Late last night, a friend called.
“So,” he began with an exhale. “My last day at work is tomorrow. We’ve all been laid off indefinitely.” With the recent news, the small marketing agency where he worked as a graphic designer was anticipating a serious hit in business — so they decided to get ahead of it.
He’s not alone. Experts are estimating 3.5 million jobs in the US alone could be lost in a COVID-19 recession, with severance payouts unlikely. For those working for low wages in retail or hospitality, the future is even more murky. And then there are those of us confined inside — freelancers who once relied on public spaces, office-goers now working remotely — forced to navigate a lessening work load and staying sane in close quarters.
SEE ALSO: It’s okay to not be okay.
Holistic career and mind-set coach Amina AlTai claims it’s only natural to feel as though various areas of your life are in disarray as a response to heightened anxiety. AlTai left corporate America after developing two autoimmune diseases to study the mind, body and career connection, eventually devising a curriculum that supports career and physical health. Not only does AlTai believe COVID-19 will go down as “one of the most challenging, fear-inducing moments in human history,” but she acknowledges it’s also particularly trying for those already experiencing professional conflict, or general financial stress.
Whether you’re in a state of panic, are struggling to self-motivate or maintain your overall well-being, surviving this period of uncertainty with your mental health in tact will mean expecting the unexpected. Thankfully, AlTai claims there are numerous resources available, as well as steps you can take to effectively manage whatever you’re experiencing mentally, emotionally and professionally amid the hysteria. Read on for various COVID-19-catalyzed contexts you and how to best handle them knowing we will all pull through – together.
What to do if you’re spiraling
First and foremost, remember to breathe. Breath work is incredible powerful in supporting the nervous system when we’re feeling stressed. The sympathetic nervous system prepares our body to react to stress (“fight or flight”) and the parasympathetic helps us recover from stress (“rest and digest”). Deep breaths help to restore your nervous system from fight/flight to rest/digest.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by panic, place your feet flat on the floor and connect to your physical body — check in and see where these feelings reside for you.
Once you’re checked, remind yourself that this moment is temporary. Everything we’re experiencing is transient. Remind yourself that you are safe and that this moment will soon pass.
Next, substitute thoughts of fear. In each challenging moment where you are connecting to a fear thought, choose a new thought to better support you. What empowering and supportive thought can you choose to lean into instead of this fear thought? Learn to continually redirect your mind, and you can restore your body to a more even keel.
What to do to manage general anxiety
When we’re anxious or stressed our bodies produce a cascade of hormones from adrenaline to cortisol to other stress hormones designed to help take flight from stressful stimuli. When we are in that state of stress for too long, it can negatively impact our hormones and entire systems. Meditation supports our bodies coming back to that rest and digest space.
Journaling can be a powerful practice to get out of your head, become really conscious of your thoughts and how they’re impacting our current reality by putting them on a page.
Moving our bodies can also really support us in processing difficult emotions. What we are experiencing in our minds can manifest as physical symptoms in the body so it’s paramount that we’re processing those emotions — and movement is a similarly incredible way to process as well as come out of your heads and into your body. Turn to YouTube for a yoga or workout video, or go for a walk.
What to do if you think you might lose your job
The current climate is tenuous and many people are finding themselves out of work or with reduced hours that impacts their budgets and lives, dramatically. Generally, having a contingency budget is important for these moments, with a good rule of thumb to have six months of savings set aside in case there is a crisis like the one we’re faced with today. If you feel like unemployment may be coming your way, take steps now to powerfully prepare. Update your resume and your LinkedIn, start having conversations with people you trust about new opportunities and reach out to recruiters who can be powerful advocates for you.
What to do to stay productive
When it comes to optimizing productivity while working from home, first and foremost, it’s important to set an intention for the day to steer your efforts. Working from home can be distracting. We are often surrounded by people and things we love, which can cause us to deviate from the work at hand.
Ground into the day with an intention such as, “I’m powerfully present for the work I do.” If you stray from that intention, gently invite yourself to come back without judgement.
Another really important tool for working from home is having a dedicated workspace. Oftentimes, if we’re not set up for it, we’re working from the kitchen table or sofa — it doesn’t set the most professional backdrop if you’re on video calls, either. Set up a room or corner in your home that is dedicated to work and is streamlined to only have the tools you need to show up fully for your job. Ensure you have privacy if you can, and need it.
Define integrity for yourself. What does integrity look like for you with your work? What do you need to do or to accomplish to feel like you’re doing great work? Defining that at the upfront allows us to map towards and ensure we’re doing what we say we’re going to when we’re in the comfort of our own home. You can share those goals with your manager or they can simply be for you so that you know you’re tracking.
What to do to if your relationship is faltering
Stress and anxiety are contagious and all areas of our lives are connected. If we are anxious about losing our jobs, it’s going to put additional stress and pressure on our wallets and relationships, unless we are incredibly mindful. If you’re in partnership, work with your partner to design a contingency plan and budget that you both feel aligned on. Getting clear on the plan and they taking aligned action is the best way to honor each other and move forward in a healthy way, or try the general anxiety-relievers above as a partnership to facilitate closeness.
What to do to maintain your mental health
Creating a routine and a schedule is paramount now. If you used to start your day with meditation and a workout, try and maintain that routine but with modifications for working out at home. It’s important to lean into a new normal and to create some routine around it to balance our wellbeing. Lean into meditation to support anxiety and stress. This simple act can help you reset your stress hormones and feel more grounded in these tenuous times.
Set up regular FaceTime or Zoom calls with your friends and family so you see them and engage with them beyond a voice call. That interfacing is so important right now when we can’t reach out and touch people. Community and relationships during this social distancing period is so important in supporting safety and connection.
For more ways to work through fear and anxiety, you can refer to Amina Altai’s worksheet here.