Mental healthcare in the midst of a pandemic

The pandemic highlights the growing need to address mental healthcare in the workplace. So much has changed over the past six months – the way we interact with the world, and the things we draw energy from, such as our social interactions. As a result, many of us feel challenges to our mental health. In difficult times like these, it’s important to step back and ask ourselves and others: How are we coping?

Like so many around the world who work in healthcare, our jobs at Roche are demanding. The need for solutions, speed and answers is heightened. Everyone wants to make sure they’re performing at their best. That can be a lot of pressure even in normal times, but potentially  anxiety-inducing under the challenging circumstances of the pandemic. 

We’ve been forced to work from home, which blurs the line between job and home significantly, and can cause stress. Many of us are working from home in spaces that aren’t set up to be offices – I’m working in my garage right now. This creates a lot of considerations and conflicting factors that did not exist when we were all going to the office. 

Personally, I have struggled with sleep over the course of the pandemic, which never happened before. But that is how my body reacted to the current situation. I get it under control, but then something stressful happens – like my kids starting school again or fires breaking out all over California, where I am based – and I’m back on square one. 

Insomnia can be one of the warning signs  that stress is having an impact on mental health. Just like feeling anxious, loss of appetite, or dwindling energy levels, sleep troubles can evolve into more serious conditions, like depression. We have to watch out for these signs, because mental health is not static; on the contrary, it’s dynamic. So if you notice a progression of symptoms, it’s important to intervene or get help earlier rather than later. 

A lot of people can get better on their own, and while normally they might be able to do that, it could prove to be more difficult than normal in these circumstances with social distancing, isolation and uncertainty over things like health and the economy.  

So what can we do to maintain our mental health during these challenging times? 

Unfortunately, there’s not one thing that works for everyone. There are, however, a range of simple things you can do to alleviate stress, like sleep hygiene, and making time for meditation and physical activity. Personally, I find that exercising and getting fresh air at least once a day helps me function better.

Your employer may have self-care resources available to help, and there are many free or low-cost apps out there. Two examples offered at Roche are HeadSpace or My Equilibrium.

I realise that most of us are busy. We have many demands on our time. But taking care of your mind is just as important as maintaining your body, your car or your home. The time you invest in maintaining your work/life balance and mental health will benefit you greatly as we navigate the new normal, and lift your spirits during these difficult times.

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