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When a close family member was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, 'mental health' had become more than just a term for my family. And so, from a very young age, I was conscious of the importance of taking care of not just the body but also the well-being of the mind. But being cognizant of mental health becomes even more critical given the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The fear of being infected and the isolating experience of social distancing coupled with concerns of job insecurity and the loss of income, has made people at risk of suffering from poor mental health. Many people I speak to in both a professional and personal capacity are expressing their anxiety, feelings of depression and difficulty focusing on their jobs. But we need to be mindful and try to combat the ill-effects this pandemic can have on our mental health, because each of us also play the greatest role in influencing the mental health of others, especially our loved ones. I strongly believe the onus of fortifying ourselves mentally and physically lies to a great extent on us. So, here are some of the coping mechanisms I am benefiting from, and wanted to share with you:
Limit the time you spend on social media: While we are physically distancing, we should also distance ourselves from social media. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, social media does not serve as an escape or haven but a lot of posts can in fact induce more anxiety and fear. Whilst casually scrolling through your feed, you will inadvertently be exposed to pandemic-related content and also a lot of fake news around this virus. Thus take the time to digitally detoxify every day. I also limit my news consumption to just once a day. You could also use the ‘Screentime’ functionality in ‘Settings’ on your iPhone to set limits on your usage for different apps.
Focus on the here and now: Start each day afresh by embracing the mindset of 'one day at a time and 'one task at a time'. This situation is new for all of us and will take some getting used to. There are developments around this pandemic happening by the day. None of us have any control over the situation, so the best thing to do is to be disciplined about establishing some sense of structure around our day, taking it hour-by-hour, day-by-day and so on. Think of how you can achieve 'quick wins'!
Be wary of the blurring lines between your personal and work life: As we get used to working from home, it becomes easy to continue working post office hours. For many of us living in apartments without an outdoor space, it can be difficult to get a change of scene, but it's time to try different things, for instance, I enjoy my coffee break in my kitchen and don't bring it back to my work desk. I also ensure I take my one hour lunch break because I value the benefits of some downtime.
Get some exercise and movement: Mental health requires you to be physically active as well. With so many of us spending hours sitting working from home, not being able to walk outdoors, we have to dedicate 30 minutes or an hour to get some movement. I personally workout using SWEAT (you can subscribe for the 1 month free trial). Some of my friends highly recommend Yoga with Adriene. Personal trainers across the world are live-streaming their workout sessions for free. Explore the options and try out what works for you.
Enjoy virtually (and informally) connecting with your colleagues: With social distancing, working from our homes has created a tendency of fewer social interactions usually had with colleagues within an office environment. While we continue to connect with colleagues on work-related matters, it is also important to continue the conversations informally. Many professionals are organizing lunch breaks and coffee catch-ups over Skype. We are continuing our Friday 'Power Hour' office ritual even today - except this time, it's in the virtual world, with each of us sharing our achievements from the week as we enjoy a beverage of our choice from the confines of our home.
Ultimately, know that there is no 'right way' to cope. Each of us requires our own ways, our space, and pace to deal with this huge cloud of uncertainty. I hope my suggestions above can help some of you but we have a lot more tips on this topic here. Michael Page Africa's Career Advice section also has a plethora of tips on job searching, CV writing, interviews and career growth.
Take care and stay safe! We continue to stand our commitment to service: for a hiring conversation or consultation, please contact us at any time.