Recognize the Signs of Stress
Employees are no doubt unsettled. Many are dealing with their personal ties and losses to COVID-19, major disruptions in child care, fears of losing their jobs and overall uncertainty about what the coming months and years may look like.
Those who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include front-line and essential workers as well as those who have lost their jobs, had their work hours reduced, or had other major changes to their employment.
Stress during COVID-19 is something to take seriously. It may cause:
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances
Encourage your employees to talk about how they are feeling, and watch for symptoms of their stress:
- Feeling irritation, anger, or in denial
- Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
- Lacking motivation
- Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
When stress becomes too much, there are resources for help. Make sure your employees are aware of your employee assistance program resources, and post and share these resources from the CDC to help those who may be struggling or experiencing a crisis. In an emergency, call 911.
Remember to take it easy on yourself. This is hard. Right now, the duration of this pandemic is unknown, and there are many factors that will ultimately determine the path of this illness. Taking time for a deep breath is important. Working smarter—not harder—is important.
Overall, Have Realistic Expectations
Right now, the duration of this pandemic is unknown. There are many factors that will ultimately determine the path of this illness. Taking time for a deep breath is important. Working smarter—not harder—is important.
- Make certain you’re getting enough rest.
- Eat healthy, nutritious meals.
- Check in with friends and family members.
- Engage with your children and parents. Even if you can’t visit in person, call them, text them or reach out to them on social media.
- Take care of your spiritual well-being; understand that this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Consider what type of energy is needed to get through this difficult time.
- Pause to clear your mind when you enter your work space.
- Slow your breathing. Taking several slow deep breaths will help center you.
- Be aware of your body. If your stress is carried in your neck and shoulders, then stretch, roll your head to the left and to the right, and roll your shoulders, making circles with them.
- Do this several times throughout the day to build your energy and stamina.
Clear Your Head with Mini Breaks
- Work with your team to build in mini breaks throughout your shift. Even a 10-minute time away can be helpful.
- Take a walk during the day or grab a healthy snack. Think about what’s calming for you and improves vital energy and focus. This can work both in the home and in the workplace.
- If you can, plan downtime at home. Think of potential distraction activities that work well for you, whether that’s a good book, movie, podcast, games with your family or mindfulness techniques. They all help us refuel physically and emotionally.
- Maximize healthy eating by packing several small-plate workday meals including fruit, nuts, cheese, yogurt and other energy snacks.
- Limit alcohol and any other mind-altering substances. While these may relax you in the short term, the long-term effects won’t be as effective as eating right and practicing positive stress-reducing activities.
Many experts say that moving for a minimum of 30 minutes per day is key to maintaining both physical and emotional wellness. The key is finding something that you can and will do. Some options:
- Walking, biking, running and hiking.
- Play a game of fetch with your pet.
- Stretching and yoga—excellent forms of movement.
- When you get home, interact with those in your household. Check in on your children’s school work and provide them with positive and supportive feedback. Schedule a family movie night. Be creative—there are many ways to connect with your loved ones and disconnect from the pressures of the workplace.
- Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Reach out to family, friends and colleagues to maintain social contact via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts to reduce your isolation.
- Consider joining another family or friend for a meal by social media to reduce isolation for everyone.
Think Outside the Box
We need to think differently about what we’re prioritizing and how we can best meet the increased demand for care, social distancing and other unique stressors. It’s time to think outside of the box, especially when things are chaotic and are beginning to feel out of control. It’s OK—ask for support, evaluate your needs and adjust your coping skills in a way that will help you to move forward.