Looking after your mental health

By Mark Lewis, CEO of Hospitality Action

Since the COVID-19 emergency started, life as we know it has changed beyond all recognition. For many people who have invested years in their careers to suddenly lose the job which defined them and the livelihood they relied on can feel like grief. That combined with the guilt of having to let staff go, and the sudden isolation of lockdown can be a toxic mix potentially triggering mental health problems.

Hospitality Action is working tirelessly not only to provide financial assistance to those facing destitution, but also by increasing our focus on providing mental health resources.

Here are some tips to help you cope with COVID related anxiety.

Try to see the big picture. It can be very easy to look at the number of deaths related to COVID-19 and be terrified. To counter this, look at the number of recovered cases, look at the number of cases compared to population levels. Shifting your focus in this way will help to prevent you from catastrophising and allow to you see the wider picture.

Stay informed – to a degree. It is important that we feel informed about situations such as COVID-19. However, it is even more important that we do not feel overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of news reporting and discussion about the virus. It is also paramount that we follow reliable news sources to limit our exposure to incorrect information that may cause unnecessary worry. Consider limiting the time spent checking news updates.

Breathe. Many breathing techniques can help reduce anxiety levels. It is best to implement these as part of your daily routine but they can be used during an in-the-moment anxiety attack. Get comfortable; you can do this standing, sitting in a supportive chair or lying down. Loosen any restrictive clothing. Let your breath flow comfortably deep into your belly, try to breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe in gently and regularly. Try counting from 1 to 5. Without pausing or holding your breath, let it gently flow out, again counting from 1 to 5. Try to do this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Be open. If you are suffering with anxiety talk to somebody. This could be a friend, a family member, partner, a colleague or a counsellor. Whichever one you are comfortable with, it is important that you are able to express your feelings. Anxiety can be made worse by not being shared; as you bottle up those feelings they will increase. In talking about this anxiety, you will likely find others sharing the same concerns, which can be a great comfort in times of difficulty. They can also help you work through your worries and let go of the anxiety.

Remember this is not permanent. Although it may seem so now, this pandemic is not going to last for ever. Historically, we have faced pandemics and they have passed. Life will return to normal, although this ‘normal’ may look different. Try to remember that each day that passes is a day closer to this being over. Reading positive news on the virus can help with this. Look at the recent rates of recovery, or progress on treatment and testing. These things can help remind us that this is not permanent.

Try the APPLE technique; Acknowledge, Pause, Pull Back, Let Go, Explore. Notice the anxiety when it comes, allow time to recognise how you are feeling and take a deep breath, step away from your anxiety, realise it is just worry talking, let these feelings pass, and be in your present moment, explore your current surroundings to reground yourself and let the anxiety pass.

You can call Hospitality Action 24/7 on 0808 802 2111 or visit www.hospitalityaction.org.uk for more help and information.

ABOUT HOSPITALITY ACTION
Hospitality Action is a registered charity, which was established in 1837, and offers vital assistance to all who work, or have worked within hospitality in the UK. They offer a range of support services to help hospitality people back on their feet again after a setback – from physical illness or mental health issues to financial difficulty, family problems to addiction. They also run a bespoke Employee Assistance Programme for employers. In 2018 Hospitality Action spent £902,305 supporting 4,330 people in need.