Staying healthy during COVID-19 is essential for everyone. We know this but it means so much more than wearing masks and gloves.

We know to keep an eye out for symptoms of sneezing, coughing, and a temperature. We are learning more every day about how to reduce our risks to our physical bodies when we are out in public.

But what is not discussed is the impact of this uncertain, scary situation on our mental wellbeing. Stress and fear are a given for most people. But for many people with a predisposition or already existing levels of depression, PTSD or anxiety, this can be highly destabilizing.

People who work on the frontlines,and people who face financial distress are certainly vulnerable populations we need to prepare for and assist. But people who have a past history of trauma are at a very high risk of being overwhelmed and overloaded, leading to decompensation during this crisis. We need to be proactive.

How can we help ourselves and our employees?

The most important thing to remember is that we need to normalize mental health responses in this crisis. Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness.

We need to talk about it.

We need to be supportive and knowledgeable.

And we need to understand that mental health issues are an expected outcome in a global crisis situation like this.

We are in a position to encourage people from our work life and home life to be watching for signs that our mental health needs tending to.

5 signs our mental health may be at risk:

1. Our sleep patterns have changed.
2. Our eating patterns have changed.
3. We worry nonstop and obsess about the virus, safety, etc.
4. We cannot focus or concentrate.
5. We have flashbacks or nightmares.

If these symptoms are present, it may be helpful for an evaluation, support counseling or medication for a brief period of time to help the brain and nervous system physiology manage the higher levels of stress.

Being informed, empathic and compassionate as a leader is what is required here.

No judgment. No assumptions and minimizing. And no rejection or backlash.

The opportunity at this time with business not the usual, is to challenge the status quo of how things were done pre-COVID-19. We get to rewrite the guidebook. Valuing and protecting our mental health in the workplace and at home needs to be prioritized. We can help.

Honestly, I don’t know how we as a society have made it this far, with the stigmatism and downplaying of mental wellbeing that plays such a significant role in our daily lives.

Being open and inclusive about the important role of mental health right now can make a difference for you and your employees. Businesses that recognize and support mental wellbeing see a positive change in engagement, productivity, and their bottom lines.

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor and more unashamed conversation”

-@HappyLives360

When we value well-being on all levels, mentally, spiritually and physically we are safeguarding ourselves and the lives we love and live. We could all be more mindful of that.

What are some simple ways each of us can better insulate our mental health during this shelter in place time?

5 Ways to Support Your Mental Health:

1. Make time for work, play, rest and sleep in your day.
2. Help others but take care of your daily needs first.
3. Minimize media/news consumption to the necessary bytes.
4. Pay attention to feelings, needs and wants.
5. Stay socially in touch with people.

These are common-sense steps, I know, but they tend to be disregarded after the first week of a crisis.

Your best needs to be and is good enough, even when somedays it won’t be great. This is life under the pressure of uncertain times.

Just be mindful, gentle and loving with yourself and others, as the caring leader you are.

Dr. Kate Dow is the author of “Fear-Less: The Art of Using Anxiety to Your Advantage”
a speaker, educator, psychologist and LeadeHERship expert for women in business.

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