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Mental health in times of crisis

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused major disruption to businesses and economies worldwide. Drastic measures have seen millions of people locked down. Working from home has become the new normal for many, while others have been furloughed to keep jobs viable.

This situation can be stressful and leaves people vulnerable to mental health issues. However, simple steps and employer support can make a vital difference.

Self isolation and stress

Governments around the world have responded to COVID-19 with drastic lockdown measures aimed at delaying its spread and mitigating damage to economies. What is often overlooked is the psychological toll that this type of outbreak can take on individuals.

Periods of self isolation, remote working and social distancing, alongside wider concerns surrounding COVID-19 or job security, cause significant surges in stress and anxiety for many people.

Stay connected

In terms of work, most of us 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.

However, it is also vital to make an effort to keep in touch with friends and family. Being able to discuss issues openly will help overcome any anxiety caused by the uncertain situation.

Switching routines

Bringing the workplace into the home can prove to be a testing experience, as physical spaces ordinarily used for living become devoted to work. It is more important than ever to have switching routines between work life and home life, whether that is physically packing equipment away or taking some exercise away from your desk.

Use to-do lists to plan your day, although remember that completing all jobs may be unrealistic, so prioritise tasks. Working from home and using video conferencing technology can be tiring: workers are encouraged to take more short breaks than normal. It is also essential to have something to look forward to, so reward yourself for completing tasks.

Staying healthy

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 prudent for employers to focus on fostering healthy lifestyles, as well as supporting employees in other ways through these challenging times.

Keep learning

The economic downturn caused by COVID-19, with workers furloughed and job security threatened, is combining with changes caused by technological advances to exacerbate existing challenges in the work environment. However, furloughed workers are allowed to undertake training, so this time can be used as an opportunity to upskill or re-skill ready to meet the challenges of the future.

Outbreaks cause mental as well as physical stress, but simple steps have the power to make a significant difference.