8 ways to manage your mental health during COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new and unique challenges – for all of us. We continue to navigate unchartered waters with this virus making it important to find new ways to work and interact while also taking care of our mental health and well-being.

Here, we offer some practical tips on taking care of your mental health and well-being:

Create a dedicated workspace

A home office setup, whether in a home office or a kitchen, is crucial to separating work from home and staying productive at the same time. Something as simple as setting up a monitor in a corner and designating it as a workspace can keep you away from the drawbacks of working in bed. This also gives you the freedom to move about your house without linking the whole space with work, meaning you can log off at the end of the day and not feel obliged to work after office hours.

Maintaining structure & routine

Set a schedule and stick to it. Working designated hours, and then stopping when those hours are up, will give your brain time to work and time to rest. While working remotely does mean that there is added flexibility with your personal life schedule, it’s best to stick to a schedule where you can be productive, get your work done and call it a day when work hours are up.

When working from home, be sure that you are working reasonable hours. It can be tempting to work more while you have your work at home, however it can also be taxing on your health and well-being, so stick to a schedule with healthy boundaries.

Martin Fox, managing director at Robert Walters Toronto says, “Managing your mental wellness is just as important after work as it is during working hours. So, once you log off, put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and seek comfort in the things that matter to you and make you happy.”

Stay connected

For some people who crave the social interaction of the office, working from home can hold unexpected drawbacks. If you’re an extrovert and you really are driven by being around other people, and then all of a sudden, maybe you’re working from your home space and you don’t have that in-person connection, that can be really hard. And then of course, if you are a person who needs privacy and you suddenly have your three kids and a spouse at home, it’s not normally [the environment] you are in.

If you’re feeling isolated or lonely, use group chats, videoconferences, and more frequent phone calls to get the connection you need. And if you are someone who needs time alone to think or recharge, discuss that need with your family and work on getting that time into your schedule. Also, pay attention to how your energy ebbs and flows throughout the day and try to schedule the best tasks to your energy level accordingly.

Manage your media and information intake

Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts; not rumours and misinformation. Gather information at regular intervals from the WHO website and local health authority platforms in order to help you distinguish facts from rumours. Facts can help to minimize fears.

“Being exposed to large volumes of negative information can heighten feelings of anxiety. Minimize watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 that causes you to feel anxious or distressed”, Martin comments.

Maintain your physical health

This is not only good for your physical health, but your mental health too. Periodically, get up and move around your home. Walking, stretching, planks or jumping jacks, whatever works best for you to reduce or alleviate stress and increase endorphins. While our favorite gyms and fitness centers are closed during this time, many are offering free livestreams or app-based workouts for members and the general public, so check online to see what’s available.

It’s no secret that sleep plays an important role in good physical and mental health. Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling irritable and exhausted in the short-term, but it can also have serious long-term health consequences as well. Lack of sleep is linked to a number of unfavorable health consequences including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Maintain healthy sleep patterns while working remotely by scheduling ‘bedtime’ into your routines.

Take regular breaks

Just like any working environment, giving yourself breaks is incredibly important to let your brain and body relax. Take a 15-minute walk, go make some lunch or catch up with a loved one on the phone—whatever you do, though, do not work yourself to the bone without letting yourself take a break away from screens, meetings and work. One study has shown that breaks can actually significantly improve productivity levels and a person’s ability to focus.

Engage with support tools your organization makes available

This is a challenging time for all of us – and whether we are at work or not, many employers provide support.

Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs, and wider benefits. Use these wherever you need - many have dedicated apps and websites and they are not just about counselling.

It is quite likely that we will need to accept a certain amount of distress and anxiety in the short and medium term. You may need to think differently - for example doing exercise workouts from videos instead of attending fitness classes. You may want to consider looking at mindfulness practice using apps such as Headspace and Calm, or finding ways to help others in your community.

Ask for help

If you are experiencing feelings of anxiousness, low mood, or anything else out of the ordinary for you as an individual, it is important that you seek help. 

Read more of our career advice articles here.

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