How to manage COVID-19 stress and anxiety

David Price, CEO of Health Assured, gives some advice on how to cope with stress linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Serious older man sitting staring into the distance


It is important to learn how to manage the COVID-19 stress and anxiety, with the world in the grips of the pandemic, we need to look after ourselves and each other.

And while we should all follow NHS and government guidance to protect our physical health, we can’t neglect our mental health.

Everyone is adapting as best they can to a rapidly changing situation – us included. So employers should honour their duty of care to their staff and keep an eye on how they’re coping.

Coronavirus & common signs of stress

  • Becoming quiet and withdrawn.
  • Slipping work standards.
  • Taking more sick days.
  • Poor timekeeping.
  • Becoming short-tempered or irritable.
  • Physical complaints like headaches, nausea, tiredness or heart palpitations.

In-person, the signs of stress should be quite easy to spot. But now, it’s likely that employees either work for home or are on lay-off or furlough.

Managers need to check in with them regularly to make sure they’re okay. If they have the means to do so, they should set up video calls. If not, just call, text or email.

You never know, it might do managers some good, too.

Talking about worries can help them work through them, and even overcome them. And there’s more managers can do, and it’s worth sharing the methods with employees as well…

Combat coronavirus anxiety

The first step is to accept that you’re worried. It’s completely natural at a time like this.

In fact, some experts even suggest setting aside time each day to allow yourself to worry.

By letting your thoughts run wild for around half an hour, it helps to get the worry out of your system so you feel better for the rest of the day.

You could try meditation and practice mindfulness, which is paying attention to the present moment and, according to the NHS, “can improve your mental wellbeing”.

Meanwhile, limit the amount of news you take in. Rather than watching and reading rolling news coverage, try just a daily round-up.

Avoiding the news can be tough, especially as you need to stay informed about anything that affects you, your colleagues, and your business.

But it’s better to focus on the things you can control.

Make a stress management policy

Managers should create a stress management policy – a plan for tackling stress at work.

This should include information on all potential workplace stressors and state the steps employers will take to cut out or control them.

For example, it could mention that employers regularly monitor remote staff’s hours and overtime to make sure they aren’t overworking.

Remember that the policy applies to everyone in the company and, ultimately, it’s up to managers to enforce it and stay within the rules of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

But if your business doesn’t have a policy, it’s a good idea to make one soon to support any workers still on the premises—as well as those working from home. If it’s helpful, it is worth talking it through with a health & safety expert.

But at the moment, the world is changing so fast. It’s best to deal with it one day at a time.

*David Price is CEO of health and wellbeing network Health Assured which is a part of the Peninsula Group. This article was first published on Peninsula’s website.

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