As we continue to protect our health and cope with uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that we also take care of our mental health. We are experiencing a traumatic event that can have a profound mental health impact on everyone. Fear, loneliness, and anxiety are common feelings as we take measures to keep others safe by social distancing, wearing masks, working and doing school from home.
Working from home can have adverse effects such as increased isolation, the blending of work and personal life, and virtual meeting fatigue. As employees across all types of businesses adapt to this new normal, it’s essential we check in on our mental and emotional well-being away from the screen.
“The easiest way to monitor our emotional well-being is to periodically check-in with ourselves and observe how we are feeling. It’s not just a simple question of, ‘am I happy?’ but rather paying attention to the overall trend in our mood states,” said Marc Bouchard, D.O., medical director of Behavioral Health for Providence in Southwest Washington. “Some people may notice that they feel more emotionally bland, are less quick to smile or laugh, or they do not enjoy watching TV, playing with their children, or other hobbies as much as they normally do. Others may notice that they are more irritable, feel more distressed, or become more easily upset than they normally do. These may be early signs of depression.”
Other signs that something is amiss may be a significant change in appetite, feeling constantly emotionally exhausted, or feeling more tired than usual and sleeping too much or not enough.
“It’s important to listen to any changes in mood or behavior that friends and family report as well,” said Dr. Bouchard. “Depression tends to manifest over time, and it can take weeks or even months before we identify such symptoms in ourselves, while those around us may identify global changes in behavior and mood much earlier.”
A benefit of working from home is we have more flexibility in our schedules to set aside time for a quick walk around the neighborhood or taking breaks to stretch and look away from the screen. Maintaining a bright and clean workspace can also give your mood a boost.
Caring for your mental health isn’t selfish; it’s selfless. When you’re equipped with coping tools, you’ll be able to serve others.
Even as we continue to practice social distancing as an essential preventative measure, we must remember the vital importance of increasing social connection and nourishing practices such as physical activity in nature, quality sleep, and fueling our bodies with healthy food.
Each day, check in with yourself and ask, “what do I need?” Notice how you’re feeling throughout the day. If you’re afraid, tend to that. If you are stressed, do what you can to lower your stress.
Personal well-being is more important than ever.
Practice these self-care strategies:
- Stay connected via technology with those you love and who love you
- Eat healthy
- Get outside (bring a mask and socially distance as much as possible)
- Get rest
- Be kind to yourself
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