Nearly eight months after Covid-19 changed the way we live, work, and play and South Africans are burnt out and exhausted. Stress and anxiety are starting to take their toll and even the most resilient people are worried about their health, their businesses, their finances, the future of their jobs, their children’s academics, what the future holds for the country – the list goes on.
Covid, lock down, and the ongoing impact of this “black swan event” dominates most conversations, with many people confessing to cracks starting to show in their mental health and wellbeing. Insomnia, depression, anger, sadness and even suicidal thoughts are prevalent for so many South Africans.
Jason Bernic, an Executive Life Coach that assists people with both their personal lives and their business endeavours, says that there are simple things we can do to help take care of our mental health and wellbeing during this time. “Doing so will help us think clearly, and make sure we can look after ourselves and those we care about. If your mental approach to your day, your family, your business and your life is out of kilter, you will be out of alignment and experience a sense of disarray in all areas.”
Bernic offers the following advice to help South Africans navigate their way forward past Covid-19 and into the future:
Embrace your new normal
“The world is currently facing a situation that requires us to adapt and construct a new normal – a new structure and routine,” says Bernic. “People’s familiarity has been ripped out from under them which removed their foundation, and they need to create a new one. Your foundation affects your mindset.”
Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel – “This too shall pass”
“You have to focus on what is on the other side of Covid. It is essential to adopt a mindset of positivity and optimism – a resolute belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Even if the strategy changed, your goals remain and that is what you need to focus on – you may now have to take a different route to get there but the destination remains the same.”
Seek advice and talk about your concerns
“Speak to mentors, coaches and successful people,” says Bernic. “Run your situation by those that will tell you the truth and not pad reality. If you fell into a hole, you wouldn’t ask advice from someone that will tell you everything is ok – you would consult someone that has either been in a hole and climbed out, someone that can provide you with the means and the strategy to climb out, or someone that can help you come up with your own solutions as to how to get out.”
Surround yourself with optimistic people
“It only takes a single, pessimistic complainer to drag down a group. Maintaining healthy relationships with (positive) people we trust is important for our wellbeing. Ensure that you spend time with positive, courageous people that have either weathered the storm or have adjusted their strategy and are mitigating their risk.”
Bernic advises that the company you keep should fuel you to succeed and leave you energised. “If any single person, no matter how close to you they are, leaves you feeling defeated, walk away. It is too easy to get caught up in the negative narrative that is all around us. Position yourself to rise above the chaos and win.”
Support and help others
“Helping someone else can benefit you as well as them. Try to think of things you can do to help those around you – no matter how small. Is there a friend or family member that needs some help? Are there any community groups you could join to support others locally?”
Focus on what you can control
“Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, your responses to situations, who you speak to, and your thoughts,” says Bernic.
“It’s fine to acknowledge that some things are outside of your control, but if constant thoughts about coronavirus are making you feel anxious or overwhelmed, you need to adjust the narrative inside your head. To adopt negative thinking into our everyday way of being begins to programme us to live a reactive life of fear, so depart from the negative rhetoric that is tied to Coronavirus. We don’t need to lead ourselves into creating habitual negative talk that will possibly remain with us for the rest of our lives.”
Stick to the facts
“Find a credible source you can trust and fact-check information you get from newsfeeds, social media or other people,” says Bernic. “Think about how possibly inaccurate information could affect others too and try not to share information without fact-checking against credible sources.”
“You might also want to consider limiting the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media, and think about turning off breaking-news alerts on your phone. You could set yourself a specific time to read updates or limit yourself to a couple of checks a day.”
“As the outbreak continues, it can help to work through what possible changes to regulations and guidelines mean for you so you feel more prepared and less concerned.”
“It can also help to think through a typical week: how will you continue to be affected and what will you need to do to solve any problems should they arise? If you have not already, you might want to talk with your employer about the way forward and what the future holds for your career.”
Look after your physical health
Bernic advises that our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. “At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse.”
“Try to eat healthily, drink enough water and exercise regularly. Avoid smoking or drugs and try not to drink too much alcohol. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough.”
Do things you enjoy
According to Bernic, feeling worried, anxious or low might stop us doing things we usually enjoy. Focusing on your favourite hobby, relaxing, or connecting with others can help with anxious thoughts and feelings.
Be a role model to your children
“My advice holds true with parents too, and the relationship they have with their kids,” says Bernic. “You are your children’s biggest role models and how you respond to the world moulds who they are as young humans, especially if they are under the age of 7. Do not instil a sense of fear into your children; instead, demonstrate your pragmatic response, both on a strategic and an emotional level. How would you like you children to one day speak about you and how you dealt with life during lockdown?”
“How would you like to describe yourself and how you responded to the global Coronavirus pandemic? Figure that out and step into that version of yourself right now. Drop the defeatist attitude because it does not serve you, your family, or your business. Accept that the world is in a weird place and ask yourself what you are going to do about it, in so far as you have influence and control, which is ultimately over YOU.”
Bernic says that from his client pool, those that have weathered Covid well and are moving forward strongly – and in fact, almost seem Coronavirus-proof – have the following character traits:
“Optimism for the future, resilience in spite of adversity, focus without being distracted by the current “noise”, creativity in finding other ways to do things, leveraging their relationships and building new ones, high energy levels and the use of positive language and affirmations.”