Beyond Blue recognises and understands the feelings of anxiety, distress and concern many people may be experiencing in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and offers the following wellbeing advice. For general information about looking after yourself during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the dedicated Beyond Blue page, Looking after yourself during the coronavirus outbreak.
If you lose your job
Losing your job and having your income reduced can cause significant emotional distress.
It’s important to recognise that businesses are closing or running at significantly decreased output due to circumstances beyond their control. We recognise that it is heartbreaking for business owners who have to stand down staff, and equally distressing for employees who suddenly find themselves without employment.
It can take a serious toll on many aspects of people’s lives – their health and wellbeing, relationships and families, as well as how they see their future. These feelings of distress can be heightened during periods of uncertainty, such as what we are seeing with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Losing your job or financial security may trigger feelings akin to grief including:
- shock and a feeling of numbness
- a sense of loss connected to your job and finances
- uncertainty about the future
- confusion about why this is happening
In these circumstances, you may experience common reactions that can manifest themselves physically and mentally, such as:
- problems getting to sleep or staying asleep
- tiredness and fatigue
- a loss of appetite
- feeling overwhelmed, anxious or fearful
- mood swings or over-reacting to small things
- muscle tension or pain
- feeling angry, irritable or intolerant.
Some people will experience reactions that may be a sign that they should seek support from their GP or a mental health professional. Signs to look out for include:
- severe emotional reactions that persist beyond a usual period of adjustment (usually two or more weeks)
- an inability to function and carry out day-to-day tasks
- using alcohol or other substances to ‘self-medicate’ or cope
- thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Tips to care for your mental health if you lose your job
If you have lost your job, you are likely to feel more in control and less stressed if you take steps to help improve your situation.
There are many helpful things you can do to help you cope.
- Remind yourself that it’s OK to feel unsure about the future.
- Be patient with yourself. Recovery from any significant setback takes time.
- Get support. Identify family members you can talk to who will help you remain positive.
- Understand that you’re not the only one who has lost their job because of the extraordinary impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. Share your story with trusted colleagues.
- You may find it useful to write down your concerns and worries and work through them methodically.
- Choose your news. As best possible, avoid getting swept up in negativity around the economy and the spread of the virus.
- Draw on your strengths. Remind yourself of a tough time that you’ve managed to overcome in the past.
- Stay healthy. Try to maintain a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs.
- If you have a pre-existing medical condition that may be aggravated by stress, talk to your GP.
Beyond Blue’s Taking care of yourself after losing your job booklet contains more information on practical tips for looking after your mental health. This booklet provides general information and advice that may not be entirely suitable to individuals or employers affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Try to maintain perspective
While it is reasonable for people to be concerned about the outbreak of coronavirus, try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts around the world are working hard to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.
Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage
Being exposed to large volumes of negative information can heighten feelings of anxiety. While it’s important to stay informed, you may find it useful to limit your media intake if it is upsetting you or your family.
Access good quality information
It’s important to get accurate information from credible sources such as those listed below. This will also help you maintain perspective and feel more in control.
Try to maintain a practical and calm approach
Widespread panic can complicate efforts to manage the outbreak effectively. Do your best to stay calm and follow official advice, particularly around observing good hygiene habits.
The Australian Psychological Society has advice about maintaining positive mental health during the outbreak.
Try not to make assumptions
To contribute to a sense of community wellbeing, try to remember that the coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of their nationality or ethnicity and remember that those with the disease have not done anything wrong.
Work and good mental health
It’s understandable to feel unsettled at this time. Whether you’re a business owner who employs staff or a sole trader, a manager at an organisation or an employee, your workplace may be facing difficult times and it’s normal to consider what that means for you.
There are many actions that employees, managers and business owners should take in their normal everyday lives to protect and nurture their mental health. And these still apply in the current circumstances.
- Be realistic about what can be achieved.
- Keep the hours you work in check and be mindful of work-life balance.
- Stay in touch with family and friends.
- Eat well, prioritise sleep and stay physically fit.
- Try and find time to switch off from technology.
- Monitor warning signs of poor mental health.
- Reach out to mentors and colleagues for support.
- Maintain interests outside work.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Access information and support services.
- Consult your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider, if you have one.
Click here for more information about taking care of yourself and staying well.
Information and financial support for businesses during the coronavirus outbreak
Support, including financial assistance, is available from the Australian Government.
You can also find out what tax support is available if you or your employees are affected by the coronavirus.
Strategies for small businesses owners
We’re all facing unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus outbreak, and we’re working in ways we’ve likely never had to before. The impact on small business owners is significant.
Pressure on revenue, employee management issues including staffing levels, working from home arrangements for short or extended periods and planning for the future while dealing with the present, are all weighty issues that need to be addressed.
Looking after your own mental health as well as that of your staff is equally important.
It’s important that you seek out support – this will not only be good for your mental health but good for your business too.
Beyond Blue has previously developed a guide for small business owners that may be useful.
This is also a good time to re-visit or, if you haven’t already, develop a wellbeing plan to help you adjust to your new working situation.
If you know a small business owner who is struggling, please visit the Supporting small businesses page of our website for information about how you can help them improve their mental health and wellbeing.
If you’re a manager, it’s important to think about how you can support your employees during these uncertain times.
- Maintain regular communication with your employees
- Keep staff up to date about your business’ response to the coronavirus outbreak
- Make sure your staff are aware of the supports that are available to them (for example, if you have an Employee Assistance Program [EAP] in place)
- If you’re concerned about a workmate, make sure to check-in, have a conversation with them and encourage them to get the support they need
- Consider some of our tips for managers to help you maintain a mentally healthy workplace
- Don't forget to take time to look after yourself too.
Working from home safely and productively
During the coronavirus outbreak, many people are either already working from home or are likely to have to work from home for a period of time. With this in mind, here are some tips for employees and managers that will help support everyone’s mental health.
If you need to work from home, you should:
- maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting time limits
- create a separate office or workspace, if possible
- move around every hour, and go outside once a day (if it’s responsible to do so)
- choose a good chair and set up your computer properly
- keep connected to colleagues and communicate daily with your manager
- set a work schedule for the day and stick to it
- shower, and dress comfortably, as if you’re going to the office
- keep the kitchen stocked with healthy snacks and meals.
If you are a small business owner, or a manager with a team working from home, you should:
- ensure employees are aware of resources to support their mental health and wellbeing
- be aware that individual circumstances vary and consider options to support each team member’s needs
- provide strong IT support and guidelines for remote working so employees can be fully productive
- be mindful of the disruption that potential school closures may cause to families
- agree on working hours that employees know they are not expected to work beyond
- touch base with each team member daily and have regular longer one-to-one meetings
- remind employees to work in ways that are kind to their mind and body
- maintain regular virtual team meetings
- advise teams to stay as connected as possible
- remember that being a manager doesn’t make you immune to the same stresses as your employees and that you need to look after yourself too.
Beyond Blue Support Services
If you are in urgent need of support, or are concerned that someone you know may be at immediate risk, contact the Beyond Blue Support Service.
Financial support for those who have lost their job
The Australian Government is providing financial assistance to individuals who have lost their jobs to support themselves and their families.
If you are experiencing financial hardship
If you are experiencing financial hardship, the National Debt Helpline offers free financial counselling.