As the pandemic continues, companies and professionals alike continue to adjust to new ways of operating and communicating. It’s essential that people take care of themselves, inside the office and out. While there is a lot of focus on physical health - staying well and physically fit, it’s not common to emphasise mental health.

A focus on mental health is always important, but it becomes even more crucial during times like these. Many people continue working and living as if they were in normal circumstances, ignoring the real consequences of this prolonged pandemic on mental health and well-being.  Even without counting the pandemic, mental health disorders in Hong Kong are common and can be challenging to deal with.

On the job, there is a direct link between your mental health and productivity. Outside of the office, your mental health affects relationships and your overall wellbeing. Mental health is vital to living a happy and healthy life - here are some ways to prioritise your mental health during these difficult times.

1. Acknowledge the situation

If you are feeling distracted at work, you are not alone. Experts worldwide are saying that it’s normal to feel like your concentration is affected during times like these. Between 24-hour news cycles, an overload of information and the uncertainty of being in unprecedented times, it can be not easy to concentrate on one task. Add in the challenges of working from home (WFH), and it is even more understandable why, especially at work, you may feel your concentration waning.

The first way to combat it is to accept the situation, acknowledge the limitations and see what you can do within these new parameters. Attempting to carry on as if everything is normal can be detrimental to your mental health in the long term. Once you have acknowledged the challenges of this particular situation, set realistic goals for work and your personal life that are attainable and practical, given the circumstances.

If you are managing a team at work, try to re-examine team goals to ensure that they are still realistic under the circumstances and clarify that team members struggling with workload can communicate that to you quickly. Talking about the issue can help bring solutions to the problem before they become impossible to rectify.

2. Practice self-care

Self-care is one of those words that conjures up images of extreme indulgence that only those who aren’t “busy” can partake in. However, self-care is a simple concept. It is about carving out time to focus on your own well-being and participating in activities that help your overall mental and physical health.

Self-care can include rituals such as meditation, journaling and mindfulness. Still, it can also include simple actions such as going for a walk in the park, listening to calming music, exercising in a way that makes you feel good and eating well. Essentially, self-care describes any actions that help ease anxiety and make you feel more relaxed.

Particularly for those taking care of others during this pandemic (i.e., parents or other caregivers), taking time for self-care can significantly impact the overall state of mind. Take those annual leave days, even if you’re not travelling anywhere. Switch off from work by setting hard limits on your work versus home time and turn off the news.

3. Stay in touch with friends and family

In a pandemic where we are forced to avoid interacting with people in person, make an effort to stay in touch with others. This doesn’t mean you need to hold a Zoom happy hour every day. It becomes more about communicating with the people you care about, checking in and discussing the daily issues and challenges we face.

Use social media to stay in touch, but use it wisely. Social media can be tricky because it can make us feel connected, but recent studies show that using social media too much can increase feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. This means that each individual must be aware of their social media use, see how it makes them feel and then use it accordingly.

4. Seek professional help when you need it

This is last on our list, but it’s probably the most important and is essential to staying well. While most people don’t hesitate to see a doctor when something feels wrong physically, the opposite is true for mental health. There is no shame in seeking out professional help, and the more we accept it, the less stigmatised it becomes for others.

Many companies now count Employee Assistance Programs as part of their benefits and include mental health resources. These resources can consist of access to online counselling, coverage for expenses related to seeking professional help, and guides and other literature for self-help. For more information about these, you can reach out to your organisation's manager or the Human Resources department.

Outside of work, professional organisations that you can reach out to in Hong Kong include the following:

Joyful Mental Health Foundation

Integrated Community Centre for Mental Wellness

Suicide Prevention Services

Hong Kong Government

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