These are unprecedented times and very difficult for us to anticipate. All we can do is stay in touch with the recommended government guidelines and make personal and professional decisions for our own business and teams that enable us to feel we have responded with care and consideration. The sooner we accept this situation, the better. This helps avoid the shock factor that daily changes and updates tend to bring. It is likely that further measures will be put in place but at the end of the day, we have to believe we are in good hands. You make decisions every day and have done for years so this new situation will demand this but advice and input is available.
As a country we have survived many other viruses and serious situations. There are some unusual differences about this virus to SARS, MERS and Norovirus as this one is requiring us to avoid others and spend far more time in our homes than we’re used to during a working week. You will no doubt have been ill before and stayed at home, so this isn’t an entirely a new thing – the issue is we don’t know how long this will go on for! Estimates change daily it seems but the numbers in China where this began, are improving and more people are recovering so that is a positive.
We are making decisions now that seem very strange and somewhat scary, but they are precautionary and in our best interests. They include sensible options to avoid unnecessary contact with people. This has been referred to as social distancing. The reason is so that you can safeguard all the people you come in to contact with in a typical day. If you manage others, consider your own mental and emotional health first and then support your team. Leadership will be vital now, so try to model staying calm and avoid panic rather than scaring yourself, or others, with too many facts. Don’t sit with the real-time data of the number of Covid-19 cases/deaths on your screen – you’ll scare yourself silly! From what we have been told, it does appear to be a ‘given’ that the numbers contracting the virus will rise. Try not to find this a shock as it is predictable especially while we are still largely free to move around – that means there is a risk.
The virus, if contracted, varies. Some, especially those who are vulnerable with pre-existing conditions, are at risk of finding this very tough. Therefore, we are all responsible for protecting each other. If you experience the virus in its milder version – which the majority are currently doing, it is unpleasant but mercifully short. It lasts a few days as the worst of the temperature rises like flu and begins to come back down after 3-4 days.
To cope: here are the following tips I would recommend: –
- Stay in touch with the news if you wish but avoid watching it after 9pm at night as there is very unlikely to be anything in it that you cannot catch up with in the morning. If you watch it, you are likely to be exposed to scary pictures or uncomfortable and unpalatable messages that will play on your mind and upset your sleep. Instead, pay particular care to your sleep and at this tricky time, avoid excessive alcohol intake because it will disrupt the depth of your sleep. Keeping well, and sticking to your old routines, are part of the process of fighting this. Stay in contact with loved ones by phone and video (get yourself online using Zoom, or Goto meetings), and recognise this situation will not last forever.
- If you do watch the news, try to stick to the facts and see all new recommendations as precautions on behalf of the government in order to minimise the number of new cases. We have never seen anything like this as most of us were not alive in the war and that was probably the last recorded time when the government made such demands on the general public. There is a peculiar benefit in this. People panic much less if they are told exactly what to do. Try to copy this in your business and leave little margin for error. Specific requests, rules, or guidelines are best even if you feel as if you’re dictating to others. The time for allowing input and collective decision making may not be right for you and your team. Update these is regularly as you can and, if you do find an ‘ideas session’ gets them involved then do what you think is best.
- Until we are in complete lock down, which admittedly is getting closer, you can still go out for fresh air and exercise. Consider how to avoid groups of people so walking your dog if you have one, is still possible and even essential. But perhaps go early in the day or to a place where you know you can walk or run around away from other people. If you need to go out for other reasons, try to travel from a known point A to a known point B, and minimise the amount of contact you have.
- As you know, current guidelines are that if you show signs of a high temperature or unexpected cough, it is possible it could be coronavirus. 111 are overwhelmed so their website is possibly the best. Isolating yourself as soon as your temperature goes up will help especially from others if you live with loved ones. Use the kitchen and all communal areas at different times and ask them to wipe round after you’ve been in so that they are protected. Use a separate bathroom if you have one and do not share towels.
- If you feel lonely or distressed face-time others. Advise your neighbours of your number if you live alone and are nervous about becoming ill without any contact. Leave the radio or television on if that helps. Expect to feel rough for 3 to 4 days then it is very likely you will begin to recover and once you have recovered observe the 14 days quarantine rule before returning to work. At that stage, your antibodies will be in full flow!
- Anxiety about getting this rather than getting the virus itself is as much an issue right now. It’s natural to be upset by significant life changes but we are NOT in total chaos. There are little bright spots, look for those. You need to get enough rest, time off if you are ill, change from routine if you are not, and distractions, to get through this. People are rallying to each other and there are many signs of how we are re-connecting as communities. Spring is not far away and much of life is within earshot if you open your windows both for fresh air and the comfort of everyday sounds.
- If you are working from home, try not to be tempted to sit in your pyjamas all day as this is abnormal and will feel weird. Follow a timetable which includes exercise, and quiet time. Put structure into your day copying similar routines as if you were at work, for example, time to complete emails, writing reports etc and take a lunch break as usual. During that time, as in the evening, listen to music, look for other information on the internet, plan a holiday destination in the future, or chat to friends.
- If you are very bored, fed up or nervous in the evenings, because this is a change for all of us, do jigsaws, be creative and draw, make something if you like designing, take an online language course, play games, learn a dance routine online and keep your mind active. Puzzles, Sudoku or brain teasers take your mind off things.
- Remember, humour is important even in all of this……….there is no harm in watching old movies, fun series such as Friends, and even making your own video!
It may be very strange that we are being told what to do, and prevented from experiencing normal everyday life, but the Government are well informed and they are navigating an impossibly difficult road; they have to balance closing schools with the distress that causes, closing restaurants with fear that they’ll go out of business. They are stuck, often with chronically difficult decisions, but health professionals know what is good for us and if a few weeks at home protects us, that’s a small price.
This guide is not definitive and if you need more information here are a few places to get it:
- http://www.who.int/ – World Health Organisation
Take care of yourselves and let me know what you need,