We were still reeling from the effects of the Covid pandemic which turned the lives of many of us on their heads, when the war in Ukraine suddenly hit the headlines and it felt like a ton of bricks was dropped in our laps as well. After all this time of worry and constraints because of the pandemic, we transitioned to worrying about how a war happening relatively close to us will affect us, our lives and our loved ones.
The media’s power and accessibility meant that we could be bombarded with the latest information on a constant basis. Even if we weren’t living next door to Ukraine or Russia, it somehow felt closer to home than any other war happening in the past or at the same time around the world. All this barage of negative information sadly has a direct impact on our well being in general, and also on our mental health in general and also at the workplace.
As humans we are constantly seeking information to learn whether we are safe or whether we need to act on things happening close to us. We also want to stay up-to-date and well informed. This leads us to scroll through news sites on a regular basis, preparing ourselves for the worst, something which has been termed as “doomscrolling”. This tends to leave us feeling stressed and anxious as the feelings of fear and uncertainty add up to our daily stress.
We may feel like we cannot stop scrolling through these negative news, even though it causes us pain, which in turn can have a long lasting negative effect on our wellbeing. One can even end up feeling caught up in a vicious cyle of negativity and distress. We connect more to other people as they share their personal stories on social media and empathise further with their situation.
Dealing with the impact on mental health of these challenges in the workplace.
On top of the challenges posed on us by world events, adjusting to returning to the workplace after the peak of the pandemic takes time too, in the same way that we needed time to adjust to working from home. Now that many people have returned to their place of work, they may bring with them new psychological baggage. It may take longer for some to adjust to the new routine, to the lack of flexibility in the workplace, to the added commuting time. So the least we could do is to be kind to ourselves and to others around us as we adjust to new realities.
The following are some helpful tips to tackle the challenges mentioned above:
1. Limit your social media consumption
This is hard to put in practise, but if it is affecting your mental health, it helps to train onself to limit the consumption of social media and news channels. As you do this, you will start reaping the benefits of limiting your intake of bad news from around the world. You may want to decide which media sites you will access and at what time and for how long, so that way you will remain in control.
2. Get in touch with your feelings
Other ways of managing your wellbeing may include adopting certain behaviours other than switching off from news and social media. In order to be able to cope with the mixture of feelings of gratitude (that you are far away from harm) and sadness (that others aren’t), you may find it helpful to acknowledge how you are feeling and not just dismissing these feelings as if they were not happening. Taking time to discuss these feelings with a trusted person can also be helpful in coping better with what is happening.
3. Work on your feelings
The news we read about may render us to feel helpless in the situation or remind us of memories that we have experienced ourselves. We may experience uncertainty, feel out of control, scared or fearing separation from loved ones. For example, images of families being separated may remind people of having been unable to meet with loved ones during the pandemic. We may be engaging in a thought process that can be harmful, and disrupting that cycle by talking to a friend or a trusted colleague or writing down our feelings, can be extremely beneficial.
4. Seek support at your workplace
With the experience of the pandemic, more employers are equipped with skilled support workers or know where to seek guidance in cases of employees who need support in tackling mental health issues related to returning to work challenges, post pandemic stress issues and day-to-day challenges as we adapt to working from the office once again.
5. Take Tangible action
Volunteering with supporting vulnerable people can be on very practical and tangible manner of doing something about the negative news that we are bombarded with. Practical help hels us feel less vulnerable and more in control of our feelings and behaviours. You will feel more empowered and actually you will be making a difference in someone else’s life. Others may want to give a monetary donation or else purchase something useful for people in need. Helping others gives us a sense of a reward and that in turn helps improve our mental health.
6. Look after your own wellbeing
Make time to relax and control your engagement with negative news from different sources. This does not mean that you are being indifferent to what is happening around us, it means that you are prioritising your wellbeing for your benefit and that of your loved ones. You may then engage in behaviours that help you feel better: going for a walk, calling a loved one, doing something you enjoy – all this helps you shift your focus to more productive and rewarding behaviours. You may also feel overwhelmed as you are still adjusting to the new routine of working from the office. Seek to be kind to yourself, try to adjust a day at a time and share your thoughts with people you trust and that you know they will support you through this period in your life.
Wrap Up about mental health in the workplace
In conclusion, while we are unable to control the outcome of the pandemic, or that of the conflict, we can work on controlling our reactions to these realities. We have control over the things that we can change – that includes how much and what news we consume and which activites we engage in to feel better about ourselves and the world around us.
All that is happening around us on a daily basis has a direct impact on our own personal mental wellbeing and also on our interaction with others within our personal relationships and at our workplace, where we spend most of our time. It is therefore helpful to have the courage and take the leap to seek the necessary support to lead healthier lives.