Managing the Mental Health of You and Your Team
If you are feeling your mental health has taken a hit due to COVID, you are not alone.
Why Do We Worry?
Our brains have evolved over thousands of years to keep us safe and as a result they are very good at focusing on danger. Hence, we can easily become addicted to reading news about COVID and overly focused on the negatives.
In addition, research has shown that humans tend to exaggerate the danger of an unfamiliar threat (such as COVID) compared to ones we are familiar with such as the flu or car crashes. The result can be anxiety, depression, insomnia and PTSD.
Fundaments for Good Mental Health
If you are having trouble, let someone know. Don’t keep it to yourself.
Limit ‘doom-scrolling’ – reading or watching excessive amounts of negative news. Limit news time to once a day and no more than 20 minutes.
Strengthen your tolerance of uncertainty - studies show that those most affected
during a crisis are those that have a high need for certainty. You can strengthen
your uncertainty muscle in small steps such as refraining from texting a friend
every time you have a question, or checking the weather before taking a walk. Ease back on certainty seeking behaviours.
Maintain a routine - this adds some ‘certainty’ to your day which satisfies one of our core needs as human beings. Make sure you include breaks from screens.
Maintain an exercise routine - this has a positive effect on blood chemistry and the release of positive chemicals in the brain, and research has shown it can be as effective as anti- depressants. Fifteen minutes of running or a one hour walk can reduce the chance of major depression by nearly 30% (https://www.helpguide.org). Plus, it relieves stress, helps you sleep better and improves memory.
Maintain connection with friends and family. A study found the negative health impact due to lack of social connection can be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day or excessive alcohol consumption (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation). We all have a core need for connection. Make the effort to schedule a regular Skype or Zoom call, hold a zoom drinks or dinner party or slide show of a trip.
“We cannot direct the wind...but we can adjust the sails.”
Maintain personal hygiene – having a shower and wearing clean clothes has a positive effect on mood. This can include wearing your favourite clothes even if you are not going out.
Limit or eliminate consumption of alcohol as it’s a depressant.
When walking, walk with a small smile. This can be enough to change your mood (and no one can see it thanks to your mask!). Additional benefits can be gained by focusing on your feet touching the ground and the feeling in other body parts as this distracts you from worry.
Schedule in rewards such as a favourite snack or session on a computer game or favourite show.
Help someone else in some way, even if it’s a positive social media post or email. This can be a great distraction and mood changer.
Prepare a blues-busting list of actions you can implement such as those above when you feel depressed. As soon as you feel the blues coming on, read your list and take positive counter action.
Seek professional help. The Australian government now allows 20 mental health consults on Medicare. See your GP for details. Also, checkout the following organisations for helpful strategies and support:
Loss of Control
COVID can create a feeling of lack of control with many uncertainties. This loss of control can be overwhelming and all consuming. Focus on what you can control which is what you choose to think about and focus on. For example, there are three key areas you have control over:
Control what you focus on right now. Catch your thoughts and notice where they are focused. Shift them as needed.
Control the meaning you give to whatever it is you are choosing to focus on. Seeing the glass half empty instead of half full is a sure way to drive yourself into depression/anxiety.
Control the action you will take. What positive action can you take? And this may include going back to number 1 and choosing what you will focus on instead.
“What you resist persists” said the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung. This is true for anxiety, and is certainly my personal experience.
If you resist and fight your anxiety and try to push it away, hide it, or cancel it, it will actually make it worse.
The trick is to relax and allow the anxiety to wash over you.
Counter intuitive I know! But give it a go. Notice the anxiety and describe it to yourself or someone else, and do so without judgement as though you are a scientist studying an experiment.
You will find that as you observe the anxiety in this way it will dissipate. What you resist persists. One way of looking at this is to acknowledge that feelings are meant to be felt, and until they are, they will persist. In essence...honour your feelings.
This article comes courtesy of David Lennon, Business Coach & Mentor. Get David's full eBook - the COVID Small Business Survival Guide – Leadership and Mental Health for further helpful ideas and information.
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