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Wellness in the time of COVID-19

Maintaining physical and mental health and wellbeing


April 8, 2020
By Brian Kreissl

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Photo: Luca Lorenzelli/Getty Images

This week’s post is a little bit of a departure in that it is a little more personal in nature. The theme is personal health, fitness and wellness (including issues surrounding mental health). However, much of what I write here could apply to the issue of employee wellness.

The virtual lockdown of society is having quite a negative impact on me from a mental health perspective. While I understand the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that a relatively large number of people will die from this illness, I am also worried about the economic, psychological and social toll the disease is taking on individuals and society.

The truth is many people have lost their livelihoods as a result of the shutdown of so many businesses and the dramatic decrease in revenue for others.

Being shut indoors is having a negative impact on people’s mental health – particularly those with existing mental health challenges.

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People will lose their jobs and their homes as a result of this crisis, and there will be an uptick in things like suicide, domestic violence, property crime and substance abuse.

Extreme reactions

While we all have to do our part to flatten the curve and maintain social/physical distancing – and it is disappointing to hear about people flouting government orders not to gather in public and maintain a safe distance from others – I find that some people are getting a little extreme in their sanctimonious zeal to spread the message that no one should ever leave their house for any reason at all.

With all due respect, that is not the correct message and does not reflect the reality of government orders in most jurisdictions.

I read an interesting article the other day in The Telegraph by Madeline Grant that argues much of the outrage people are expressing at those who appear to still be going about their business is coming from middle class people who are relatively privileged. Those of us who have jobs we can do remotely and haven’t lost our livelihoods are in a different situation from those who are in other types of jobs or who have fewer resources to rely on in this time of crisis.

This quarantine GIF, shared widely on Facebook, sums up the difference for introverts and extroverts.

I also saw and shared a GIF the other day that showed the difference between introverts and extroverts in relation to the crisis, where an extrovert is literally climbing the walls and banging on the window to leave the house due to sheer frustration, while an introvert is calmly sitting at his computer. There is a lot of truth to this, and I think many of the people who almost seem to be relishing this shutdown with glee are introverts.

Extroverts like me are having a much tougher time of this. Frankly, I don’t want to hear how this could go on for another nine months because I don’t think my mental health could handle it. Our economy would also be in ruins.

Coping strategies

Nevertheless, I have developed some coping strategies that I think other people can follow. Before the crisis, I had started to make some positive changes in my life, and I’m determined not to lose that momentum.

While I’m having a hard time coping with the gym being shut down, I have switched to at home workouts, which seem to be working quite well. There are many videos on YouTube showing how to do calisthenics that build and maintain muscle without weights. Some of these workouts are pretty gruelling and have the added benefit of incorporating some cardio.

I also managed to purchase some resistance bands (which I ordered online from SportChek and arrived within two days). It is amazing what a good pump you can achieve with these bands plus a door anchor, and there is a wide variety of exercises you can perform with bands at different levels of tension. There are many YouTube videos showing different techniques for using these bands.

I now go for some pretty long walks with my dog, although I’m careful to maintain a safe distance of two metres or more from other people. I also sometimes go for a short drive just to get out of the house and avoid staring at the same four walls.

Other important tips include maintaining healthy eating habits, staying in touch with family and friends, having virtual social events and maintaining a healthy work/life balance when working from home.

Brian Kreissl is a product development manager with Thomson Reuters in Toronto. He looks after HR, payroll, OH&S, records retention and Triform. He can be reached at brian.kreissl@thomsonreuters.com or (416) 609-5886. For more information, visit https://store.thomsonreuters.ca/en-ca/home.