It is a tough time remaining productive and maintaining sanity in the Covid-19 era. And there is no end in sight as reports from the World Health Organisation say the pandemic will be with us for a while, and officials from the Ministry of Health say we are yet to get to the peak period.
Apart from the fear of getting sick and staying in isolation, the stigma surrounding recoveries is also very real. Even though science proves that distancing protocols and isolating positive cases cuts down the rate of transmission, effects on mental health are yet to be determined.
Last month, Safaricom disclosed that the Covid-19 helpline receives around 20,000 inquiries a day since its launch. That indicates how anxious Kenyans are to equip themselves with knowledge about the disease.
At the same time, a lot is at a standstill with the ongoing national curfew and selective lockdowns. The situation has resulted in salary cuts for some while others have been forced to take leave. There is uncertainty about when our children will go back to school and if it will be safe for them.
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We have to contend with children at home and spouses isolated in other counties, yet we still need to be productive at work.
All these are piling anxiety on many. Mental health is the elephant in the room. “It is not a new problem, but now a much bigger problem,” says Jan Bruce, a leadership strategists who focuses on stress and workplace adaptability. Vulnerability to mental health issues has many faces.
County containment measures put some families in a tough period of elongated stay apart from each other. The pandemic has robbed them the comfort of human contact that family provides. Parents have missed important milestones for their children.
Cases of domestic violence have also gone up; becoming a shadow pandemic during the containment period. In addition, working from home has transformed our houses into schools, offices, gyms and playgrounds. All under one roof. The hidden impact of such kind of adjustment can manifest as stress and anxiety.
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This is the time when self-help is crucial. Those living alone during this time will respond differently to the stay at home directives when compared to those living with family.
The Ministry of Health highlighted directives that vulnerable workers stay at home; people above 58 years of age and those who are battling pre-existing conditions.
However, when we have to go back to work, we have to take cleanliness even much more seriously. Door knobs, office desks, common refrigerator and microwave in the office kitchen have to be sanitised.
I can already imagine how vulnerable coworkers will be obsessed with hand washing when we resume anything in the semblance of “normal” working schedules.
Fears of financial security
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Financial insecurity is undeniably one of the reasons employees may experience anxiety. Money is never enough, however, in the era of working from home and suspended operations, there are workers who are unsure about their next pay.
Imagine an employee who has sacrificed to remain productive to a company that cannot give them the paycheck at this moment when they need it the most.
People have lost income due to closure of businesses. Loans and other financial obligations might make a previously comfortable, high earning individual live, from paycheck to paycheck.
At the beginning of enhanced containment measures, essential workers could not, for obvious reasons, work from home. Those who were on leave had to report back.
In addition, some companies shifted their production lines to manufacture personal protective equipment. Such workers had to quickly readjust to match the needs of this stressful transition.
They have to undergo screening and anxiously wait for the results, just by the virtue of being in the front line. Many are facing fatigue and burn out now that there are more cases announced every day. They have that constant worry of the health threat. All this is taking a toll on their mental health.
We have seen circulating videos of nurses performing Zumba to release tension and refresh the mind. Such activities offer support. However, more serious burnout and fatigue may require medical attention.
The World Health Organisation warns about unhelpful coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Such substances can worsen our mental and physical well-being.