Emotional and Mental Health During COVID-19

“I do believe we find light in those times. Even now people are realizing they can connect through technology. They are not as remote as they thought. They are realizing they can use their phones for long conversations. They’re appreciating walks. I believe we will continue to find meaning now and when this is over.”

The quote above comes from a recent article on grief during COVID-19 in the Harvard Business Review. It is a powerful reminder that we can and must take care of our inner lives during this crisis.

This is especially true for organizations like yours that have a culture and a mission that is rooted in service. Many of you are suspending operations and laying off staff. Others are finding new ways to serve—either virtually, or by taking care of the most vulnerable, or families of essential workers. Often, it’s a combination of all of the above, while also trying to figure out how to work remotely and stay connected with family.

These things take their toll.

We wanted to take a moment to share some ideas and resources, and to start a conversation, about emotional and mental well-being during these challenging times:

Take Time to Connect
With so many of us working remotely and communicating via video, it can be easy to jump straight to business. But checking in on your fellow humans is part of business.  While there has been much talk of ‘social distancing’ recently, we have found ourselves talking about ‘physical distancing with social connection’ instead.

For example, we are intentionally taking extra time at the beginning of our meetings to socialize, chat and check-in with each other about how we are feeling. Looking directly into the camera and addressing people by name can also help to make such meetings feel real.

Set Routines, Including Time Off
When working from home, one day can blend into another. Be sure to set schedules and stick to them. We highly recommend that this includes ample time off—whether it’s for a walk in the woods, playing with the kids or video-socializing with a friend. Ideally, this time will include plenty of rest, physical exercise and opportunities to nourish your body too.

Acknowledge and Honor Your Feelings
In the article about grief that we linked to above, the author suggests that we are the first generation to have feelings about our feelings: “I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse.” Rather than denying or interrogating how we feel, however, he recommends accepting it as a natural response to the events we are experiencing. Only by acknowledging our emotions can we move through them.

If You Can’t Go Outside, Try Going Within
The human connection and resulting happiness we achieve through our daily lives builds healthy gray matter in our brains. A Harvard study has revealed that meditation and mindfulness also builds that same healthy gray matter that we may not be getting in other ways. Now might be a good time to explore meditation:

    • Lots of apps like Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer have free trials. You can also try searching social media for free meditation videos or livestreams.
    • Try even 3-5 minutes a day. Regularity is more beneficial than length of time.

Do Not Be Afraid to Seek Help
There are many things we can do to boost our own well-being, but sometimes we all need outside help. In addition to informal support networks, professional therapists or counselors can be a fantastic resource, whether or not you have used them in the past. Many insurance companies are temporarily changing their policies to allow a wider range of services through telehealth—so consider reaching out if you need somebody to talk to. Services like dietitians or personal trainers may also be available through digital platforms to help you take care of your well-being.