Staying Resilient in Uncertain Times: The New COVID-19 Reality
The economic and psychological ripple effects of the COVID-19 quarantine are just beginning to be felt.
As of this writing, over 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment. According to Forbes, the Department of Labor reported an unemployment rate of 14.74% unemployment rate may actually be as high as 20% with adjusted numbers. The Federal Reserve warned that the coronavirus economic freeze could eventually send the unemployment rate above 32% and cause at least 50% of companies to lay off employees.
This has created a highly stressful environment for everyone. Finding ways to cope during these difficult times is crucial to your mental and physical health.
You lost your job, now what?
Losing a job or being furloughed is always difficult, but trying to get re-employed during a global pandemic is even harder. Once you get over the initial shock, take time to grieve the loss. Then take immediate action steps:
- Get your finances in order
- Reduce spending as much as possible
- Apply for unemployment
- Contact all of your creditors and try to get postponed or reduced payments, if you have trouble paying your bills
- Reach out to your professional network and let them know you are available for new opportunities
- Update your resume
- Take time for self-care
The burdens of surviving a layoff
For those who survive a layoff, there are a jumble of stressful emotions. You may feel sad and grieve for your former colleagues who were let go, distrustful of management, worry you will be next and stressed over the spike in workload demands. Even if you kept your job, you may have to take a pay cut, which can cause resentment and financial concerns. Add to that the stresses of working from home while home-schooling children and constantly being tethered to the office computer, and you may feel pushed to your limits. Try these coping strategies to reduce stress:
- Create a structure for yourself to increase focus
- Schedule when you will check email as well as start/end work each day
- Decrease distractions by finding a quiet place to work and set “do not disturb” hours with your family
- Limit use of electronic devices after a certain time
- Take time to eat well and exercise; try to limit stress eating
Qualtrics surveyed office-based employees forced to work remotely during the pandemic. They found that when working from home:
- 54% felt more stressed
- 52% were more anxious
- 25% felt socially isolated
- 13% said they were constantly interrupted by their children
- 10% felt disconnected from their team
Using resilience to cope
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.” It’s how we “bounce back” from these difficult times. The APA suggests building resilience by focusing on 4 core components: connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning.
- Combat isolation by leaning on trusted relationships
- Connect with friends and family via phone calls, social media, or video technology like Facetime and Zoom
- Join a virtual group
- Take care of your body with good nutrition, self-care, and exercise
- Use journaling, prayer, and meditation to get into a positive frame of mind
- Focus on gratitude and a positive attitude
- Avoid negative stimulation such as watching the news 24/7
- Don’t mask pain with emotional eating or substance abuse
- Volunteer to help others
- Foster an animal from your local pet rescue
- Check-in on your neighbors and elders in isolation
- Bring groceries to low-income families
- Move toward your goals
- Take an online class or catch up on continuing education credits (CEUs)
- Catch up on the latest best practice research in your specialty. Set aside an hour a day for learning
- Learn from the past
Ask for help I if you need it
If you are really struggling during this time, be sure to contact a licensed mental health professional for help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM, Eastern Time 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org. State and local mental health organizations are also available.