Anna Chandy, Chairperson, The Live Love Laugh Foundation
Today, billions of people are under lockdown and are being compelled to remain indoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As advised by the World Health Organization and the government, two of the most important measures in this battle are ‘Social Distancing’ and ‘Self-Quarantining’. We need to be socially responsible and follow these two directives as it impacts our lives and also the lives of the larger collective community.
We must stay home with our families and avoid contact with outsiders with the assumption that each of us are potential carriers of the COVID-19 virus. There is no doubt about the urgency or need for these strategies enforced by governments globally. Living in uncertainty about the impact this will have has tremendous implications on a person’s mental and physical health. We need to account for this impact.
Social distancing is different from social isolation. We can still be connected emotionally with the outside world. We can manage the social, financial, and personal challenges in a well-thought out, structured, and positive way.
Given below are some ways in which the lockdown can impact people and what steps can be taken to eliminate adverse effects.
Job and Financial Security: One of the most disconcerting thoughts during this crisis is the fear of losing one’s job and businesses suffering financially. Several economic forecasts point to recessionary trends. Even investments are losing shine with stock markets plummeting. Since earning members are critical to a family’s finances, fears of financial security can prove to be highly stressful.
How You Can Deal With It: While the financial downturn seems unavoidable, we need to look at the bigger picture. There are going to be sectors and job profiles that will see greater traction once COVID-19 infections start fading away. This is a good time to reset your short to medium term financial plans. Evaluate your needs since what seemed important before the shutdown may not be so after. This time provides us the opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge. Learning, most often, will boost confidence and give headwind when normalcy returns. By devoting yourself to self-empowering activities, there is a better chance for you to ward off stressful thoughts or negativity that might creep in.
Family Concerns: When outdoor movement is curtailed and one is homebound with children, the elderly, and other family members, there could be scope for internal conflicts. There is also the worry of keeping everyone safe from the infection and taking care of pre-existing health conditions among family members. These family health concerns can affect the mind and adversely impact the ability to be productive.
How You Can Deal With It: As a leader, you need to take charge of your home. Ensure adherence of guidelines related to sanitization, hygiene, and social distancing. Spend time on your own personal grooming and be professional in whatever home chores you take on. Furthermore, by being together 24/7, it is possible to revitalize personal bonding, but it is also important to respect everyone’s personal space and boundaries. This can not only promote better mental health, it could also make things easier when your office routine resumes.
Being Confined at Home: Our normal course of work involves a daily commute to office, meetings with colleagues, clients, and acquaintances. Perhaps our weekends and evenings are spent socializing or going to the gym for a workout. However, lockdown days are devoid of all these social interactions. This could lead to mood swings, negativity, rise in stress, lethargy, and contribute to mental ill-health.
How You Can Deal With It: Don’t look at this as confinement. Most of us are working from home, doing almost the same tasks that we normally do at the office. There are digital communication tools such as webinars, video conferencing, and video calls to stay connected with colleagues and friends. We can also utilize this time to indulge in hobbies and artistic pursuits that we may not have had the time to pursue previously. For instance, writing, painting, playing an instrument, listening to music, watching films, and reading books can be great stress busters.
Merging Boundaries: If there is one work-from-home element that is a major challenge and can cause a lot of fatigue and mental stress, it is the merger of the on-duty and off-duty hours. Since you are home, practically all active hours are assumed to be the time when you are ready to work. The urgent emails, phone calls, or presentation requests can keep coming in even after the usual office hours. At the same time, your family, especially children and elderly, are unlikely to fully grasp the complexities of working from home. Hence, you are drawn into playing dual roles round-the-clock. This can wear your body and mind down.
How You Can Deal With It: Irrespective of the fact that you are working from home, try to follow the same work schedule that you normally do at office. Take the calls, do the meetings, respond to emails, and engage in other work tasks during specific hours. While the odd exception to respond to urgent tasks is unavoidable, it is recommended that you set clear boundaries. Similarly, instead of working from your bedroom or living room, it is better to spend your working hours in a separate home office. It could be a full-fledged room or a corner. The idea is to work professionally and as per the regular schedule. This will help you, your colleagues, and family members differentiate between working and non-working hours.
Extraordinary times often require unusual responses. The COVID-19 induced lockdown is one such scenario that none of us were prepared for. Still, we must handle it with care and ensure that our personal and professional lives continue as smoothly as possible!
Authored By: Anna Chandy, Chairperson of The Live Love Laugh Foundation
(Edited by Urmi Chatterjee)