It’s been a tough 2020. In the last issue we looked at stress and trauma during disaster recovery, with a view to the unfolding bushfire season and subsequent floods, and now a global pandemic has plunged the world into uncertainty.
Constant news can feel relentless with clear and present effects on our lives and those around us. Australia has considered this a health emergency and has taken steps in line with this emergency response.
As disaster response professionals, the industry is well placed to support the community through these uncertain times.
However, our world has changed substantially in the space of a few weeks, from the way our society and businesses operate, and concerns about the pandemic and its effect on our families and those around us – this can take its toll on business owners and their staff.
It can affect us in many ways; physically, emotionally, socially, and psychologically. What are the steps we can take to protect mental health and wellbeing?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a document on mental health and dealing with stress during the outbreak, their recommendations include:
- Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that could cause you to feel anxious or distressed
- Seek information that helps you to take practical steps to prepare your plans, personal and business, and protect yourself and those around you
- Seek information updates at specific times
There are practical steps for responding effectively to COVID-19:
- Acknowledge what’s happening for you: Physically, emotionally, psychologically. What’s going on in your inner world, your thoughts and feelings. Seek support from a professional, psychologists are now providing services online in response to the COVID-19 need. Contact your local GP, they are also providing online appointments, they can refer you to a psychologist.
- Focus on what’s in your control: When we are faced with a crisis of any sort, fear and anxiety is a natural response to danger and uncertainty. The COVID-19 scenario is this on a macro-level. We can get lost in worrying about the future and the unknown, what’s happening in society and how the virus might affect our loved ones.
It’s natural to worry about these things, however, the more we focus on what’s not in our control, the more stressed and anxious we might feel. The most useful thing we can do in any type of crisis is to focus on what’s in your control. We are unable to control what’s happening on the macro-level, we may not be able to control thoughts and feelings that emerge – however, we can control what we can do. The aim is to take control of our behaviour.
- Take committed action based on your core values: What are the simple things that you can do to look after your business, your staff, your family and those around you? Throughout the day, check in with yourself and ask, “What can I do right now, however small it might be”, and then do it.
- Reflect on your core values: What do you stand for in the face of challenge? There are many things in this situation that are beyond our control, there may be many obstacles, with previous goals, hopes and dreams put on hold. There are no simple solutions, however, we can connect into what’s important for us to face the challenge.
- Identify resources that you can access, for help, assistance, support and advice: Reach out to your social networks. Stay connected to a reliable and trustworthy source of information for updates on the crisis and guidelines for responding to it – both on the business and personal levels. The World Health Organisation, World Economic Forum and government websites are such sources.
In summary, the well-worn saying “this too shall pass” comes to mind. In the meantime, there are practical steps we can take to respond effectively and work through these uncertain times.
This article first appeared in the May/June issue of INCLEAN magazine
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