Nine Tools for Leaders to Manage Extreme Pressures and Mental Wellbeing through the COVID-19 Black Swan Event

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

It is critical that leaders pay attention to their mental health during this pandemic and share information to employees on this topic. The extreme stressors leaders are dealing during this pandemic can bring mental health issues like stress and anxiety to the forefront. Leaders should be commended for their proactive efforts during these times. There are numerous examples of executives doing the right thing by their employees which will be detailed in upcoming blogs. This is especially commendable as financial perils threaten many organizations. Executives are dealing with unprecedented economic uncertainty while managing stressors in truly uncharted waters.

It is critical leaders take care of themselves along with their employees as much as possible during this time. General tips for leaders and their employees include monitoring your physical health through diet, sleep, and exercise, staying connected with others through social networks (including video functions), and focusing outward including helping others when possible. Additional information is provided below for leaders to consider and share with employees.

Available Resources
It’s important to check our own biases with mental health during the uncertainty and fear associated with this pandemic. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness. Speaking directly with certified mental health professionals is highly recommended if possible. It’s also important to make sure your employee assistance programs are working effectively.

This applies to all of us but it’s worth remembering that some may be affected differentially because of underlying mental health conditions. For years there’s been a stigma associated with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. People ask, “What happened to you?” following an injury but ask, “What’s wrong with you?” with mental health challenges. This distinction illustrates our biases with mental health struggles even though nearly 20% of the population is affected (https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics). Fortunately, the stigma of mental health issues is beginning to erode, albeit slowly. During times of crisis, these issues may become more pronounced. It is important to focus on mental health right now for those with and without some of these conditions.

Fortunately, there are a number of resources available (many free) for people struggling with infected family members, dealing with social isolation, and not being able to visit elderly parents. Here are some online and app-based mental health resources to help you during this trying time (https://www.abc10.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-mental-wellness). It is worth sharing this with your employees.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness hosts online communities where people can share encouragement.
7 Cups is an app and online resource that lets you chat with a trained counselor for emotional support and counseling. It also offers online therapy with a licensed mental health professional. Services are also offered in Spanish.
Support Group Central offers virtual support groups on numerous mental health conditions for free or at minimal cost. This website is also offered in many different languages, including Chinese and Spanish.
Betterhelp is an app that offers individual, couples, or teens counseling. Licensed therapists are available through text, video, and phone.
The Tribe Wellness Community is a free, online peer support network that gives members facing mental health challenges a safe place to connect.
Psych Central offers online mental health resources, quizzes, news, and an “Ask the Therapist” function.
Talkspace matches you to a licensed therapist, available five days a week via text, video, and phone. Talkspace is also available as an app.
For Like Minds is an online mental health support network that allows people to connect with others who are experiencing stressful life events.
18percent offers a free, peer-to-peer online support community for those struggling with a wide range of mental health issues.

Taking Action
Senior leaders are under extreme duress during this pandemic. Please use these tips and resources for yourself and share with your employees during this period of extreme stress. This demonstrates genuine caring beyond business considerations. You owe it to yourself, and those that depend on you, to take care of your mental health during this crisis.