Promoting mental health during a global pandemic

This year, World Mental Health Day takes place on 10th October and the theme is ‘Mental Health for all: Greater Investment – Greater Access’. For much of 2020, as a result of the global pandemic, many more people have been experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, financial stress and pressure, depression, poor family relations and feelings of suicide.

The environment in which we live and work has changed beyond recognition since the beginning of the year. Having to adapt to these changes – without much notice – is bound to have had an impact on stress levels. With ongoing uncertainty about what the future holds, it is more important than ever for us to take care of our mental health and build up our emotional resilience so that we can better cope with adversity.

According to the World Mental Health Day 2020 report (World Mental Health Federation; available at wmhd2020.com), cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are expected to increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Signs of PTSD include hyper-vigilance, intrusive thoughts, avoidance, and negative mood and thoughts.

The current uncertainty about the future may also result in stress reactions such as: involuntary intrusive images and thoughts, high levels of arousal, and attempts at avoidance related to possible, rather than past events – this has been described as ‘pre-traumatic stress disorder’.

What can we do to look after mental health and mitigate the risk of more serious problems developing?

Take the time to step back and reflect. Notice any significant changes in your emotions, thought patterns, ability to process information and behaviour. Some signs to look out for:

  • Racing thoughts and constant worrying
  • Constant feelings of uncertainty and insecurity
  • Loss of objectivity and fearful anticipation
  • Short-temperedness, irritability, impatience, and mood swings
  • Indecisiveness
  • Inability to focus and concentrate
  • Forgetful- and absent-mindedness (“automatic mode” – doing without thinking)
  • Poor judgement and risky decision-making

Physical health symptoms caused by chronic stress, include frequent headaches, nausea, heartburn, eating problems, palpitations, sleep problems, muscle pains and aches, changes in blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Unfortunately, mental health will be negatively affected if people’s fear about the future, loss of control, and feelings of constant uncertainty and insecurity are not proactively addressed. If you are an employer or a manager, think about what you can do to help your staff to regain a sense of control and security. According to the World Mental Health Federation, employers should arrange regular ‘touch base sessions’ with their staff – “the purpose of a touch base session would be to normalise fears (we are all in the same boat), promote hope, create a sense of control by showing how being at work, working safely, and staying healthy mitigate COVID-19 fears and concerns.”

Providing staff with the support to understand what their personal stress triggers are and what coping mechanisms work for them will help to build resilience. With many people working remotely, it is also important to not lose sight of things such as: promoting good support networks, work-life balance, boundaries between work and home, regular breaks (to be encouraged throughout the working day, as well as dedicated holiday time away from work to recharge), and a healthy and active lifestyle.

During my Executive Leadership Coaching Programme one of the areas we focus on is your health and wellbeing. When you feel better, you’ll perform better. We’ll discover and explore your personal stress triggers and develop coping mechanisms to better manage stress when it does arise. By making your wellbeing a priority, you’ll begin to feel more in control of your personal experience and enhance your sense of self-belief.

To find out more, visit www.mandymurdoch.co.uk where you can also request a programme brochure, book a discovery call and sign up to my mailing list. I look forward to hearing from you!

Mandy Murdoch – Coaching Psychologist, Accredited Coach and Consultant

Email: hello@mandymurdoch.co.uk

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