We are in worrying times but a few simple steps can enhance mental health and wellbeing.
Mental health and wellbeing was a big enough concern before the coronavirus crisis but, with most employees now confined to their homes, it takes on a whole new dimension.
Many households will have two parents adjusting to unfamiliar working practices whilst trying to cope with screaming kids, having to become instant homeschoolers and the realisation that they can no longer let off steam during an evening out or even a trip to the gym.
Not to mention the fact that emotions will already be running high due to fears of catching the virus itself as the media bombards us with horrific stories from Italy and elsewhere. But didn’t Rudyard Kipling say something about “If you can keep your head when all about you ……”?
Remember that we are all in this together, that it is only a temporary situation, and that medical experts around the world are working flat out to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as soon as humanly possible.
So, try and do your best to stay calm and follow official advice, especially around observing good hygiene habits.
Being subjected to large volumes of negative information can exacerbate feelings of anxiety so, because there is so much ’fake news’ around, try to limit your media intake as far as possible to credible sources. This should help you to maintain perspective and stay in control.
Remember also that the endorphins that result from physical exercise can help to create a sense of wellbeing, so take advantage of your one permitted outing a day to jog or walk. Even if you don’t have a treadmill or other gym equipment in the home you can still exercise by cleaning, dancing to music, going up and down stairs, sitting less often and participating in online workouts.
Adequate sleep is also an important mood enhancer, as is keeping your blood sugar levels stable by eating regularly – and as healthily as possible.
But be prepared to be a little flexible in your eating habits because your appetite may alter if your routine changes and you are less active than you used to be. Similarly, drinking enough water is vital for both your mental and physical health but such changes can also affect what fluids you consume and when.
Try to engage in activities that you find relaxing and, even if you don’t have a garden, at least open the windows to let in fresh air and try looking through them at the sky to help gain a sense of space. Aim also to regularly change the rooms you spend time in.
Maintaining frequent contact with friends and colleagues can also be very important for mental health because the workplace is a major source of social interaction for many people and being isolated from it can induce feelings of loneliness.
Participating in regular phone calls, video calls and virtual meetings can help employees to continue to feel engaged and part of the team. Having a virtual coffee with colleagues can in fact seem even more relaxing than meeting them in person.
Video chats with people or groups you would normally meet up with in person outside work should also be a high priority. Or, at the very least, arrange phone calls or send instant messages or texts.
If conversation seems to be running thin with some friends then arrange to watch the same film or TV programme or read the same book so that you can discuss it when you next contact each other.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge feelings of distress but, if things seem to be getting overwhelming, don’t hold back from seeking professional support.
Many employers offer health and wellbeing apps and employee assistance programmes (EAPs) – which can enable employees to receive free confidential stress counselling via phone. Some also provide private GP services and other useful facilities as add-ons to private medical insurance (PMI) schemes.
For example, Bupa’s Babylon Digital GP provides policyholders and their dependents with 24/7 health advice and online GP consultations, a clinical triage service with the option to text the GP afterwards, pharmacy and prescription services and referrals for any necessary further treatment.
Content correct at time of writing and is intended for general information only and should not be construed as advice.