The Coronavirus pandemic has everyone understandably stressed out. There are so many worries that have come along with the virus it can be difficult to even remember them all. Wondering whether you or a family member will get sick, if you will lose your job, what to do at home all day every day, when it will all end – the list goes on and on. All this worry is creating a negative effect on people’s mental health, which could have catastrophic consequences all on its own.
Everyone is in a new mode of living. Many blue-collar workers have become essential employees and must go to work every day and brave the increased change of catching COVID-19. A lot of white-collar workers are now working from home, isolated, and using unfamiliar technology. And unfortunately, record numbers of employees have been laid off or furloughed. Parents are trying to work and be teachers to their children at the same time, again using online education technology they’ve never dealt with before. And business leaders are terrified of a plummeting stock market and collapsing economy. Combine these with cancelled travel plans, indefinite isolation, panic over scarce re-sources and information overload, and it’s a recipe for unchecked anxiety, loneliness, depression, and ultimately traumatic stress.
According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45 percent of adults (53% of women and 37% of men) say the pandemic has affected their mental health, and 19 percent say it has had a “major impact.” The rates are slightly higher among women, Hispanic adults, and black adults. The poll also found that the key worries related to the coronavirus pandemic are:
- You or someone in your family will get sick
- Your investments, such as retirement or college savings, will be negatively impacted
- You will lose income due to a workplace closure or reduced hours
- You will not be able to afford testing or treatment if you need it
- You will put yourself at risk of exposure to the virus because you can’t afford to stay home and miss work
All of this does not have to spell doom, however. There are things that can be done to mitigate the fear and stress of all of this. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Follow healthy daily routines as much as possible. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
There are other overlooked avenues to help with stressed caused by the pandemic. Cheril Clarke of PhenomenalWriting.com lays out in a blog post what business owners and leaders can do during this time to help their employees. In the piece, Mental Health Will Be the Next Pandemic – How Business Leaders Can Help, she explains the stresses employees are under and steps that business leaders can take to reassure them. By using inclusive, empathic language employers can reassure workers that the company cares about them.
Cheril instructs the heads of businesses to, “Connect with your staff in a way that ensures that conversations about your company on social media are admirable. Use video as often as you can. Let your workers look into your eyes. Appear calm. Appear resilient. Appear optimistic. Use compassionate language. Be communicative rather than articulate; there’s a difference. Encourage your employees to stay calm and to stay safe by telling them what you are doing to take care of them.”
The way businesses treat employees during this time will be remembered both by their employees and the public. A lot of workers were already stressed out before the Coronavirus showed up. Now it is even more important that leaders tailor their language to comfort those who are vulnerable to isolation and worry about their financial futures. Employers should try to step into the shoes of every employee, from those at entry-level to the managers, and let them know how strong your resolve is for getting the best possible outcome. Communicate often with updates on the state of the company as well as suggestions for keeping employees in a healthy mental state. Let employees know that they are valued and cared for.
Making a person feel like part of a community can help with feelings of loneliness and worry. Sharing accurate information about COVID-19, can help make people feel less stressed. Informing employees of mental health resources that may be available to them can provide a sense of relief. Humans like a sense of certainty. Letting employees know exactly where the business stands in terms of benefits, employment, knowledge, and compassion can fill that need for certainty in a very uncertain time. Between the measures that individuals can take for themselves and the reassurance of their employers, people may be able to get through this pandemic with fewer, or at least less serious, mental health issues.