COVID-19: It’s not just lives that are at risk but livelihoods – managing the crisis at work

Psychotherapist Ian Jenkins
Psychotherapist Ian Jenkins

From locking up Broadway, to closing the borders, the delay and contain strategies of the COVID-19 pandemic will have a profound effect on your resources – human resources.

Psychotherapist Ian Jenkins writes for IAM on how to manage the emotional crisis at work. Here’s what to consider as you close those doors.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]orrying about COVID-19 is normal, as is maybe the greater fear for many of us of worrying about the impact on our professional lives. Many freelancers, sole proprietors and professionals in the arts have seen festivals, tours and trade fairs cancelled, seriously impacting on the potential to generate income and make vital income generating contacts.

Some of us may fear publications, venues and events are at risk in the long run. In this article I will attempt to support professionals alleviate their perfectly reasonable anxieties and stay focussed on the future.

Firstly, limit your exposure to social media as this only works to increase anxiety: we are all being bombarded by a mixture of misinformed comment and dire predictions. We need only the facts, so make business decisions based on fact. Generally, we can reduce our anxiety by focussing on that which we can control.

  • We can avoid close contact, distancing ourselves from risk, wash our hands regularly, cough into handkerchiefs and tissues.
  • We can try to not touch our eyes, nose and mouth.
  • We can focus on work, meeting deadlines and ensuring income.
  • We can work more from home and hold more virtual meetings.
  • We can make plans for the future, work on new proposals and PR.

Individually, we can focus on our own mental health and self-care by ensuring we are eating healthily, sleeping well, exercising regularly and staying in social contact. All of these measures will ensure we are mentally resilient and strong.

When anxiety rises because we’re facing a new threat like the COVID-19, we should focus on what works for our anxiety – we have all had to cope with anxiety and fear in the past. Indeed, remembering times we have felt as worried previously, and remembering to remember that we survived, is proven to reduce anxious obsessions. Instead of imagining disaster, remember success, survival and growth.

In general, try to stay connected with friends and loved ones, even if that is now online. Withdrawal and isolation is known to make anxiety worse, good relationships make life easier. However, avoid those who like to hype things up, those who are maleficent in the drama will make you feel worse.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce anxiety is controlled breathing:

  • First relax all your muscles, flop, and then breath slowly and deeply in and out through your nose.
  • Holding on the in-breath. Try counting seven seconds in 11 seconds out.
  • You may also try tensing your muscles from your head to your toes on the in-breath, holding, then relaxing on the out.
  • Download yoga, meditation and mindfulness apps for your phone. Many are free and really can help.

Remember one thing. We are all in this together. The world will respond, both to the illness and the economic impact. You are not alone and we will recover together and thrive together.

Ian Jenkins is a psychotherapist and director of Therapy and Learning based in Manchester UK. He works from his offices at Milton Hall, Deansgate and over video. He is trained in Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy  He works with individuals, couples, families, adults, children, schools, colleges, universities, business and statutory agencies.