and stressed. With a few strategies and mood boosting activities, you can be on the road to feeling more empowered and in control. If you’re looking for more information from Dr. Jodie Lowinger, you can visit the Sydney Anxiety Clinic here. If you’re an existing Employment Hero customer we recommend you look into offering an EAP service to your employees.
Want to learn more?
If you want to find out more about COVID-19 and how you can support your team during this time of uncertainty, we’ve put together a resource hub to help you. In the Employment Hero COVID-19 resource hub, we’ve got articles, templates, webinars and posters to help you get to the other side of this. We’re here to help you.