Managing your mental health during the pandemic
by Ethan Paquet
It is normal to feel some stress in the workplace and in everyday life, but how can you balance this along with the added stress of a global pandemic?
Wendy Smith, a Facilitator with Your Life Design, discussed ways to manage your mental health at the 2021 Career Development Association of PEI Virtual Conference.
“Certainly, during these last number of months, we have all been feeling some stress, and that has caused us all to act in many different ways,” says Wendy. “We sometimes think it hasn’t affected us because we didn’t buy all the toilet paper or take up baking bread, but we may have taken up eating the bread, or going for long walks to avoid the family that we were in the house with for long periods of time.”
Stress is not a bad thing; it can help us better prepare for whatever tasks lie ahead. But when stress causes distress, we must find ways to navigate around it to avoid burnout.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes burnout as an occupational phenomenon. “It impacts not only our mental health, but also our physical health, emotions, and our behaviour,” says Wendy.
“When you have had a bad day, whether it is at work, at home, or in the community, you might find you have a headache, a sore neck or back. Your mind and emotions are affected, and you might become irritable or sad. When you add COVID-19 on top of this, it makes things even more difficult.”
Signs of burnout:
- Substance abuse
- Loss of confidence
- Increase in making mistakes
- Relationship issues
- Conflicts with colleagues
- Withdrawal or reduced participation
- Reduced quality of work
Wendy says any of these signs may mean you are stressed, distressed, or facing burnout.
“We might put on that happy face and act like life is good, but as soon as you get home, the real you might come out. You might yell at your loved ones or slam the door. You need to realize that you are transferring your stress onto people around you.”
Taking care of yourself
She suggested to consider the following questions:
- How do you really feel?
- How well do you really sleep?
- When was the last time you had a full meal?
- What is something you can do for yourself today? (Not for your partner, your children, or your employer, just for you.)
“It is not selfish to do things for ourselves. There are no easy answers. It is important for you to discover your own path. A personal strategy for coping and wellness can help.
“We have to try to find ways to take care of our mental and emotional well-being, because if we do not, chances are there will be further consequences. Mental health is all about our emotional, psychological, and social well being. It includes our positivity and enthusiasm for life, self awareness, the things we like and do not like, and what motivates us.”
What can impact our wellbeing?
Uncertainty. “We don’t always know what’s coming next, and we live with that. But COVID-19 has made us ask when this is going to be over. We do not know what the answer is, and what is it going to look like when it is over. We are so uncertain of what our future will look like.”
Impression management. “Giving the outward impression that you have it all together and that uncertainty is not affecting you is a lot of work. But when you’re worried about when you’re going to see your family next, or that you might meet someone who doesn’t know they have COVID-19, it is really hard to keep up that impression, and that becomes exhausting.
“We don’t have to pretend we have it all together. I am sorry if I’m bursting anyone’s bubble, but nobody has it all together. We all have fears and things we are not coping with, so we need to face up to them and find strategies to cope.”
Recognizing mental health wellness in the workplace
“I am hopeful that our workplaces and employers will recognize mental health as they should. I do think with the increased burden COVID-19 has put on people, not just emotionally and physically but also financially, that employers and governments are doing more and recognizing that they can help.
“The uncertainty around COVID-19 has also impacted employers’ mental health. That stress is not just about the fear of contracting COVID-19, but also about how they will pay the bills in this charged environment. This is a stressful time because it has impacted every part of our society.
“Acknowledging mental health wellness can be difficult, but facing it and developing a strategy of support is very important.”
Your Life Design is an Island-based counselling company that has met with thousands of people to help them navigate this pandemic. For more about Managing Mental Health, visit www.yourlifedesign.ca