COVID-19 Stress & Anxiety

Feeling stressed or anxious because of Covid-19? You’re not alone.

Physical distancing, self-isolation and quarantine were words not often spoken, yet now we are bombarded with that messaging daily. Maybe you or a loved one has been laid off, or you have concerns that may happen. Perhaps you are an essential worker in the medical profession, at a grocery store, other food service or an essential supply chain worker, in journalism or the media. Or you may be working in a work environment that is in a constant state of flux dealing with a constantly shifting landscape that changes rapidly. Working remotely, re-engineering processes and policies on the fly at breakneck speeds. Constant change. Leaders, human resource professionals and employees; no one immune to the situation and it can sometimes feel like trying to drink out of a fire hose. Impossible.

Maybe you are on a 14-day (or more?) isolation period because you travelled recently or you are one of the more vulnerable people because of your age or other medical condition. Does every tickle in your throat, cough or sneeze give you pause? Could I be getting sick? Am I already sick? What if I am sick? What if I make someone who is extremely vulnerable sick?

The stress is real. The tendrils of anxiety can also start to creep in for a multitude of reasons. The media can be overwhelming array of climbing stats: unemployed, sick, can be tough to look away. Now, more than ever, in this time of uncertainty, it is time to recognize that stress and anxiety are inevitably present in our new normal, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Even if the covid-19 curve flattens soon, which it hopefully will, the ripple effect will undoubtedly be prolonged.

Individuals and employers can both do their part to help support each other through this very difficult time.

For employers you can make sure you are doing all you can to alleviate stress and anxiety for employees. Communication, understanding and support are key. We must all try to remain hopeful even in the face of adversity. Providing calm, steady and reassuring messaging is more important that ever. Expressing support and appreciation is essential. Communicate any financial assistant programs that become available, if you had to lay people off perhaps you qualify for the wage subsidy and can hire them back on. Financial instability compounds your employees fears.

If you’re still operating, make sure your employees have the personal protective equipment (PPE) required to reduce the risk and keep them safe. Leverage Employee Assistance Program that offer help and support. Be informed and anticipate questions your employees may have in these uncertain times. Watch for warning sign of stress or burnout and allow employees the time they need to rest and recharge. Lead by example: take breaks. Almost everyone is feeling a little on edge and personal conflicts can abound. Acknowledge the challenges.

Recognize that employees are also feeling pressures outside of the workplace. Allow them latitude to deal with the plethora of demands that exist both within and outside of the organization. Many are working from home while caring for kids or parents. The best laid plans don’t always work out in the current environment. Tolerance, adaptability, flexibility and understanding are crucial. The new paradigm in challenging times. Be creative. Engage employees at all levels. Innovative solutions are needed and those organizations that can adapt and that support their employees will be the most likely to navigate through these tumultuous times successfully. Hopefully many of these practices will last beyond the pandemic as our perspectives and priorities may shift.

Individuals: Take breaks. Shut off the TV. Put down your phone and take a break from social media. Remember to breathe. Go for a walk. If you can, outside. Just make sure to go alone and keep proper social distancing (2m/ 6ft minimum). Stay hydrated. Eat healthy. Get plenty of sleep. Listen to music. Seek out humour and brevity wherever you can find it. Stay connected to friends (at a distance of course!) Socializing is extremely important in times like these. There are many ways to stay connected. Phone calls, text, FaceTime, Skype or other online platforms that many of us are leavening about for the first time like Zoom.

In a world that seems to be spinning out of control we each may have a sense of wanting to control what we can. This can lead to challenges both at home and in the workplace. Be mindful. If you find you are reaching the end of your rope, you may be reacting negatively as a result. Allow yourself to feel the frustration for a time. But then try to pause and put things in perspective as we are all feeling stressed and anxious. Ask yourself what you can be doing for yourself as well as others.

Communicate with your employer on the challenges you are facing and how you are managing under the current circumstances. If you are feeling overwhelmed, seek support. Whether that is from family, friends or medical/therapeutic professional.

Be kind to each other. We are all in this together after all. Stress and anxiety in these times is completely understandable. Know that you are not alone.

unsplash-logoPhoto Credit Nikko Macaspac
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