How COVID-19 Affects Our Mental Health, According To The CEO Of Lust For Life

Across the world, people are being asked to stay inside and away from crowds to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus. This means no pints, cinema screenings, city breaks or family dinners at your favourite restaurant. It also means a lot of anxiety.

There's no denying that the coronavirus outbreak has led to a spike in anxiousness and uncertainty—collectively and on an individual level. 

We've written about this – and how to get help for it – before. 

But what we wanted to know was how will this all pan out in months to come, and will our new normal reflect the anxiety highs we've all experienced of late?

We spoke to co-founder, Chair and Acting CEO of A Lust for Life Paula McLoughlin to see her take on what's to come.

Do you think the current pandemic will change the way mental health is viewed in offices?

Through this profound common experience, there appears to be a universal understanding that it simply wouldn't be normal if the average person didn't feel some level of bewilderment or anxiety about the way in which our daily lives have been transformed overnight. The need to talk about that meaningfully and with authenticity in the context of mental health is therefore definitely being pushed up the agenda of organisations trying to maintain the morale and wellbeing of their workforces, in a way and to a level we have never seen before. 

What we're seeing from most/all of the employers we speak to, is a current heightened awareness of the need to discuss mental wellness and to provide support that helps their employees protect and manage their own mental health. This is evidenced through an increased focus on e.g. promoting the importance of physical exercise in the management of mental health, sharing of mindfulness programmes, advocating the importance of routine and structure in relation to mental wellness and stability and of course more heavily communicating Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) services. 

The need to accommodate and support working parents who are currently working from home and heroically managing children at the same time is a particular challenge which employers appear to be very tuned in to in a humane and compassionate way.

Do you think bosses will promote paid sick leave/flexible working/a more communicative approach to employees in a post-COVID-19 world?

The degree to which a more flexible approach to working practices and open communication about mental health will prevail beyond COVID-19 remains to be seen.

As yet, none of us can predict when that will be or indeed what 'post COVID' even means in terms of how we live and work. What is clear is that we cannot 'un-live' the lives we are currently living, we cannot eradicate the connection that has been developed and/or the dialogue that has been had.

Employers have also had to invest a great deal (and in some instances money) in ensuring their employees can work flexibly from home in parallel to juggling their individual familial and other challenges. I have to believe this will have a positive legacy, in particular for organisations who had not previously embraced more flexible working practices simply because they couldn't conceive of how they would/could work - or who didn't explicitly encourage open communication about mental health because they didn't see it as their role or maybe didn't feel equipped to deal with it. I am hopeful that in the aftermath of us all walking through this together, employers will have a refreshed and enduring appreciation of the need to humanely support their employees as people with lives, fears and challenges that may not be visible or obvious when they show up at work, but which must be held with empathy and flexibility.

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, there is help available: 

Main image by @pfeffersal

READ: The 6 Best Therapeutic Self-Care Books To Read When You're Feeling Anxious Or Alone

READ MORE: 9 Simple Ways To Quickly Calm Any Anxiety, According To An Expert

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