Expert shares 5 tips to manage mental health while returning to work

Stress levels expected to spike at workplaces
Posted at 4:18 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-30 02:43:38-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Almost as quickly as COVID-19 shut down businesses, it feels like we're now on the fast track to come back. But a return to the workplace comes with a couple of significant concerns.

For so many Americans, the novel coronavirus is the source of a lot of added stress that we're not used to and may not know how to handle.

"We are in a serious mental health situation in our country that we have to treat urgently," said Dr. Bernadette Melnyk, the chief wellness officer and Dean of the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University.

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Dr. Melnyk says the fear surrounding this virus will only intensify at the office, which is why she's offering five easy tips to help you stay healthy while working, starting with managing that extra stress.

It may sound cliche, but when it comes to coping methods, Dr. Melnyk says deep breathing is among the most beneficial exercises for the brain and body.

"Just taking five big deep abdominal breaths can cut the fight or flight response, bring down stress, and bring down blood pressure," said Dr. Melnyk.

She adds one of the best times for deep breathing is while you're washing your hands, which falls under her second tip, don't let your guard down.

"This is a behavior change. We all know it takes, on average, 30 to 60 days of practice to change your thinking or to change your behavior," said Dr. Melnyk, who's encouraging everyone to continue wearing a mask and sanitizing your hands and work station while you're at the office.

Next, as exciting as it may be to see old co-workers again, Dr. Melnyk says you have to push away from your peers, and continuously keep six feet of distance between you and everyone else at your workplace.

"That 6 feet of distance is super important to prevent spread," said Dr. Melnyk.

Fourth, Dr. Melnyk says it's very important to find ways to stay fit, both physically and mentally.

"Physical activity, healthy eating, sleeping at least seven hours at night, practicing stress reduction, people need to engage in healthy behaviors during this transition, so they keep their immune system bolstered and strong," said Dr. Melnyk.

And finally, continue to look out for your co-workers.

"Being accountable to one or two other people, checking in on people, encouraging them to practice their stress reduction skills, to stay active, we can do so much to support each other through this transition," said Dr. Melnyk.

She says it's important for all of us to focus only on what we can control.

"Worry and guilt are the two most wasted emotions that we have. So when we start to worry, we have to bring ourselves back to the present moment. Look around. Concentrate on what we can see, feel, sense. Those types of quick tactics can really diminish our stress levels," said Dr. Melnyk.

And when your stress symptoms start interfering with your ability to function at work, Dr. Melnyk says that's probably the time to seek some professional help, and there's no shame in that.