COVID-19 coronavirus guide for employees: Looking after your mental health
While it is reasonable to be concerned about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, there are a number of actions you can take to look after your mental health during this challenging time.
Access accurate information from credible sources
It’s important to access accurate information from credible sources such as those listed below. This will also help you maintain perspective and feel more in control.
Social distancing and self-isolation does not mean you cannot maintain your relationships. Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video-conferencing or telephone. Aim to communicate with someone at least once per day.
Be active, eat well and drink water
During stressful times, we may find ourselves not exercising, over-indulging, forgetting to eat, avoiding food, or increasing our sugary drinks and alcohol intake. Focus on completing 30 minutes of physical activity per day, fuelling your body with nutritious food and drinking plenty of water. A healthy body goes hand-in-hand with a healthy mind.
Focus on the good in the world
Constant media coverage, including misinformation on social media, can heighten anxiety. Look for the stories of people helping, donating, and supporting one another in incredible ways. It is important to counter-balance the negative information with the hopeful information.
Be a helper
During uncertain times, you can feel helpless and it can be difficult to decide what to do. Counteract this with becoming a helper. This could be as simple as following the government and your employer’s advice on social distancing, supporting your local small businesses and take-away restaurants, grocery shopping for someone who has to self-isolate, checking in with your vulnerable neighbours, and posting positive messages on social media. Helping others provides a sense of purpose and control when things seem uncertain.
Find something you can control
When you feel uncertain and helpless find something you can control, such as good hygiene practices. You can protect yourself against infection and slow the spread of COVID-19 by washing your hands frequently, covering sneezes and coughs with your elbow, putting tissues straight into a bin, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, cleaning regularly used objects and surfaces, and ventilating your home or workspace.
Have realistic expectations for work-life balance
Establishing work-life balance can be challenging at the best of times. Give yourself a break, lower your expectations and practice radical self-acceptance: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or resistance. You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent. Accept you are doing the best you can.
Accessing your support network can help you cope in times of stress. You can speak with a trusted family member, friend, manager or colleague. You can also use your employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if available. If you feel the worry, anxiety or stress is impacting on your work or everyday life, your general practitioner or psychologist may be able to help. There are also free support services available such as:
- Beyond Blue - telephone support and NewAccess, a free online mental health support program.
- Centre Care - telephone support.
- Headspace- a guided-meditation app.
- Lifeline - telephone support.
- Mensline Australia - telephone support.
- myCompass - a personalised self-help tool for your mental health.
- Moodgym - interactive self-help book which helps you to learn and practice skills which can help to prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Samaritans Crisis - telephone support.
- Smiling Mind – free mindfulness and meditation app.
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