Stress is never just about the individual... Employers have a responsibility to pitch in with help as COVID-19 changes the workplace. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Viruses affect not only the bodies of those who catch them, but also the mental state of millions - even billions - all over the world. Many of us have spent months indoors, devoid of action and much of our usual daily routine.

Severe and constraining restrictions make us emotional and often confused. Many are afraid – for themselves, friends and relatives. Sometimes, it seems that everything is all doom and there’s no end in sight. But actually, much is still in our power to change for the better.

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* Increased stress and lack of sunlight has consequences, from broken sleep schedules to clinical depression. A lack of sunlight is also a major reason why during the autumn-winter period, many are confronted with Seasonal Affective Disorder, as we are stuck at homes without adequate lighting. Emotional engagement/stimulation and diversity has now been replaced for many by “quarantine tours” to the kitchen and to its main attraction – The Fridge.

* Irregular working hours can blend day into night and vice versa. Some may say a more relaxed sleep-awake schedule may be convenient, but there’s a hidden trap – changes to sleep cycles affect health and increase the risk for diabetes and heart disease.

* The rabbit-hole of harmful addictions: You may have heard the term “weekend alcoholism”. Well, some have extended those weekends to cover months. As we are no longer held back by the restrictions of driving a car or meeting colleagues, some absolutely do not limit themselves.

* In our “former lives”, loved ones may have struggled to find time to talk, for internal dialogue and relationship-building at the end of a busy day in the office… frequently away from home. Now, many are faced with the exact opposite scenario – living and working together with family members 24/7 – which brings its own unique set of pressures as family and work compete for attention.

At the same time, many loved ones, separated because they do not live together, have been left hanging. And all of that adds to our COVID-19 related stresses. People are akin to animals: when the latter feel stress, for example, after being away from a master, they retreat, nag, bite, refuse to eat and so on. However, humans have a way more delicate mental construction – we depend on emotions many times more.

Take on the challenges, overcome them

* We need to understand we all have a great opportunity to better ourselves, in order to put an end to this feeling of “groundhog day”. If you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm – so help yourself, Act.

* Cut down on reading disturbing news that stirs distress and try not to poach negative emotions. There is no benefit to worrying, nothing to be gained by drawing sad pictures of what might happen if you or your relatives get sick.

* Try to find more reasons for joy and laughter. Why not watch some of your favorite comedies?

* Do not forget physical activity – sit-ups, push-ups, anything, even if you don’t have fitness equipment at home. My gymnastics coach gave me a great piece of advice: set your alarm clock for every two hours and do 20 sit-ups and 20 push-ups.

* Keep a daily regime – Your body and mind will definitely thank you. For example, if I wake up later, I have to drink coffee to cheer myself up. However, if I drink too much, I’ll have problems with falling asleep at night.

We’ve got a vicious circle here, but we can get out of it easily – just set an alarm and get up when you need to and stick to this timing.

* Avoid junk food, cut down on fast carbs in favor of starchy carbohydrates, reduce saturated fat, sugar and salt, eat a range of foods making sure you get a balanced diet and your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs. At the same time, don’t overeat – change your pilgrimage to The Fridge to another, more beneficial activity.

In a nutshell, the advice is rather simple – do whatever you can to keep improving, no matter what the circumstances are.

Always keep in mind that you and your relatives should be healthy and happy, taking every opportunity you can to help children and parents, loved ones and friends. But in the first instance, help yourself – all depends on you...

- Amir Kanaan is Managing Director for Middle East, Turkey and Africa at Kaspersky.