By now it’s clear that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it.
At the end of March, J.P. Morgan’s Chief Economist said, “There is no longer doubt that the longest global expansion on record will end this quarter.” It’s certainly not the kind of prediction any of us would have hoped for when we welcomed in the new year, but here we are.
Adding to the fears of an uncertain future are the lockdown measures which have so far affected almost 3 billion people around the world. Being confined indoors for weeks on end will have a negative effect on even the most reclusive individuals.
All in all it’s a very stressful time, and taking care of yourself and your mental health is now more important than ever.
As a result of the quarantine measures introduced to slow the spread of COVID-19, millions of people have been furloughed or made redundant completely. To put these numbers into perspective, US jobless claims hit a four-week total of more than 22 million this week, potentially sending the unemployment rate above 17%.
This loss of jobs is affecting people in all industries and positions, regardless of seniority or experience. Governments are providing financial support, but for many, it’s significantly less than they were earning before. Adjusting to life without a job and the routine it brings, while having to make do with reduced income is a big ask.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to being made redundant. But there are some things you can do to make the situation easier.
The World Health Organization has published some tips for keeping mentally and physically healthy during quarantine. These are especially relevant for anyone who has just lost their job.
On the other side of the coin, is the new norm of working from home. Some people are used to working from home and may even have their own ‘office’ spaces set up. But for those of us who are new to this way of working, makeshift desks and kitchen chairs can be damaging to personal productivity and lead to physical pain in the back, neck and legs.
For millions of people, the novelty of home office every day of the week probably wore off long ago. Our homes are full of added distractions like family members and pets. What’s more, working at home every day makes it almost impossible to establish any kind of work-life boundary.
When every day blends into what feels like one endless Sunday, it’s no wonder mental health concerns are on the rise. A survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation between 25–30 March found that 45% of American adults feel that the coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.
We may not always realize it, but the social interactions and relationships we build at work are important. They provide companionship and support, even though some don’t like to admit it. Conferencing platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts have seen a massive rise in use over the past couple of months, but even the most immersive video conferencing experience is a lackluster imitation of face-to-face interaction.
Video calls aren’t a perfect solution, but for now they’re the best we’ve got. Don’t shy away from opportunities to talk to others, whether they’re family, friends or colleagues. The world will go back to normal soon enough, we just have to make it through the tough part together!
Luckily, there are lots of resources out there to help you if you’re struggling. You could try Yale’s free online course about the science of wellbeing, or a £30 (around €35) mindfulness course recommended by the NHS. Headspace also has some free meditation courses to help you during the pandemic.
If it’s the work from home routine which you’re struggling with, Pomodoro Tracker can help you divide your time more efficiently. There’s also the Feldenkrais Project which has gentle exercise routines to help relieve neck and back pain.