COVID-19 and social isolation are impacting mental health in many ways. Anxiety and depressive disorders are affecting a significant number of people — and not just those already suffering from existing mental illness and substance use disorders. Early economic research has shown that job and income loss has been a nearly unquestionable contributor. And certainly, government programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit are well-meaning but do little to address the long-term impact of low self-esteem and overall anxiety from loss of income.
The World Health Organization has provided some meaningful tips centered around routine-keeping; it suggests you get up and go to bed at the same time daily, maintain personal hygiene, eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, and make time for things you enjoy. The Alberta Health Services program known as Help in Tough Times offers stress management, addiction counselling, and more — including the service Text4Hope, which sends positive daily messages to your phone.
Yet what seems to be missing is what I affectionately refer to as a ‘vaccine for the mind’ — a mental vaccine. In view of the virus’s impact on mental health — and despite the noble efforts of our government and their affiliated health services — we still need to ensure individual activities and efforts towards mental wellbeing continue daily. Maintaining general performance and productivity is important, sure, but we need to work on our own mental health for the benefit of our friends, our families, and our communities.
Prioritize your people’s health and wellbeing
Proudfoot CEO Pamela Hackett recently released her new book, Manage to Engage: How Great Managers Can Create Remarkable Results. In it, she shares practical tools that leaders can use to better engage employees and induce transformational change — and the core of her philosophy is simple: people matter. People are the future. Sure, leaders can use these tools and tips to connect better, and more, with the people around them; to build communities, collaborate and grow; to inspire and uplift — but these principles apply to us as human beings outside of work too.
One tool she introduces is catchily dubbed “1.5.30”. Based on the concept of check-in, not check up, it encourages you to prioritize people, and to integrate this behavior into your daily routine. Ask, once a day, “How’s your day?” Five days a week (remember that this was originally meant for the workplace), and that’s five. In a month, that’s 30. Delivered sincerely, this routine check-in builds confidence and trust, and encourages deep, meaningful connections between you and others. In a time when many of us are feeling isolated and alone, this can go a long way as a defence against negative emotions and thoughts.
We select what we feed into our minds, whether that is positive or negative information. It does truly have an impact.
Lately I’ve been referencing some tried-and-true works of significant authors who have left an impression on me. James Allen’s timeless classic As a Man Thinketh is a personal favorite of mine. In these 68 pages are contained a wealth of positive messages, timely for the period that we are all going through. He says, “Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself” then goes on to say, “Let a man radically alter his thoughts, and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will effect in the material conditions of his life.” One of my favorites is: “In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result. Chance is not.”
Everyone knows someone who has been affected during this pandemic in one way or another, whether through the loss of loved ones or loss of income.
We need to reach out to people; to offer to help in any way. We need to express concern and understanding, and a level of kindness to each other like we’ve never done before. We have been and will continue to get through the pandemic and reflect back on it as something of a bygone era. In the meantime, the best thing we can do is keep a close connection to the individuals around us by checking-in, not checking-up.