We’ve all experienced trying times, but living through a global pandemic has presented a multitude of new and unique challenges that have affected several aspects of our personal and professional lives. It has readjusted the way we work, socialize, and connect with colleagues, customers, friends, and family members. For many, COVID-19 has psychologically increased fear and anxiety regarding personal health and safety as well as grief over lost opportunities such as graduation ceremonies and major life events. It is this interrelation of social factors, individual thoughts and behaviors, and resulting effect on mental health that psychologists refer to as psychosocial impact.
Personally, many are feeling a sense of powerlessness. Routine health care appointments have been postponed in hopes of less exposure to the virus while many people are struggling to nurture their mental wellness. On the social front, the pandemic is impacting the way people gather, shop, eat and tend to personal care. And last but not least, we are experiencing a tremendous shock to the economy which has created a great deal of uncertainty and stress for those in the workforce. Transportation professionals are learning new modes of communication and innovative ways to collaborate with their peers and communities to safely and effectively move essential workers. New boundaries are being defined each day across industries as the globe learns how to navigate this chapter of history.
Dr. Suzan Wasik, TransLoc’s Organizational Development Manager, and Dr. Jennifer Barrow are licensed clinical mental health counselors who have researched, presented and published articles regarding lifespan developmental issues in both school and workplace settings. They have a passion for sharing “best practices with the masses,” and in a recent presentation during Mental Health month, they shared practical and actionable steps to manage the psychosocial impacts of COVID-19.
Read on to learn habit changing interventions to help cope with the “new normal”:
Personal Health Interventions
- Maintain physical health - whether this looks like a quick morning yoga stretch, a long afternoon run, or an evening walk, be sure to reserve time each day to focus on your physical health.
- Maintain a routine - this includes mealtimes, work and sleep. Keeping up with a weekly routine will create a sense of stability.
- Be Mindful - practice the art of living in the moment by noticing your thoughts and feelings for what they are and realizing that thoughts and emotions pass. We cannot control what is happening in the world, but we can control the way in which we respond moment by moment.
- Continue or begin mental health care and treatment - living through a pandemic takes a large toll on a population's mental health and it’s easy to ignore as we juggle other priorities. Check in with yourself once a day and make sure you are taking care of your mental health, which will in turn help you thrive in all other aspects of your life.
- Intentional media exposure - the media tends to focus on the worst case scenario. Set time limits and filter the type of information and sources you are reviewing to curb internal stress and anxiety.
- Support and create your community by staying connected (make the call or schedule a virtual game night with a group of friends). Utilize technology to stay connected to your family and friends so that you don’t feel like you’re in it alone.
- Join the handwritten note trend. Write a quick note to check in on a friend or keep a journal to express your feelings.
- Social distance visits with neighbors in the driveway or front yard - you might not be able to give your best friend a hug, but it can revive your spirits to see someone you love and visit with them in person.
- Set house rules - parents are facing an incredibly challenging task. Whether you are a stay at home parent or work a full time job, this pandemic has added infinite new challenges in the home. Setting house rules can create structure and eliminate some stress.
- Age appropriate conversations - it’s very easy to blur the lines in our daily lives as work and childcare are now so tightly intertwined. Be sure to survey the room and reserve adult conversations for times when the children aren’t around. They retain so much more than we think.
- Adopt this simple mantra, “good enough is perfect”
- Take breaks throughout the day - it’s easy to get lost in the work. Remember to take small windows of time to stretch, talk a walk down your street or take a quick restorative nap.
- Normalize off days - vacation days are a little different than they used to be, but make it a point to take days off. You might not be able to hop on a plane and fly to your favorite vacation spot, but you can unplug and unwind. Work on a house project, take your kids to the park, read that book that’s been on your nightstand for the past few months. Do whatever you need to take a break.
- Cutdown on nonessential meetings - take an inventory of your meetings and cut back when you can to give yourself more time in the day for actual work, family and your mental health.
Perspective is everything. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Grant yourself grace and implement a few of these interventions in an effort to guide and support yourself during this unpredictable time. Lean in when you need help and don’t forget that this too shall pass.
Check out more COVID-19 resources here.