Countering Emotional Lows with Prevention for better Mental Health
When access to professional therapy is limited or not possible, emotional lows can be countered by people on their own to restore their mental health well-being
By Leslie Raimondo, Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton and Samer Abi Chaker, Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton
Mental health has been a significant yet invisible health concern in the wake of COVID-19. Mental health issues can have variable but profound implications on psychological wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and productivity for employees.
The UAE Government has been regularly undertaking new measures to address mental health issues and reduce the stigma associated with it. In May 2020, the UAE National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing launched a free mental health support line for residents experiencing mental health issues induced by the current pandemic.
While COVID-19 has changed the way businesses think about resources, companies such as Booz Allen have also refocused resources to support employees through not just the logistics and technology challenges, but also the psychological and economic implications of the crisis. World Mental Health Day is an opportune time for companies to understand that providing such benefits, particularly those related to childcare and wellness services, will help employees feel more supported and be more resilient in the face of change. Increasingly, and in every industry across sectors, employers will be assessed on these commitments.
The COVID-19 pandemic can and will have an impact on employees’ mental health, especially as they struggle to balance remaining productive while working from home, attending to family’s needs, and finding time to unwind. This is more challenging given the changing policies and measures associated with social outings, contact restriction, and social distancing. These situations are likely to generate states of psychological and emotional distress that can manifest in different forms. Employees may experience different forms of stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness, which may have been catalyzed by the pandemic. Furthermore, mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen, and may require extra attention.
As organizations pivot to remote working, they are taking several initiatives to recognize mental health issues; highlighting the human aspect of human resources. These include virtual coffee breaks for teams to discuss anything non-work related, flexible hours to manage work and home responsibilities, vouchers for fitness sessions and meditation programs. Many of these initiatives do not require capital investments, but do require a great degree of trust, empathy and transparency from the company leadership.
In addition, to the above institutional initiatives, Booz Allen experts outline a set of basic actions that organizations can encourage their employees to adopt to foster mental wellbeing.
Mental Coping Mechanisms
In the current pandemic, many of us would have experienced some degree of anxiety and a loss of control. Giving time to adjust and acknowledging that it is a difficult time is important, as is patience with changes in emotional states. People should be encouraged to talk about issues, feelings, and experiences with friends, family, and if needed, health professionals. Mindful breathing techniques can be particularly effective (these can even be practiced at the workplace), as well as relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.
Physical Coping Mechanisms
Exercise boosts the natural secretions of adrenaline and endorphins, some of the essential hormones that drive psychological well-being. Mental health is nurtured with exercise routines that are centered around rhythmic activities such as walking, running or swimming. Adding a mindfulness element to these exercises, such as focusing on the breathing rhythm, can complement the potential benefits.
Social Coping Mechanisms
Isolation tends to amplify emotional lows. Maintaining social connections is essential to help expedite the healing process. Organizations can create team-building activities that will foster employees’ interactions out of the corporate environment. Online support groups can also help reduce the sense of isolation. Additionally, volunteering – at the corporate or individual level – is another way to challenge the sense of helplessness. By helping others, people recall their own strengths and reclaim emotional control.
Should these self-coping mechanisms prove to be not enough, it is important that a mental health professional be consulted. Early diagnosis and management is vital, and should the symptoms of poor mental health persist, organizations must encourage employees to seek or even provide access to professional counselling. Even amidst unprecedented circumstances staying mentally fit is the key to leading a more resilient, productive, and happier life.