Looking after yourself in times of uncertainty16 March , 2020
Reactions to a pandemic like the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) may differ from person to person but uncertainty creates fears and anxiety as our “survival brain” tries to keep us out of harm’s way – and at the same time overestimate threats (especially unfamiliar ones) and assume the worst.
People may worry about a myriad of things, from their own health and the health of their loved ones (here and abroad) to their work, finances and the ability to participate in some important social events they had planned.
It is therefore very important to look after yourself, your employees and your loved ones in these times of uncertainty.
So what can we do to better deal with these times?
In these difficult times, it is normal to feel all kinds of emotions but we should try to remain vigilant, calm and level-headed.
While it is also important to stay informed and know the facts, spending too much time watching the news on TV or reading your news feed on your phone may only be adding to the existing stress.
At this stage, the best advice is to respect some simple life hygiene, personal wellbeing practices and follow recommendations from the experts.
1. Focus on the things you can control like adopting healthy lifestyle habits and keeping a strong immune system – Get lots of sleep, eat healthy nutritious food, stay hydrated, do regular exercise (avoid the gym), practice mindfulness, keep doing leisure activities and hobbies.
2. It is important to switch off – following the news every minute of the day won’t help. A daily check is all you need and it needs to be from a reliable sources. Be also mindful of social media, as it can easily spread inaccurate information. It is also good to try and find something else to talk about when at work or in a social context.
3. Follow a routine – Your “normal” day to day at work and outside of work has probably changed over the last week: you may be working from home and your priorities may have shifted. It is therefore important and calming to recreate some sense of normality with a routine (it could be something as small as scheduling in some regular breaks or meditations).
4. Accept the uncertainty – This has been shown in the past to reduce the likelihood of experiencing elevated anxiety.
5. Practice self-care and be kind to yourself.
6. Mental reframing and adding perspective will help you fight your “survival brain”.
7. Gratitude is a fantastic “remedy” against anxiety.
8. Stay connected with family, friends and loved ones, especially if you are now working remotely (you can make good use of technology).
How else can you help protect yourself and others?
1. If you feel unwell don’t go to work – self-quarantine for 14 days and avoid going to any public places.
2. Frequently wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds. If you cannot wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
3. Be alert – not alarmed
4. Practice social distancing by staying 2 metres away from others.
5. Cough or sneeze into a tissue and discard immediately.
6. Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes and mouth with your hands.
7. Clean work-spaces and other “at risk” areas with disinfectant wipes.
8. Practice the “hand off” protocol and don’t shake hands
As an employer you can also reduce the stress and anxiety from your workforce
1. Have and communicate a clear plan to your employees.
2. You need both a business continuity plan that focuses internally (employees) and externally (clients, suppliers…) with updated policies and processes.
3. Let your employees know that you are proactively looking ahead and staying well-informed.
4. Have an exhaustive FAQ in place with credible source referenced and keep the communication channels open.
5. Communicate your EAP’s details (if you have one available) to all employees so that they can reach out if they need to.
Following these few strategies can help keep anxiety at bay and enable you to make it through these uncertain times more effectively.