As if our stressful workplaces and our daily personal worries were not enough, we are now facing a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, which will probably not harm us (if we avoid risks), but is already infecting us with additional stress and anxiety in our lives.
Remember: we are already facing a worldwide epidemic called burnout, probably more harmful in the long run (statistically speaking) than the coronavirus desease. I’m not denying how lethal the COVID-19 pandemic could be, but prevention out of fear is already doing its job.
We are changing our outlook and behaviors during this new state of alertness and awareness. And this is a good thing, for prevention is the best recipe. But we should not stop paying attention to stressful workplaces and the pressure that comes from workload, sleep depravation, unreasonable deadlines and toxic cultures.
Yes, let’s wash our hands, let’s avoid crowds, let’s stop traveling and let’s raise our health defenses. But above all, let’s control our stress levels. Most of us lack the knowledge and proper guide to manage stress. It is possible to weather this COVID-19 storm without the stress. Take precautions, but avoid the panic infection.
All prevention is good. I’m no medical expert, but I do know about stressful workplaces and stress management. I have studied for years how our everyday stress turns into chronic stress and into burnout or a psychosomatic illness (I currently suffer one). I know from personal experience that chronic stress can slowly kill you.
In this time of worldwide panic and a extremely stressful environment, I offer these five helpful recommendations to manage better our daily stress, so we can be spreading calmness instead of spreading additional tension in already stressful workplaces:
1-Work from Home
This is the time to justify it. Working from home has proved to be smart and does no wrong in most industries. Now we are in a health crisis, so this is a good time to experiment work-from-home if your workplace is not already doing it. Ask to work from home if your line of job permits it. This way we add to prevention.
2-Keep Your Mind Free of Fear Viruses
Our mental hygiene is as important as washing our hands and avoiding potential contagious situations. Let’s all avoid the viruses of fake news and fear journalism. This is a time for more common sense, more objective information and less morbid scandal.
Your mind is an information processor. If you let garbage in, you will contaminate your thoughts. Your thoughts are energy, they determine how you experience your life. Stop reading all the social media garbage that is making us even more fearful.
Keep you mind free of the media hype and exaggeration. This is a credible and trusted site to stay informed without sensationalism: Center for Health Security from John Hopkins University.
3-Pause Before Reacting on Impulse
Our brain’s default mode is reaction. With so many alarming news, fake headlines and emotional opinions, we have to learn to stop our impulsive emotions. Our brain is a survival machine, so it’s primed for reaction on emotional impulse. Learn to pause.
With all the noise and panic going on, this is a great time to start experimenting our ability to pause, breathe deep and bring our internal dialogue to a more rational place. Don’t believe everything you hear. This is a time to be on the safe side, but do check your facts. Don’t share unreliable information and get your information from specialized sources.
4-Take This Moment to Reflect About Your Life
We should not wait to be facing the thought of danger or the idea of death to stop and examine the life we are living. Perhaps the COVID-19 crisis brings us the unique opportunity to take a look from a distant observers’s view and question how we are living our life.
There is more than work. Pandemic aside, take a look at your everyday stressors and define what is really important, what matters and what is not worth giving up your health for. There is more than climbing the corporate ladder. There is much more than a paycheck. Your health, your family and your mental sanity must come first.
5-Take Care of Yourself (always)
We should not wait for a pandemic to take care of ourselves. You are no good to your family, to your children or to your company without your good health. Being healthy means not just being free of illness. It also means practicing good life habits such as regular exercise, eating healthy, meditation and having a good night sleep everyday.
In this time of reflection about the state of the world, I agree with author Arianna Huffington. In her book Thrive she says “burnout, stress and depression have become worldwide epidemics”. I would add that the daily health effects on millions from stressful workplaces are doing us permanent harm all over the world, before, during and after the coronavirus crisis.
Take care of yourself, take precautions, and don’t take unnecessary risks during the COVID-19 storm. But this virus (as others in the past) too shall pass. After it’s gone, the stress at work and in life situations will still be there. Let’s change how we react to the inevitable pressures in stressful workplaces all over the world.
Stress comes from choosing one thought over another. It’s a mental game. It’s not the workload, it’s not the bad boss, it’s not the annoying colleague, it’s not the long hours. It’s the stories, the mindsets, the attitude and our reactions to things we can’t control that make us suffer. Stress happens, but suffering is optional.
Do the world a service and take a healthy mindset to work in this time of elevated stress. Let’s make peace of mind and calmness go viral.