Most of us will have already wondered if we have the coronavirus when we’ve coughed. Our hands are sore from washing them and we’ll never hear the Happy Birthday song in the same way again. Everyone is wondering how we are going to survive the coming months.
You may be worrying if you will still have a job in a few months’ time, wondering how you will earn money on a zero hour contract or watching your successful business or freelance opportunities disappear.
For others, the challenges of working from home and spending 24/7 with families may be keeping you up at night. Or you could be working in a critical job and worrying that you are risking your health or your family’s health just by going out to work.
And as we isolate ourselves into our household groups, our opportunities to carry our practices which contribute positively to our mental wellbeing can diminish.
In amongst this turmoil, there are ways that we can protect our mental health and do what we can to make these coming months better, so that when we reflect on our time of isolation we can show that it was a period of growth mentally, no matter how physically or financially tough it is.
Engaging in positive community action. If it is safe and possible, you may find that doing something for the good of your community is a great outlet. Volunteer to walk a neighbour’s dog if they are self-isolating. Do some shopping for your elderly or vulnerable relative. Give blood or provide online assistance to people in your community who are home educating for the first time. As a union movement we have always believed that working together is the best way forward and this is no exception. Our communities need us more than ever.
Here’s a chance to try a new way of exercising. Our lives may become more sedentary than usual, and so it’s important to get the endorphins rushing around our bodies. You may find more online resources than before, with fitness instructors keen to engage with a new home audience. But a run around the garden or your local park at a quiet time of day can be just as valuable. Here’s a chance to use those apps that you downloaded on your phone but never bothered to use, and a chance to find the form of exercise that works for you. Take your time, enjoy it and make it fun.
With an unprecedented number of online resources becoming free and available, it’s never been a better time to reengage with learning and find what interests you. Learn a language, gain online qualifications, learn about a subject you’ve always wanted to know about but never had the time. Keeping busy is good for our health and wellbeing.
Choosing to live your life positively doesn’t mean never having other emotions. Instead it is understanding that a positive mind is the default, and variations or fluctuations in your mood are possible, but that they should always return to a positive base. Put your phone down, stop scrolling through endless tales of doom and gloom. If you do engage on social media, purposely engage with accounts that provide a positive outlook such as thehappynewspaper.com. It’s easy to get sucked into a spiral of doom, and difficult to get out of, but there is always help available.
Days can be long with reduced social contact, and without the opportunity to change our surroundings, it can be even more isolating. It’s important to use technology in every way we can. Reach out to colleagues, friends, family members and loved ones to talk, re-engage and start conversations. Challenge yourself to engage with someone in a different way, try to use technology to help you and make the first step in contacting others. For those of you who are sharing your space for longer, don’t let things fester or get on top of you. Communicate openly and honestly about how to manage this time together. Share household tasks, childcare and chores equally to avoid resentment building.
For many members of the disabled community, social distancing, isolation and hospital visits are part of the norm that the wider community doesn’t see. For able bodied people, this period is a chance to take stock and recognise our privileges and put things right for everyone when we return to routine. Many businesses who haven’t allowed home working, in a very short space of time have now shown it’s possible and have shown that there are very few reasons why a workforce can’t be more agile and adaptable. Working life can’t go back to more of the same after this crisis. As union members our job is to stand up for workers of every identity and for those who are treated badly by poor employers who put presenteeism over health.
Take your learning back into the workplace. If your workplace is more virtual than ever, share new finds with colleagues. When you return to a physical place of work, think about the impact of your daily commute on your mental health. Take this time to recognise what works for you and what doesn’t and when you go back to the physical workplace, speak to your management structures about making work suit you better.
Looking for help on dealing with the Coronavirus at work? The TUC has created a guide is for trade union reps on how to provide support and negotiate with employers during the Covid-19 pandemic.