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5 Ways to Help Others and Stay Mentally Strong

Categories: Culture, Blog

We are a few weeks into shelter at home, social distancing, remote working, and job losses. What mental health experts warned us might happen, has happened. Some people are lonely, frightened, agitated, and angry. Others are able to cope and adapt to the new normal easier.

People who are normally social connectors may be struggling the most. They have lost one of their primary purposes. These are the people who told the stories, shared a quick joke or authentically wanted to know how you are. If this person works with you, or is a friend, reach out. Invite them for a Zoom or FaceTime Happy Hour or coffee. While it isn’t the same, it does allow for some social bonding. Managers should encourage non-work-related video chats which helps replace the team that was being built in the office. Try a shared crossword puzzle for a little fun.

The silence – or the noise – can be overwhelming. These are at either end of the spectrum. There are either too many people in a small shared space or the opposite of having no one with whom to share the space. Some families have two spouses working from home as well as kids electronically attending school while others may be trying to work and simultaneously home school their children. Add a couple of animals to the mix and the sound is overwhelming. Contrast that to someone who is living alone whose primary companion now is telephonic or electronic. They cannot even feel the soft touch from a loved one. Either extreme can cause depression, anxiety, and stress. Employers can help with the overcrowded home with staggered and flexible work shifts when possible. They can have managers reach out to see how people are doing. Conversely, check in on the people who are alone. Ask them how it is going where they are and listen. The gift of fully listening is powerful.

A steady diet of news is crushing. Some people are unable to pull themselves away from the COVID news either on television or the Internet. This constant diet of negativity is feeding their fear and anxiety. A simple solution is to limit the amount of time spent reading or viewing the news each day. Select one or two sources and look at those. Resist the temptation. Instead, fill that time by reading something positive or watching something on television that is upbeat. Now more than ever having a mental diet of healthy food that creates thoughtful consideration is an act of kindness to oneself.

Fear is hitting people at their core. They are fearful for their health, the health of their family members, and their economic well-being. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety and security are the bottom tier of human needs. These are both threatened during this pandemic. Employers should encourage employees to reach out to their EAP – Employee Assistance Program - for help and guidance. Most EAP plans are tele-health and delivered at low or no cost. Conversations with EAP counselors are confidential and not disclosed to employers. If people are unsure if they have this coverage, they can reach out to their insurance carrier to see what mental health benefits are available.

The uncertainty of doing something, doing nothing, or not knowing what to do. Uncertainty coupled with guilt is draining. We are in a world of unknowns and one of the biggest unknowns is when this will end. Decisions that were once easy such as stopping by the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk are now fraught with uncertainty. Am I exposing my family or some stranger to the virus if I go to the grocery store? Am I being irresponsible and not caring about the greater good? Is having someone else deliver my groceries more or less responsible? The list goes on. While these are individual decisions, there is commonality as many of us are facing these same decisions. Ask friends and family about what they have done. Accept that decisions are going to be the most right at the time given the circumstances surrounding the decision. There are simply fewer decisions that are easy.

Inaction is the enemy. Reach out. Connect. Be kind.


About the Author: Brenda Edwards is the Executive Director of the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. She frequently writes on law firm management topics.