As a team of benefits strategists, we work hard every day to make sure we’re exceeding client expectations and providing the most innovative and value-generating plan designs and advisory services.
The current pandemic has dominated our daily way of life for nearly two months, and it seems like we can’t get away from the reminders it’s here.
It’s the top headline in the news cycle. We’re now recommended to wear a mask when we go on a grocery run. Most of our interactions with loved ones have been limited to the phone or a video call.
All of those experiences are undoubtedly less than desired, and even stressful when it becomes overwhelming. However, there are ways to manage, control and lessen the stress and have more peace of mind.
Jared Eaton, a psychologist at Regional Mental Health Center, said maintaining your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic is just as important as staying physically healthy. In fact, he says, the two can be connected.
“Anytime there is stress, it weakens the immune system and threatens physical health,” Eaton said. “It may feel like we don’t have anywhere to go or anything to do and may be easy to become stressed.”
Eaton, however, says there are ways to cope. Let’s detail a few:
The pandemic has the majority of the country’s workforce working at home. Because of that, Eaton says it can blur boundaries between work and home. Our brains are wired to react to things in different environments, and when the work environment blends with the home environment it can cause stress.
“We have certain expectations about the environment we are in,” Eaton said. “When we’re at work we respond in a certain way, and at home we respond to family a certain way. Now all of that is taking place at home and our minds become more stressed because our brains are designed to exert minimum effort as much as possible. With those lines being blurred the mind is using a lot more energy than it’s used to.”
The simple solution is to separate the work and home environments as much as possible. That could be difficult for people who don’t have a dedicated home office or another space to close off from the rest of the home. However, there are still other ways to accomplish that separation.
Eaton says the biggest way is maintaining your routine. For instance, if you normally wake up at 7 a.m. and start work at 8 a.m. and work until 5 p.m., stick to that schedule. When you’ve finished work for the day, shut it down completely.
Have a transition period
While we may not think about it, our usual workday involves a transition from work mode to home mode. That transition time is usually the commute from the office to home, but working from home eliminates that opportunity.
Eaton says you can create a transition at home to help shut off work mode. Physical activity like going for a walk or cleaning the house is recommended and can be an easy way to make that transition. Eaton says relaxation exercises can also help calm the mind and body.
“Those activities can create endorphins in our body that will make us feel good and help us fight stress,” Eaton said. “Relaxation exercises can send messages back up to the brain that say ‘there’s no need for negative thoughts.’ There are thousands of free resources to help with that, and I always tell my clients to find ones that they like.”
Don’t make stress a bad thing
The connotation associated with stress is usually negative. While true, there are positives to stress.
According to a TIME article, at moderate levels, stress can enhance motivation, build resilience and encourage growth. It’s important to not try to eliminate stress altogether.
In fact, Eaton says it’s okay to worry and give yourself a ‘worry time.’
“Even if it’s an hour to worry about it, then you’re done,” Eaton said. “Find one or two news sources you trust so you aren’t worrying about it all day and the numbers of people infected or the number of people dying, because that could end up being too much.”
Eaton said allowing yourself a short amount of time to consume the COVID-19 news and staying informed can be a healthy way to help your own well-being.
“We have different levels of needs, and the basic level right now is safety,” he said. “You can’t address higher-level needs until basic-level needs are met. You can say ‘I’m not working as well as I normally do because I’m worried about safety concerns,’ and that’s perfectly normal. Give yourself permission to not be doing as well as you normally do.”
For additional resources and the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Apex COVID-19 Resource Page.