If you watch the nightly news, which is one of the things we’re about to tell you not to do, you know that the case numbers of COVID-19 are on the rise across the United States. This may lead to more shutdowns, lockdowns and isolation for many Americans.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are reporting feelings of heightened anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while we have all been suffering through this together, some people are better able to support their own mental wellbeing than others. Now is the time for leaders and managers to pay close attention to both their own feelings and those of their workforce.
The Mental Health Statistics and How Covid-19 Relates to Them
Even before the pandemic, Anxiety disorders were the most diagnosed mental illness in America. 40 million adults are affected by this debilitating condition and one in three people are never treated. And half of those diagnosed with anxiety are also diagnosed with depression.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says depression is the reason for over 200 million lost workdays each year. This costs the United States $44 billion in lost productivity.
Cases of “Broken heart syndrome” – a condition classified as stress cardiomyopathy – are five times higher now than they were before the pandemic. Yet none of these patients test positive for COVID-19, which suggests this condition is not related to the virus but to the stress of the pandemic. This condition is not the same as a heart attack, although symptoms are similar. Stress cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart is overwhelmed by stress hormones, reflecting a temporary weakness in the heart muscle.
For those who are already dealing with any form of mental illness, including anxiety, depression, PTSD or addiction, the coronavirus has only amplified emotions and set off personal triggers. Self-care has never been more critical. And at a time when working from home is more common than ever before, it is important to check in on your coworkers. Anxiety, loneliness and isolation are all triggers for mental illnesses. And even those who do not suffer from these conditions may be feeling scared or paranoid during the pandemic.
What Can You Do to Maintain Mental Health During the Covid-19 Pandemic?
There are many things you can do to help prevent feelings of anxiety and depression during this pandemic. As a business leader, it is your duty to ensure you take care of both yourself and your employees, always leading by example.
- Keep positive communication flowing. Check in with your employees often and ensure they have not only the physical tools they need to be productive from home but also the information to support their health and wellbeing. Showing them that you care goes a long way. Maintain your company’s Corporate Wellness Program at all times and remind your staff of what is available to them through your company’s EAP.
- Get outside. Fresh air does wonders for your mental health and can be a positive distraction. Working outdoors provides better oxygen levels, increased blood flow and sharpens your mind. Inspire your employees to do the same. Why not host an outdoor Zoom meeting? Encourage your team to find a quiet spot outside for your next on-line conversation. Post a simple fitness challenge to your employees afterwards and make it a friendly competition. Stay productive while having fun!
- Avoid watching the news. While it is important to remain informed, watching news updates day and night, not to mention newsfeeds on your computers and social media, does not support a healthy mind. If you insist on knowing the current state of affairs, allow yourself one news broadcast or to read one media outlet’s update each day. Even better, limit yourself to a couple of times a week. Your family and friends will let you know if you’ve missed anything important.
- Eat to boost your mood. New studies in the field of Nutritional Psychiatry are solidifying the connection between nutrition and mental health. Your gut is where 95% of your body’s serotonin is made, also known as the happy hormone. When you feed your body healthy and wholesome foods, serotonin keeps your mood elevated, your sleep on track and stimulates your overall health. Deficiencies of this neurotransmitter can be associated with anxiety, depression and irritability. As a general rule of thumb, try to steer clear of processed foods and stick to whole foods, including lean meats and foods rich in fiber. Why not make the connection between healthy eating and mental health as part of your company’s health and wellness screenings?
- Get enough sleep. This is preached often because it is so important. Are you getting 6-8 hours a night right now? Your quality of sleep has a direct impact on your physical and mental well-being, including your temperament and ability to focus. With your attention being pulled in more different directions than ever before, it is imperative that you allow your body and mind enough time to rest each night. If turning off your mind at night is a challenge, try breathing or meditation techniques before bedtime. And keep all screens out of the bedroom.
- Find positive distractions. Find something that encourages a positive sense of self during this challenging time. Organize a room in your home, finish a home renovation project or volunteer your time on-line to a worthwhile organization. Ensure you remain active each day, even if it’s a brief walk with your dog or a game of tag with your child. And whenever possible, be active outdoors. Try to take your mind off the current state of the world at every opportunity with things that make your mind and your heart feel happy. This is particularly important while working from home, as you may have a tendency to put in more hours than a typical work day.
Try not to panic. Use the list above to help prevent anxious feelings during what is a challenging time for everyone. And remember that: This is a challenging time for everyone. You are not alone.
The World Health Organization has a section of their website dedicated to preventing anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your Corporate Wellness Program can make all the difference to the mental wellbeing of your employees. Click here to read more about how you can ensure that your employees feel like they are a valued member of your workplace.
Midland Health recognizes all approaches to positive employee health. Request a free quote and learn how you can create a successful wellness program for your company today!