Healthy Habits: Reducing Stress When Entering the Workforce During Covid-19

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Adaptability is crucial for one’s success in the workplace as it allows us to bounce back after experiencing changes. But what happens when changes occur that seem too big for us to handle? Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people worldwide have been experiencing exactly that.

One large shift has been in employment, as many companies have conducted layoffs or shut down entirely. This has forced individuals to find new employment – fast.

Starting work is something that can be both exciting and intimidating, but might feel even more daunting when doing so amidst a time of strife. You may wonder if it’s practical at this point to enter the workforce and what will happen once you find employment. What does work look like now? What are the expectations? Will it be safe? These questions are valid as you look toward new job opportunities.

Before we get into stress reducers, it’s a good idea to recognize the stress you’re experiencing and think critically about how it affects you personally. Keep in mind that everyone’s mental health is different, and that the pandemic might be affecting you more than you realize. It’s vital to recognize the symptoms of declining mental health, which can include:

  • Irritation
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of motivation
  • Ongoing tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Difficulty concentrating

Once you’ve identified your mental health may be struggling, you can then decide what steps need to be taken to help you best. Keep reading to discover some practical ways you can reduce this stress in your new work environment.

1. Take care of yourself – always

An incredibly important precursor to unlocking positive mental health is maintaining a good work-life balance. Practicing self-care at home and work is crucial for your physical and mental health. Some suggestions for how you can take care of yourself may include:

  • Plan healthy meals and drink enough water.
  • Get enough sleep and limit screen time, especially before bed.
  • Stay as informed as you need, but avoid overwhelming yourself with unnecessary or overly-stressful information.
  • Partake in safe hobbies and go outside often.
  • Take breaks (sit, stretch, walk away from screens, etc.)
  • Exercise; move throughout the day to avoid restlessness and ruminating in stressful thoughts.
  • Practice mindfulness by being in the moment (meditate, connect with your faith, etc.)

Incorporating these suggestions in your daily routine – both at home and work – will make a dramatic difference in your health and allow you to perform better in new work environments.

2. Connect with others

Isolation can make stress worse. Amidst the pandemic, many people may feel as though they have been forced to be distanced from others, physically and emotionally. Connecting may look different in some ways, but it’s important we continue to maintain meaningful relationships and form new ones – particularly in the workplace! Consider the following:

  • Connect face-to-face with individuals or small groups while maintaining social (physical) distancing; getting together outside during break time is one way to do this!
  • Meet virtually with friends, family, co-workers, etc. to keep in touch regularly.
  • Connect with your community by looking for ways to help. Getting involved with your community and putting good into the world will help alleviate some of your stress!

When we connect with others worries become smaller and take up less space in our minds.

3. Stay present

Stress gets out of control when we focus too much on things that are out of our hands. Especially in times of crisis, we find ourselves constantly thinking “what if?” This opens us up to theoretical situations that can be scary. Instead, focus on what you can control by trying these tips:

  • Make a plan for your day. Staying organized and on-track will help your thoughts stay organized too.
  • Focus on the task: think to yourself “what am I doing right now? How can I do this task to the best of my ability?”
  • Focus on learning: think to yourself “what can I improve on in my job, and how? Who can help me with this?”
  • Use grounding exercises to bring yourself back to reality.

If you set your thoughts on current tasks and personal growth, you can replace stress about the future with more exciting, positive challenges. Having these consistent routines at home and work will help give an overall sense of calm and control.

4. Understand workplace health and safety

It’s common to get wrapped up in fears about entering a workplace during a pandemic. Those “what ifs” take over again, and we start formulating stressful hypotheticals (“what if I catch it?” being one of the most frequent). One way to squash those overbearing thoughts is by staying informed!

  • Become familiar with the health and safety measures put in place at your job. This will reassure you that your workplace cares about you and your health.
  • Know the protocols for different possibilities. In the event one of those “what ifs” comes true, it’s helpful to know there’s a strategic plan in place to handle it.
  • Ask your supervisor about mental health services provided in your workplace. That way, if things get too tough, you know exactly where to go to access help right at work.

You may at first be apprehensive about starting a new job, but knowing that the workplace you enter has specific plans in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the public helps keep that stress low.

5. Access community services

There is a wide array of health services put in place as a direct response to Covid-19. These services were created to help all of us during these challenging times, and it’s okay – and expected – for us to seek help. Some options include:

While things are not what we’d usually consider normal, feeling some stress during big life changes – such as entering a new job or dealing with crisis – is normal. Your employer is expecting this as they, too, are experiencing this unprecedented global shift. Of course you should strive to excel in your workplace, but you can’t achieve this if you don’t focus on your personal health by developing healthy habits and maintaining a good work-life balance. Remember that you’re not alone in how you feel, and that everyone is facing unique struggles. Allow yourself the space to be patient and kind to reduce stress at work, and home.

What strategies will you put in place to work towards positive mental health?

Author: Chelsea Guindon, Facilitator at OFE
Special thanks to Rehab 4 Addiction for sharing an additional resource included in this post


If you need help right away:

Klinic Crisis Line
204-786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019

Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line
1-877-435-7170

Kids Help Phone
1-800-668-6868

Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis Line
204-786-8631 or 1-888-292-7565

Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services
supportline.ca or 1-866-367-3276

First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line
1-855-242-3310

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