Mental health and COVID-19 for public servants: Protect your mental health

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Mental health and wellness during COVID-19

The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and the necessary public health measures to contain its spread are creating stress for people and communities across Canada, including federal public servants and their families. Under these challenging circumstances, it is perfectly normal if you are feeling angry, anxious, lonely, sad or worried.

It is important for all of us to acknowledge these feelings and the disruptions caused by COVID-19 to our personal and working lives. Engaging in an open dialogue about our emotional well-being with family members, friends and colleagues can help to improve and maintain our mental health in uncertain times.

Mental health in the workplace

In the workplace, this is not business as usual, so don’t get down on yourself if you’re having trouble working as effectively as you once did. There is no one right way to manage your mental health through a pandemic. Remember, you are not alone.

Start your morning off right

Just five minutes of mindful activity every morning, away from any screens, can make a big difference throughout your day.

Mindful activity could include:

  • a five-minute (or more) meditation: visualize your day, how do you want it to go?
  • looking out the window over coffee or breakfast
  • listening to a song or podcast
  • exercise or deep breathing

Personalize your workspace

If you are not in the habit of working from home, this will be a significant transition for you. It means changing the way you communicate with your team and perhaps how you work overall. This could be more difficult if you are also caring for others around you.

  • If you do not have a home office, dedicate a workspace, away from other surroundings, that you can get up and leave at the end of your workday
  • Add any elements that relieve stress: e.g. a diffuser, plants, pictures, etc.
  • Ask for the accommodations you need

There is no magic recipe, so do what works for you. The more you take care of your brain and your body, the less likely you are to burnout.

Power down at the end of the day

To stay motivated, find evidence of the good work you’ve done. Make a list of all the tasks you accomplished for the day, no matter the size, or ask for feedback from someone you trust.

Be kind to yourself. Practice self-compassion using positive self-talk and by respecting your limits.

If your role allows it, set a time to finish work and put away your devices. If not, give yourself some extra freedom at some point throughout the day: e.g., an extra 20 minutes in the morning. Find some activities that can calm your stimulated mind. For example:

  • listen to white noise or instrumental music
  • meditate
  • take up something creative or fun: an instrument, crocheting, puzzling, baking, etc.
  • go for a walk or exercise

Looking for a guided meditation practice? Check out the Breath Break at Your Desk videos produced by the Privy Council Office.

The Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace offers fact sheets on COVID-19 and mental health, which provide you with an overview of available services and supports. They include tips on how to take care of your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak:

Coping with stress

Stress is a fact of daily life and is the result of both the good and bad things that happen to us. Too much negative stress can cause serious health concerns, but there are many ways of dealing with the stress you may be feeling right now to reduce your risk.

Learn more about stress, including symptoms and effects, and ways to cope.

What’s your stress index? Take the Canadian Mental Health Association’s questionnaire  regularly to monitor shifts in your stress levels and take action as needed.

If your stress levels concern you, build your stress management action plan with Stress Strategies, an online tool from the Psychology Foundation of Canada that offers practical, problem-solving methods to help identify and address the source of your stress.

Self-care and resilience

When it comes to self-care, physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. It starts with the basics:

Beyond these basics, look to activities you enjoy and build them into your daily routine. Mental Health First Aid Canada’s COVID-19 Self-Care & Resilience Guide offers a list of activity suggestions and a downloadable template to create your own self-care and resilience plan.

You can also identify your stressors and choose healthier coping strategies to build your personal and work resilience, using the Plan for Resilience – Workplace Edition. This free resource from Canada Life’s Workplace Strategies for Mental Health is specifically designed to help leaders, employees and the self-employed to develop a plan to get through and bounce back from challenging times.

Financial well-being

You may be worried about the impact of the current COVID-19 outbreak on your personal finances. Whatever the source, financial emergencies can be stressful and cause considerable hardships for you and your family.

Consult COVID-19: Managing financial health in challenging times as a starting point to tackle your financial worries relating to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has many educational resources and tools on budgeting, credit, savings, debt management and more.

Do you know someone facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak? The Government of Canada has taken action to help Canadians with their finances during this exceptional period. Learn more about these actions in the Economic Response Plan.

Additional resources

Canada.ca/health offers mental health information, including resources on improving your mental health at work and in your daily life, such as:

How would you rate your current state of mental health? Take a self-assessment.

Resources relating to protecting your mental health during COVID-19 are continually being developed, and we will update them regularly as new resources become available:

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