Establishing Emotional Balance in Challenging Times – Common Questions

As with any extreme or challenging situation, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak has the potential to be incredibly stressful for many people. Health Advocate’s Employee Assistance+Work/Life program recently hosted a series of webinars about Establishing Emotional Balance in Challenging Times. During each session, led by Health Advocate’s Matt Verdecchia, participants asked a wide range of important questions regarding maintaining mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below we have compiled many of the most commonly asked questions as well as helpful responses from Matt and other EAP experts:

While everyone is affected by this pandemic, some people may feel a more direct impact through illness, job loss, or the death of a friend or family member. Normally during a time of grief, loss, or fear, we’d reach out to others for support, and that is just as important now. While we are all experiencing grief and isolation due to lack of freedom and movement, we can still connect in other ways. Look to others for ideas, because you are not alone and many others are experiencing similar circumstances.

For those who have lost a loved one, this can be especially difficult because we are unable to mourn in traditional ways. By contacting your EAP or asking others in similar situations (such as nursing homes) what they are doing to grieve right now, you may find a way to honor their memory and process your feelings until the situation normalizes.

Similarly, if you or someone you know has lost their job due to this situation, know there are resources available to help. While patience and flexibility are key, you are not alone. And if you are still employed and feel guilty that others are not, recognize those feelings and know it is okay to feel that way, but try to move yourself into a more positive direction.

It is a natural reaction to feel concerned about going out in public right now. Understand that essential businesses are taking extreme measures to keep the public safe, but there are also steps you can take to relieve your nerves.

  1. First, adjust your mindset – recognize that this is a priority that needs to get done.
  2. Next, plan ahead for the outing in a positive way. Create a list in order if possible to minimize your time inside. Wear a mask and gloves, and practice social distancing. Also think about what you will do when you return home to change clothes, wash hands, etc.
  3. Recognize success when you get home!

This is very much about the thinking – feeling – action process. By planning ahead and putting that plan into action, you can address many of your concerns.

We are all in unprecedented territory at the moment. While building a routine is comforting and can help keep you productive, flexibility is also critical right now. Understand that interruptions will happen. You can plan for them and do your best to mitigate them when possible, but there will be times you struggle, and that is okay. You are likely doing better than you realize.

It is important to figure out the best approach to screen time for you and your family. Building it into the routine each day can help establish flexible limits, but check in with yourself and your family regularly as well. Too much information can be overwhelming sometimes, and we can all use breaks from time to time.

Speaking of breaks, have an honest conversation with your supervisor and set boundaries. Just because you are home 24/7, does not mean you are available all the time. Try not to fall into the “always at work” habit and let your team know when you are and are not available. Establishing these appropriate, rational expectations can help everyone.

Ask yourself why you’re feeling this way – more than likely you’re overexposed to information or hearing conflicting views. Try limiting screen time, and make sure to get information from a variety of trusted sources to avoid confusion.

It is also important to change your mindset and do something physical to help shift your thoughts. Do something different or focus on something else to relieve those feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

It is important to recognize when you’re feeling lonely and ask yourself what might help to abate those feelings. We now have opportunities to remain social, so change your mindset from social distancing to physical distancing. Connect with others on social media, take a virtual workout or other type of class. You can take control and manage those feelings and put something into action.

If you are living with family or friends right now, be mindful that others may have different ways of coping, so try to respect when your partner or kids want to retreat or be alone.

It will not be easy, you but need to have that difficult conversation. Reaching out to the EAP or others in similar situations can help you get started. If you think the person might be receptive, try sharing information from the CDC or other reputable sources. Also keep in mind that denial may be their method of coping. You may not be able to change their minds, but you can let them know their behavior can have a potential negative impact.

It may be hard to change their perceptions or beliefs, and you do not have to overcome that, but you do need to address the issue and reaffirm that you are going to continue practicing social distancing and habits for your own health and safety.

Try to put things in perspective for them – that even if they will not take appropriate precautions for themselves, they should do it for others and consider how their actions impact older people or those with underlying conditions.

This is very dependent on age, but regardless, take the time to plan the conversation in advance. By being prepared, you can keep your emotions in check and avoid instilling your fears or anxiety in your kids.

Think about how you’d address other challenging conversations, like substance abuse or death, and apply the same approach here. Make it age appropriate. The younger the child, the shorter the conversation should be. And be honest! It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” By keeping the lines of communication open, your children will feel comfortable asking questions, enabling you to address their concerns quickly.

It is absolutely natural to feel this way; we are mourning the loss of freedoms and the ability to be social, but don’t let those feelings of regret overwhelm you. We are all experiencing this at the same time, so it is important to push our mindset toward happier, more enjoyable things to change how we think about the current situation. Find alternatives for now, but do not be afraid to plan for the future. Create contingency options, but having something to look forward to can help you remain positive despite uncertainty.

An increase in stress during this time is a very normal and natural response. Understanding helpful strategies to address these feelings and emotions during this difficult time can help us find balance despite the challenges.