Managing #MentalHealth During the #COVID19 Pandemic

alone2Like many people, I am currently teleworking five days a week due to the COVID-19 / coronavirus crisis. As this is an unprecedented situation, folks have been checking in on each other a little more than usual. This past week, when people have asked me how I’m doing, I tell them, I’M GOOD. To be honest, except for not seeing my granddaughter, I couldn’t be happier!

My office officially started all staff teleworking last Friday. I was on leave that day, so I didn’t feel anything out of the norm. I knew something was different, though, when I didn’t feel my usual Sunday night anxiety. Every Sunday night – unless I’m on vacation – I feel a lot of anxiety and I have insomnia. It never fails. This past Sunday, that didn’t happen. Somehow my mind and body knew that the next day was going to be different. No struggling to get myself together to leave in the morning. No commute. No stress. All was well.

As a person with Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety who is also a strong introvert, self-isolation is nothing new for me. Of course I don’t usually do it because of a pandemic, but I’m definitely familiar with the concept. For better or worse, I’m built for this! As long as I have my bed, books, music, food and drinks, I think I’m going to do OK with this forced social distancing. People have asked me if it feels different because it’s not by choice. It really doesn’t feel different to me. At least not yet. Ask me again in a few weeks.

grateful-addiction-recoveryI don’t take this comfort with my alone time for granted. I know there are many other people who are feeling extremely anxious about self isolating, being socially distant or being quarantined. I also don’t take for granted that I have a job that allows me to telework. There are several people who, unfortunately, have either lost their jobs or have to go to work and risk catching the virus because they can’t afford not to. There are people who are going to feel lonely because they look forward to socializing or being around others at work. On top of all of that, fear over the virus itself and the economic impact of it are enough to make anyone angsty.

PROTECT_YOUR_MENTAL_HEALTH_RAINBOW_PNG_1200x1200While most people are taking measures to protect their physical health (and the physical health of others;) we mustn’t forget about protecting our mental health as well. This crisis has created a perfect storm for stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and/or paranoia. Unfortunately, being isolated or quarantined in the home may also be a catalyst for an uptick in domestic, substance and/or child abuse.  This is truly a crisis in more ways than one. If the coronavirus madness is negatively affecting your mental health, there are some tools and resources that may help. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

CONNECT WITH OTHERS:

TWITTER – Good for having real-time conversations and following hashtags for topics of interest

FACEBOOKGood for finding and joining groups focused on certain topics. Any topic or hobby you can imagine, there’s a Facebook group for it. Groups like Therapy for Black Girls and NoStigmas Mental Health Allies can also be good support systems if you are NOT in a crisis situation.

WHATSAPP OR GOOGLE HANGOUTS – Good for catching up with family and friends via chat, phone or video chat. (You can also use FaceTime if you have yet to realize Android phones are better. 🙂 )

SLACK – Good for group communication, especially with co-workers.

*DISCLAIMER: If using social media does more harm to your mental health than good, please avoid. It is also not recommended to use social media in place of seeking professional help, especially during a crisis.

CALM YOUR MIND:

EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (EAP) – If your employer offers an employee assistance program, it can be a great source of information and resources. If you are not sure if your employer offers an EAP or do not know how to contact them, ask your Human Resources representative.

CALM is offering FREE resources for mental and emotional wellness including soothing sounds, meditations and exercises.

GROKKER is offering FREE yoga, fitness and cooking videos through April 30, 2020.

GET THERAPY:

TALKSPACE  is increasing access to licensed therapists and providing free resources for both existing users and those who haven’t yet tried the service. They are also offering numerous resources for managing anxiety COVID-19 anxiety including a Facebook group. 

OPENPATH has several therapists who are now offering online sessions.

MANAGE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH:

COVID-19 Lockdown Guide: How to Manage Anxiety and Isolation During Quarantine – ADAA

Coronavirus Resource Hub and Free Virus Assessment Survey Questions (CultureIQ)

How to Manage Your Coronavirus Anxiety (WSJ)

How to Self-Quarantine (NY Times)

6 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Anxiety About Coronavirus (Thrive Global)

Are you worried about Coronavirus? (Psychology Today)

Mental Health & Coping During COVID-19 – Manage Anxiety & Stress – CDC

Coping With Coronavirus: Managing Stress, Fear, and Anxiety – NIMH

Managing Depression and Anxiety During COVID-19

HAVE SOME FUN:

7 Things To Do While Self Isolating Without Self Sabotaging

19 Things to Do When You’re Stuck at Home During the Coronavirus Isolation Period 

7 Things To Do While In Self Isolation

Top 10 Things To Do While You Self-Isolate

**IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING A CRISIS**

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, feeling unsafe, or feel like you are in danger of breaking your sobriety, please contact a professional.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)  National Helpline – 1−800−799−7233

National Domestic Violence Hotline– 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline –  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline – 1 (800) 950 – 6264

ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline – 1 (800) 422 – 4453

Crisis Text Line – Text SHARE to 741741

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Wash Your Hands. Keep Your Distance. Rest. Be.

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MYTH: Teleworkers Aren’t Working

This topic has been on my mind for a while. I’m a huge fan of teleworking. HUGE. Or rather of giving employees the option to telework. It’s not for everyone and it doesn’t work for everyone- some people need more structure & guidance or don’t work well in isolation. It also won’t work for every job. However, I believe there are few office-based jobs that can’t be done from an alternate work site (AWS) at least some of the time with the right equipment. I have a hard time understanding why more employers aren’t on board with telework as a flexible work option. I’ve noticed some employers, even though they offer a telework option, place expectations on teleworkers that they don’t place on workers who are in the office.

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Every person I’ve spoken with (aka a slightly less than scientific study) who has at least one regular telework day tells me they are much more productive on those days, primarily due to not having to commute and there being fewer distractions. I also think teleworkers have a tendency to “overwork” so people in the office don’t think they’re slacking. This has always bothered me. Just because you may or may not be wearing pajamas doesn’t mean you’re slacking.

Why is there a perception that just because you aren’t at a desk in an office space your employer owns, you aren’t working as hard or as much? Heaven forbid you miss a call or don’t respond to an email immediately. Guess what – people miss calls and don’t respond to emails immediately when they’re in the office too. People play video games and login to Facebook and shop on Amazon and all kinds of other things IN THE OFFICE. I won’t even go into the amount of time wasted on meetings and random chitchat. Yet there’s this perception by many employers that in the office = working and not in the office = probably not working.

I always say the proof is in the pudding. Well, I don’t actually say that. Who says that? My point is, if a person is not performing or is under-performing, it doesn’t matter where they’re located. The proof will be in that they aren’t getting results or meeting their goals. People who aren’t motivated to work from an AWS probably aren’t that motivated to work when they’re in the office either. THAT is the real problem that needs to be addressed.

This is another one of those things that comes down to trust. Trust your people. If you don’t trust your people, think about why that is and what can be done to change it. Allow your people flexibility to the extent that it doesn’t pose a hardship to the business. If someone isn’t performing well outside of the office but performs well in the office, maybe teleworking isn’t for them. That’s OK. At least they were given the option. If someone isn’t performing in or out of the office, a conversation needs to be had surrounding that issue. Just please don’t assume that a person who is teleworking is not really working. Last, but certainly not least, please understand that teleworkers also need bathroom breaks, eat lunch, step away from the desk for a moment, might miss a call or not immediately respond to an email. Just like when they’re in the office. Don’t worry; they’ll get back to you. Just like when they’re in the office.

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