Sponsorship image

If ever there was a time to end the stigma around mental health, it’s now. The entire country — the entire world — is coping with the coronavirus pandemic, and there is a collective vulnerability we are all experiencing. For many people, that means heightened levels of stress, worry, and anxiety. While it’s too soon to know the full impact on our long-term emotional well-being, some surveys already indicate that people feel their mental health is worsening.

And while I know “silver lining” is not the appropriate term, one positive outcome during this crisis is that people seem to be more willing to talk openly about their mental health struggles. The fact that we are all going through something, to one degree or another, is helping us realize that our challenges are not something to be ashamed of — they are experiences to be shared. I struggle with anxiety on a regular day, but the past several weeks have been very difficult for me. In the workplace, I’ve been very open and honest about my own mental health, and have spoken to thousands during all-hands calls in the past few weeks. And I’ve gotten so many messages from people saying, “Thank you for allowing that to be OK.” 

Even government officials are helping to normalize the conversation around mental health. Take, for instance, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: During one of his televised press briefings on the state of the coronavirus, he reminded Americans that staying mentally healthy is as important as staying physically well during this time. Huge public statements like that are helping to elevate the conversation around conditions like anxiety and depression and giving people “permission” to talk about them. 

While breaking the stigma is a great start, we can go one step further — by looking for actionable ways to safeguard our mental well-being now and for the long term. Yes, humans are resilient — we’re good at powering through. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed (and encouraged) to get the support we need during tough times. Here are some strategies that have helped me and may help you, too.

Stay connected 

Recently I’ve been talking with family and friends more than I ever have before. In fact, we’re all reaching out to each other more often, asking simple questions: “How are you doing? How can I support you?” — and genuinely wanting to know the answers. 

On a societal level, we’re seeing and hearing about so many incredible acts of kindness and compassion. More people are helping others in their communities, whether that means buying groceries for a neighbor, or having their kids make cards and artwork for the elderly who may be alone during this time. These acts of selflessness offer mental health benefits for both the giver and receiver (and, frankly, for all of us who witness them!), and we can all keep this in mind in moments when we feel low.

Get creative about your “coping mechanisms”

Some of our go-to ways of staying emotionally well are not available to us during the pandemic. For me, physical exercise has always been essential to my mental health and well-being. Right now, with social distancing efforts, going to the gym is not an option. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get creative — in addition to taking a walk or run outside while keeping a safe distance, I’ve also been doing workouts in my condo parking lot. We all need to carve out time for ourselves, but what that looks like is different for everyone. It might be physical exercise, meditation, reading, or even watching a lighthearted comedy. Make time for whatever it is that gives you that much-needed pause, because that will allow you to show up and continue to function in this new normal. 

Find a new routine

When life is uncertain and stressful, routine can help us to cope with change, provide comfort, and reduce anxiety. Yes, your routine right now may look different than it did before we all started socially distancing, and that’s OK — the important thing is to commit to something. Decide what’s doable, and try to stick to it as much as possible. My strategy is to put breakfast, lunch, dinner, movement, and sleep on my calendar. Those are non-negotiable appointments throughout my day. I need that structure right now, and I rely on those mental reminders — in the form of calendar notifications — to stick to my plan. Want to start small? One easy way to bring a sense of routine into your days is to wake up and go to bed around the same time.

Establish boundaries

As many offices across the country and around the world have transitioned to remote working, we’ve basically created a global pilot for life-work integration! Except that for many people, it’s not integrated: Work and life are sitting on top of each other. Now more than ever, boundaries are vital. Be open and honest with your co-workers about what you need and when you need it. As a team, talk about potential challenges and decide on normal working hours. Set expectations around response time to emails. And decide what conversations truly warrant a video call. I’m a big believer of quality over quantity — not every call needs to be a video conference. If you’re a manager, have these conversations as a team to understand what works for everyone before you put rules in place.

Let yourself be real (even if it’s “messy”)

In my own experience, I’ve seen that people are being refreshingly honest with their out-of-office messages these days. For instance: “I’m offline from 10 a.m. to noon, homeschooling my kid.” I get those OOO messages and I smile. Yes — we’ve got kids and puppies and families, and we don’t need to hide these parts of ourselves in order to do our jobs. In fact, trying to draw clear lines between work and life would make our situations a lot more stressful right now. I also love that many people aren’t putting on suit jackets and blazers for our video calls. Whatever we are wearing, we can often show up to the call that way. This crisis is allowing everyone opportunities to be as they are. This is exactly the kind of acceptance that can have a positive impact on our mental health. And if you are a leader — in your workplace, in your community, in your household — be open about the highs and lows you’re experiencing so you can create a safe space for those around you to do the same.

Set aside time to worry

Sleep is so important for your mental and physical health. But it’s hard to doze off and sleep soundly when you’re lying in bed and ruminating about the state of the world and what might happen next. Thrive talks about this all the time, and I think it’s such a great idea: Schedule your “worry time.’’ Give yourself a period of time — during the day — to worry about whatever it is you want to worry about. For me, there is something cathartic about getting my stress out on paper, so I combine worry time with journaling. Then, once I put down my journal, I am able to move on. 

Recognize when you need more help

If your worry or anxiety or depression — or whatever you’re feeling — is getting in the way of your ability to show up for your daily life, it’s OK to need more help than you can give yourself. We especially shouldn’t be ashamed to reach out to professionals now, since what we’re going through is unprecedented. The good news is that an increasing number of mental health professionals are conducting telehealth video calls with patients. Help is there if you need it. 

Make room for hope

Since this pandemic began, I’ve created a “future prediction jar” — and I fill it with things I think will come out of this experience that are really positive. I invite you to try it. Ask yourself: What will change for the better? What am I looking forward to the most? How will I live my life differently when things are back to “normal”? Hope and gratitude are very powerful, and there is still so much we can be grateful for right now. One of my biggest hopes is that we all realize how important it is to prioritize our self-care and mental and physical health. It shouldn’t be something we just do during a pandemic — it should be something we do at all times. After all, this situation is temporary. It might last a while — and we don’t yet know how long — but all things pass.

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here


  • Jen Fisher

    Human Sustainability Leader at Deloitte and Editor-at-Large, Human Sustainability at Thrive Global

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well" @jenfisher.substack.com.