Coronavirus is contagious, but panic is too

Mental Health and Well-being during COVID-19 outbreak.

With the World Health Organization (WHO) having officially declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, the infectious nature of fear has become apparent. Even WHO has released guidelines for protecting mental health during this time.

People have increasingly growing concerns, and quite legitimately so, especially for family members and friends, particularly pregnant, elderly or otherwise sick. With rolling news updates and hysterical panic buying, it is difficult not to be concerned.  Ultimately, the fear of the unknown and the lack of answers is increasing anxiety rates and nerves around the country, and the world.

We are living through an unexpected and potentially revolutionary moment, so if you are feeling anxious, that’s normal, but it is important for us to all to try to control our anxiety and not let it become disproportionate.

Keep informed, but not overwhelmed

There is guidance out there for some of the more common questions you might have. For medical questions, the Government guidance is here. If you’re concerned about your employment rights or your pay, we have a blog here and we’ve set up a dedicated email helpline at which should allay any workplace anxiety related to the current issues.

Unfortunately, the nature of the pandemic means that some of the more common questions: How long will it last? How bad will it get? They’re simply unknown at this stage.

It’s easy to turn to the internet and social media in the search for answers and more information, but that can become overwhelming and, for those with anxiety issues, perhaps addictive. You can get consumed by the internet, looking for the reassurance that unfortunately just isn’t there.

For that reason, you need to be aware of yourself and how you’re processing information, and wary of news and social media. Worry is warranted, additional hysteria from opinions and misinformation is not.

We need to be mindful there is a lot of fake and exaggerated news so try to limit the amount of time reading information that’s not from a professional or official source.

Escalating Anxiety

Whether you were already an anxiety sufferer, or if your mental health is only suffering due to COVID-19, the most important step is to acknowledge how you are feeling; it is an understandable fear.

Anxiety may be displayed in different ways during this outbreak. Stress levels are generally heightened all round, but people may find themselves being less patient, less able to calm down, or generally more nervous in every way.

Those with health anxiety will be particularly concerned. Health anxiety is when a person’s anxiety centres especially around their or someone else’s health. For them, a pandemic is like living in a nightmare.

What can employers do?

Communication is key. Our best practice guide should be able to assist employers on what they should be saying, to whom, and when.

Employers should ensure they have all the usual precautions put in place for those with declining mental health; Mental Health First Aiders and appropriate professionals should be signposted accordingly.

They may also want to consider allowing those with particular anxieties to work from home, where they feel safer, or work flexibly so they are required to travel on public transport at less busy times.

It’s a difficult balance with communication in the workplace; some would prefer not to talk about the virus at all, whilst others might find it helpful to voice their concerns and may gain some reassurance from finding out others are also worried. An employer should try to consider everyone’s concerns and make sure that no-one’s health is being damaged by the conversations of the workplace.

It may also be beneficial for employers to try to introduce more wellbeing initiatives in the workplace, to encourage employees to (for example) take a yoga class, rather than gossip about the pandemic over tea.

Self Care in Self Isolation

For some people, their self-care and maintenance of their good mental health might rely on being able to go outside; go walking, get fresh air, go to the gym… But what happen when that is no longer possible, when a person is instructed to self-isolate.

For our part, the Thrive Tribe have come up with a few ideas which those who are self-isolating (or those who are simply struggling at the moment) could consider:

  • Isolation doesn’t have to be isolating.
    We live in a technologically advanced era and, even from inside our houses, we should endeavour to contact each other and check in on each other. It’s important not to emotionally isolate, as this does more harm than good.
  • Take some time to relax.
    And by relax, we don’t necessarily mean just chill on a sofa and catch up on TV series, although that is a legitimate use of your time if you wish.

You might also want to consider taking time to practice mindfulness, have a bath, create a journal. Being productive might help in making you more positive.

Here at Thrive, we’ve got a few recommended apps to help you relax or sleep. Our paralegal, Uthman suggests the app Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds, whilst Francesca and Jodie recommend Headspace ‘Sleepcasts’.

Our digital marketing apprentice Khaleeqa recommends meditation of any kind, to benefit your mental health and promote time to yourself. She recommends Goodful Youtube channel: Five-minute meditation, in particular.

  • Indoor exercise

If you can’t get to the gym, there are plenty of Youtube videos and apps which can provide for a great work out within your own living room. Alicia recommends FIIT as one of her personal favourites. There are loads of free Yoga and Pilates videos and classes Jodie recommends Boho Beautiful she sets challenges for all levels.

  • Revive don’t refresh your news feed.

The near-constant stream of news reports about outbreaks is difficult to censor, some are good and others are not. ‘Breaking news alerts’ are likely to worsen your anxiety. Although you are likely waiting for positive news, take some time away from your internet, mute certain words and notifications, look into other content that interests you

Boost your immune system – we have partnered with Champion Health to create a free tool which shows people who they can boost their immune system and stay safe in these unprecedented times. Click here to access this.

Unfortunately, its not going to be an easy time for many people, especially those with mental health issues, including anxiety. Just remember we all have to look after ourselves but also let’s look out for each other. Reach out to those who are especially vulnerable or lonely. Be kind.

Here is a nice idea for people who can help their neighbours if they are self-isolating. A lady from Cornwall came up with the innovative idea of sending through postcards to her neighbours with offers of picking up shopping, urgent supplies and even a friendly phone call. In times like this, when all the news is spreading is panic, it’s nice to spread a little bit of kindness to those who need it. You can download the postcard here.

Written by the Thrive Tribe.


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