COVID-19: Mental health, and normalizing your life during quarantine
Thoughts on managing mental health as we transition to a new normal, by BSP COO, Timothy Seaton
For a large majority of the working class the recent COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a sudden and seismic shift in the way they work, as well as the way they are ultimately living their day-to-day lives. Being quarantined has resulted in fewer social interactions (guidance is to reduce physical interaction by 90%), and many are feeling the weight of this.
Here are just a few examples of the things we’ve heard in conversations with dear friends and colleagues regarding their experience so far over the last two weeks:
“I’m having a hard time orienting myself.”
“I’m really living in the lows right now.”
“I need time with people or my heart breaks.”
“I’m panicking, but holding onto hope.”
While this pandemic is primarily a battle against our physical well-being, the repercussions on our mental health as a result of the changes we’ve needed to make to combat this virus are equally alarming. According to the CDC, “Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include: fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.”
The dangerous habits we could potentially build during a time of isolation is what we need to ensure doesn’t happen. While none of us at Blue Sky Partners are mental health professionals, we’ve worked from home since the start of the company in 2017, and have a couple of useful tips to help you normalize life during this uncertain time.
- Identify your trigger points: The first step in making sure you stay positive and healthy during this time is understanding what sends you over the edge. Keep realistic expectations that you will most likely be treading that line a bit more than usual as your routine is disrupted. Knowing and understanding yourself first is the best first step.
- Give yourself more breaks (and give yourself a break): It is okay if productivity decreases in a time of unease. Shake it off. Taking breaks, going out for a walk, putting your headphones in, or practicing simple meditations can mean the difference between hitting your trigger point or not. You will be much more productive if you take breaks during what is certainly looking to be a marathon more than a sprint so you don’t run out of steam indefinitely.
- Get creative with your social interactions: Now is your opportunity to call that friend you’ve had a shaky relationship with, or that family member you haven’t spoken to in over a decade. Create opportunities for your teams and companies to regularly video chat over coffee, happy hour, or lunch. Technology now more than ever is our friend. Use it to create that opportunity for social interaction you need.
- Solve small problems, and celebrate them in a grand fashion: If you’ve procrastinated on organizing that junk drawer for years, now is the time to do it. Finishing tasks, even the smallest of to-dos, releases a dose of dopamine, which is responsible for making us feel accomplished, content and happy. If you aren’t receiving that dopamine in the way you usually do, find other (healthy) ways to get it. And when you accomplish these things, celebrate big. Throw on some music and dance in your room. Take a silly selfie. Do something a little out of your personality to shake things up. We promise it will help.
None of us knows how long this is going to last, so see this as an opportunity to build resilience. Build compassion for others. Be kind. Learn to dance, speak a new language, or take on those projects that you and your company never had time for in the past.
Oh, and call your mother.
Resources and Information
- CDC: Symptoms and Testing
- Austin-American Statesman: How to get tested in Austin
- BaylorScott & White: Apply and get tested
Work From Home Resources
- A Guide to Managing Remote Teams, from Know Your Team (free)
- Gitlab’s Guide to All-Remote
- Our Remote Stack at Steadfast Media, via Steadfast Media
- 25 Useful free online tools for workshops and meetings, via SessionLab.com
Mental Health Resources
- ‘How to manage anxiety in a pandemic’, via Vox.com
- BSP’s Matt Glazer talks about managing mental health during COVID19 on the Made Visible podcast
- ‘Weathering the Storm: Helping the World Curb Rising Stress and Anxiety with COVID-19’ via Headspace
- Texas Health and Human Services Statewide Mental HealthSupport Line