Mental health in times of crisis

25 Mar 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused major disruption to businesses and economies worldwide. Drastic measures have seen many people working from home or self-isolating, leaving them vulnerable to mental health problems. However, simple steps and employer support can make a vital difference. Here, we consider steps you can take.

Government advice and support

Governments around the world have responded to COVID-19 with measures aimed at delaying its spread and mitigating damage to economies.

These messages have hammered home the importance of personal hygiene and the protocols of social distancing. Meanwhile, businesses have received an unprecedented package of financial support. Employers have also had to ask their employees to stay away from the workplace and make alternative working arrangements at home. What is often overlooked is the psychological toll that this type of outbreak can take on individuals.

Self-isolation and stress

Periods of self-isolation and social distancing, alongside wider concerns surrounding COVID-19 or other contagious illnesses, cause significant surges in stress and anxiety for many people. Overwhelming media coverage, as well as the constant barrage of precautionary health advice, can create more worry. This can be exacerbated still further by the distribution of inaccurate information through social media channels.

Avoid speculation

It is therefore essential to avoid being caught up in the media storm and reading excessive speculative reports. Instead, stick to respected health-first websites, such as the NHS, to obtain clear, simple instructions and facts on contagious illnesses, and how to handle them. The government website also provides information on the latest COVID-19 measures: this can be found here.

Stay active

For those who are self-isolating or working from home, it can be easy to slip into a sedentary lifestyle. However, it is important to stay active, as studies show physical activity is vital in lowering the risk of depression. It is possible to exercise at home, or go for a run or cycle ride. Simply getting outside in the fresh air for a walk will be beneficial. If you do go outside, make sure to respect social distancing measures.

It is also vital to eat well and stay hydrated, which is crucial to both physical and mental health.

Stay connected

Make an effort to keep in touch with friends and family. There are many smartphone apps that allow individuals to connect via the internet. Being able to discuss issues openly will help overcome any anxiety caused by the threat.

In terms of work, we work better with the company and support of others. Employers will need to support staff by enabling them to work remotely. Laptops and virtual desktops that enable employees to log in and take part in tasks like video conferencing are essential to working from home successfully. This connectivity is crucial to both supporting the employee and helping the business continue to function whilst workplaces are closed.

Outbreaks cause mental as well as physical stress, but simple steps that both employer and employee can take benefit everyone.

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