Maintaining Positive Mental Health in the Workplace – Recommendations for Employees
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There are many steps that can be taken to manage feelings of stress and promote positive mental health and wellness at the employee level during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following information and guidance provides recommendations for employees across Windsor-Essex County in building resiliency in response to ongoing changes and maintaining psychological well-being during this time of uncertainty.
For All Employees
Practice Stress Management & Resiliency- Building Strategies
A key practice for engaging in stress management and resiliency-building at the employee level is to allocate time and space in your daily routine for self-care. Taking the time in your regular schedule to practice self-care strategies and attend to basic needs are essential steps to reducing stress and promoting personal mental health and wellbeing both within and outside of the workplace.
Every employee will experience and respond to workplace stress differently; therefore, effective self-care and coping strategies will look different for every employee based on their individual needs and life experiences. Employees are encouraged to employ the self-care or coping strategies that work best for them. Reflect on self-care methods that have been helpful in responding to adversity in the past, as these strategies will likely be beneficial in responding to current sources of stress. Strategies may include self-care methods at the physical, psychological/emotional, spiritual, or workplace/professional levels.
For more information about physical, psychological, and spiritual self-care and resiliency-building methods, please visit the Mental Health section of this website.
- Maintain a regular and consistent sleep schedule. Proper rest and sleep can help to enhance overall feelings of physical and mental well-being and enhance your ability to focus and thrive at work. As part of a regular and consistent sleep schedule, try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day (including weekends). Other strategies for maintaining proper rest and sleep are included below. If these strategies do not work, consult with your primary care provider:
- Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature
- Reduce light in the bedroom
- Turn off the television, computer, cellphone, or other distractions while in bed
- Ensure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow to support your neck and back
- Avoid drinking caffeine in the late afternoon or evening
- Avoid naps during the day if these interrupt nighttime sleep routines
- Avoid vigorous physical activity before bed if you find this prevents you from sleeping well
- Engage in daily physical activity. There are many activities that employees can do to stay physically active during the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining physical distancing. Employees can engage in daily physical activity before work, during work breaks or lunch hours, or during off-hours with family. A few ideas for staying physically active during the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining physical distancing include:
- Taking an online fitness class
- ParticipACTION is offering live fit breaks at 12:00 p.m. every day on their Facebook page. Please visit their No Gym, No Park, No Problem: Physical Activity Resource Guide for more physical activity ideas, credible online fitness classes and websites, and online informational pamphlets.
- Planet Fitness is offering free online fitness classes by trained professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit their Facebook page for more information about live fitness classes. Previously recorded live events are also made available on their Facebook page and their YouTube channel.
- Gardening or doing yard work
- Washing the car
- Jumping rope or skipping
- Going for a walk or a bike ride (if you are not required to self-isolate)
- Playing active video games (e.g., Wii)
- Taking an online fitness class
- Eat healthy and sufficient foods at regular intervals according to Canada’s Food Guide. Eating healthy can help to reduce feelings of stress and increase feelings of both physical and mental well-being. Canada’s Food Guide offers many healthy eating tips, cooking guides, and healthy recipes for individuals and families to follow. More information about healthy eating, nutrition, and food access during the COVID-19 pandemic can also be found on the Food & Nutrition section of the WECHU’s COVID-19 website.
- Stay up-to-date on accurate information from reliable sources. While it is important to stay informed about COVID-19 in order to take action in reducing its spread, the endless supply of information and attention on this topic can increase stress and anxiety. A lot of information is disseminated about COVID-19 every day, but not all of it is accurate. Limit media consumption to only once or twice per day and avoid watching, reading, or listening to media that may cause stress, anxiety, or fear. Seek information about COVID-19 from credible sources that can be trusted, such as the WECHU website, Public Health Ontario, or Health Canada.
- Stay connected to friends and family members. Keep in mind that physical distancing does not have to mean socially disconnecting. Receiving and maintaining support from social networks during the COVID-19 pandemic can be very helpful for managing feelings of stress. Stay connected to friends, family members, and other social networks during this time by contacting them through email, phone, video chat, or other digital methods.
- Participate in enjoyable activities. Continue to participate in enjoyable activities at home or during work breaks as part of a regular routine. Some of these activities may include:
- Reading a book
- Watching a movie
- Trying a new recipe
- Listening to music or a podcast
- Doing a craft, painting, or colouring
- Playing a board game during family game night
- Doing a traditional puzzle or a mind-stimulating puzzle (e.g., crossword, word search, Sudoku)
- Keep your mind stimulated. There are many online courses and resources available to help keep your mind stimulated during this time. Available resources include:
- Coursera: Offers a variety of free courses from recognized universities and companies.
- Duolingo: Learn a new language using Duolingo. It is free and easy to use.
- Google Arts and Culture: Partnered with over 1,200 museums worldwide to offer online virtual tours
- Windsor-Essex Public Libraries: Online resources are available for those with a library card. Visit Windsor Public Library or Essex County Library to access books, magazines, music, and more.
- Keep a reflective journal. Consider writing in a daily or weekly journal. Writing in a journal can be an emotional release for many people. In fact, journaling can help people process their feelings or emotions, reduce negative thoughts, and explore positive self-talk strategies.
- Practice meditation, relaxation techniques, or yoga. Free guided meditations, relaxation exercises, and yoga classes are available through virtual formats during the COVID-19 pandemic. These practices can help to reduce anxiety or stress, re-instill a sense of calmness in the mind, and reduce intrusive thoughts. A few examples of online meditation and yoga classes from credible sources are included below:
- Headspace: Free guided meditations and mindfulness exercises/tips can be found on their Youtube Channel or through the Apple/Android app
- Core Power Yoga: Offers free access to a new collection of online yoga classes every week during the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes are facilitated by trained professionals to help keep people involved in yoga and active fitness during this time
- Lulu Lemon: Partners with trained and professional yoga instructors to offer free yoga classes on their Youtube channel for all fitness levels
- Find comfort in your spiritual, religious, or other personal beliefs. This may include listening to faith-based or spirituality podcasts/live streams, attending online spiritual gatherings, reaching out to spiritual or religious community members by phone or email, or engaging in other spiritual or religious practices.
- Engage in deep breathing techniques. One effective deep breathing technique is called square breathing. If you become overwhelmed by feelings of stress, anxiety, or worry, find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down and take a slow deep breath in while counting to four, hold for four seconds, and then release for four seconds. Repeat this process 5-10 times. Square breathing techniques can be calming to the nervous system, alleviate feelings of anxiety or worry, and help individuals think more clearly
Seek Help for Mental Health Concerns
If you are feeling overwhelmed by feelings of stress or anxiety, it is important to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Reach out to trusted friends, family members, co-workers, or a mental health professional for support. There are many local programs and services available for assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about where to access help and resources, please visit the “Where to Access Help & Resources” section of the WECHU’s Mental Health Promotion & COVID-19 website.
Many workplaces offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a Family Employee Assistance Program (FSEAP) benefit to their employees. EAP programs offer employees with access to free, professional, and confidential counselling, coaching, and consulting services. Consult with your employer to learn more about whether an EAP or FEAP benefit is available to employees, and further information about how to access support.
For Essential Employees, Employees Working In-Office, or Employees Returning to the Workplace
Workplace and professional stress management and resiliency-building methods can be helpful in responding to adversity for employees who are adjusting to different working environments, such as those working in essential workplaces/in-office environments or those returning to the workplace after business closures. A few examples of employee self-care and resiliency-building in the workplace are included below.
Become familiar with the policies and procedures established by your workplace to help reduce the risk of spread and to protect the health of employees. Follow the policies and procedures established by your workplace and the recommendations being provided by public health to reduce the risk of spreading infection (e.g., frequent handwashing, respiratory etiquette, physical distancing, cleaning and sanitization of your work station). Taking the appropriate safety precautions to protect and maintain physical health in the workplace can help to alleviate the stress and fear that may be associated with COVID-19.
This can help to enhance understanding about your roles and responsibilities related to COVID-19 in the workplace, and provide opportunities for you to ask questions and seek further clarification about how the workplace is responding to COVID-19. Identify circumstances that cause stress or anxiety in the workplace and collaborate with managers/supervisors to identify the appropriate solutions. Have open discussions with managers and supervisors about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting your work and seek guidance and support as required. If you require further accommodations, or have any concerns about your roles or responsibilities in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, consult with your manager, immediate supervisor, or your workplace’s Human Resources Department for support.
This can help to increase your sense of control in the workplace and re-establish a sense of normalcy within your professional life. An electronic or paper calendar can be helpful for establishing a consistent routine, organizing daily tasks, and engaging in effective time management. Set reminders or develop checklists to help prioritize and identify tasks that require immediate attention and allow for flexibility to respond to evolving conditions or arising needs as a result of COVID-19.
Schedule time for breaks as part of a daily work routine (in alignment with your workplace’s policies). This can include dedicated time for meals, exercise/stretching, or meditation and relaxation; whatever works for you. Incorporating breaks into your daily work routine can help to reduce stress, refresh and rejuvenate the mind, increase your ability to focus, and enhance productivity.
- Workplace Strategies for Mental Health offers a weekly email subscription that provides employees with practical and engaging break time activities that focus on the improvement of mental health at work. For more information, please visit the WSMH website.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in increased workloads and responsibilities for many employees across the community. Establish and maintain professional boundaries with employers and co-workers by engaging in ongoing communication about your current needs, capacities, and available resources, and notifying managers and immediate supervisors if you feel overextended. Avoid committing to new projects or assignments that will overextend your current capacity or compromise your needs for self-care. It is also important to avoid working past your regular work hours, except in exceptional circumstances, to fulfill work tasks, respond to emails, or engage in other work-related activities. Use your off-hours and break times to engage in self-care, spend time with family, and attend to basic needs. Consult with your manager or immediate supervisor about any work-related concerns regarding heavy workloads, task management, or any roles/responsibilities that may seem unclear.