Adapting to Coronavirus Restrictions Means New Ways to Juggle Stress of Work and Family Life
As the current COVID-19 health crisis results in added pressures to both personal and work life for everyone, recognizing Stress Awareness Month is important to acknowledge this year more than ever.
In light of the coronavirus, most employers across the country and some globally have modified their operations and shifted to working from home strategies to limit social contact and help halt the spread of the pandemic.
In the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Mental Health and Stress in the Workplace report, released in 2018, it is estimated that nearly 1 in 5 adults aged 18 or older reported mental illness in 2016. Approximately, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines stress as change that affects nearly every system of the body, influencing how individuals feel and behave. Signs of stress can include palpitations, sweating, dry mouth, shortness of breath, fidgeting or accelerated speech.
Monarch Center for Wellness Mindfulness Instructors and Consultants Jude Johnson, MA, LMFT, and Karen Holst, EdD, MSW, LCSW, believe that workers are doing the best they can to quickly adapt to a variety of stressors brought about by the pandemic. They suggested the following tips to reduce stress and best adjust to the current workplace.
Create A Schedule
Working from home is not a new concept, but for many in the workforce, COVID-19 has made it the only viable option. With this change, the blur between home and workplace can occur.
“Your workplace is now your home. Stress in the workplace now doubles as your house. We are navigating the unfamiliar territory of combining work and family,” Johnson observed, noting that parents working while children are home can mean an increase in the number of stressors.
Preventing work from spilling over into personal or family life, may be alleviated by creating a schedule. “Establishing a routine, even if that means adjusting to a new normal, can help make the best of the location you are working from,” Johnson said.
Working out a plan with a spouse or partner, especially when keeping children monitored or entertained, can reduce stress.
Implement Self-Care, Health Awareness
She suggested taking breaks throughout the day by walking outside, following a guided meditation or downloading an online yoga class. “Our lives have suddenly slowed down so we can’t say we don’t have the time to take care of ourselves. The time is now,” Holst suggested, noting that self-care not only decreases stress but is known to make you less susceptible to illness.
She also noted that we should pay attention to eating nutritious meals, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining adequate sleep schedules and incorporating daily exercise. “Keeping your body healthy to the greatest extent possible is important,” Holst said.
Pause the News
Today’s technology allows for news access 24 hours a day / 7 days a week, having the potential to be the culprit of creating undue stress or a feeling of being overwhelmed with information.
Both Johnson and Holst proposed limiting screen time and selecting a few trusted sources through your choice of technology, so you are relatively informed about what directly affects your county or state. “We don’t need to be watching for the next dramatic piece of news with the death toll or how many people are affected by the virus. Disconnect from news channels or social media often, and limit screen time,” Johnson advised.
Focus on the Positive
Holst advised to try and focus on the positive, instead of the negative, which is easier to do during difficult times.
“Shift your thinking to that no matter how small or large the positive, we express gratitude. And, remember that this situation is temporary,” Holst said.
Staying in doesn’t mean you have to be secluded or cut off from friends, family or loved ones. Both Johnson and Holst said to embrace ways of communicating with and checking on loved ones such as video chatting.
COVID-19 has changed the landscape of entire communities and industries. Johnson and Holst urge not to be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help whether that be from a mental health provider, neighbor or friend.
For Information or questions about Monarch services, call customer service at (866) 272-7826. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a national helpline, (800) 662-4357, for individuals or family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. North Carolina implemented NC 2-1-1 for information about housing, utilities, health care and other community resources during COVID-19.
Additional mental health resources: