Amid the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), protecting your mental health is just as important as protecting your physical health.

| 2 years ago

Employer Solutions: Tips for Managing Stress During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Dr. Lawrence W. Raymond, medical director at Atrium Health Employer Solutions, shares tips for employers to help support employees’ mental health during this unprecedented time.

Worry. Fear. Anxiety. Depression. As people grapple with sweeping changes, social isolation and concerns over health and work, it’s clear that you don’t have to be infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to feel its effects.

Employees can be especially vulnerable to the stress surrounding COVID-19. Their routines have been disrupted. Some find themselves working from home for the first time. Others are uncertain about the risks of working with the public. These feelings can also be worsened by pre-existing mental health conditions and other factors.

“Unprecedented changes cause unprecedented stressors,” says Lawrence W. Raymond, MD, medical director at Atrium Health Employer Solutions. “For some, social distancing has become social isolation. Employees may find themselves without a support system or daily contact with another human being. Add in worry about becoming infected and uncertainty about their job or the economy, and there’s a significant impact on mental health.”

Certain populations may be more vulnerable to the stress of a crisis like COVID-19. They include:

  • Doctors, nurses, healthcare providers and first responders
  • People with chronic diseases
  • Older people
  • Children and teens
  • People who have mental health conditions
  • People who struggle with substance use

Symptoms of stress during the outbreak can include:

  • Feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety or feeling like you want to harm yourself or others
  • Fear and worry about your health and the health of loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

These effects can spill over into the workplace, causing interpersonal conflicts, lack of productivity, absenteeism and loss of revenue.

“The good news,” says Dr. Raymond, “is that there are clear-cut ways employers can support their work teams during these difficult times.”

Here are some tips to share with your employees:

Limit your media exposure:

Being informed is important. But the 24-hour news cycle can leave many feeling overwhelmed. If the news is making you feel anxious, check reliable sources only once or twice a day. For information from Atrium Health, visit

Take steps to protect yourself and your family:

Following health guidelines designed to help prevent infection will not only help protect you – it will also help you feel more in control. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, avoid close contact with someone who’s sick, stay home as much as possible and wear a face covering.

Help out:

Help those who are vulnerable in your community by staying in contact by telephone, email or video chat, purchasing groceries or checking if they need help. By thinking outside of ourselves, we see that the restrictions aren’t personal. We can also get the emotional boost that comes with feeling productive and helping others.

Practice an attitude of gratitude:

Rather than focusing on what’s difficult or what can’t be changed, look for bright spots. That can include extra time with loved ones, a chance to try yoga or seeing the first signs of spring. Making a list of the things you’re grateful for can help create feelings of positivity.

Seek help:

If you’re feeling uneasy or anxious (whether because of COVID-19 or otherwise), Atrium Health has a Behavioral Health Help Line that’s available 24/7 at 704-444-2400. It’s staffed by master-level mental health professionals and registered nurses who can offer support, make referrals to behavioral health specialists and provide information on community resources. To learn more, visit

Maintain a routine:

Keeping the same eating and sleeping schedule can help create a sense of normalcy. Building in scheduled work and recreation time can also help you focus on the present and reduce the stress associated with wondering, “What’s next?”

Eat healthy, exercise and avoid substances:

Good nutrition and exercise can help both body and mind. Eat healthfully. Move your body for at least 30 minutes per day by walking, running or biking outside (at a distance to others), or following an exercise video online. Avoid smoking, drinking too much alcohol or consuming too much caffeine or sugar. Make as many healthy decisions as possible, but remember to be kind to yourself if you miss a workout or eat something that feels too indulgent. Putting added pressure on yourself in an already stressful time isn’t necessary.

Reach out:

Whether you’re keeping in touch with family or reconnecting with old friends, maintaining social contact — even virtually — can support your mental health. And theirs. Use the phone, email, social media and video conferencing to keep in touch. Increase your outreach efforts. Showing and experiencing love and support can make difficult times more bearable for everyone. For more tips on how to stay social during social distancing, check out this infographic.

We’re all in this together. And at Atrium Health Employer Solutions, we’re here for you and your employees. 

In addition to tips like these, we offer free COVID-19 Risk Assessments. If you have questions about COVID-19, call our 24/7 Health Line at 704-468-8888. And if you’re sick, our remote care options allow you to get the medical care you need from the comfort of home. For more information, including how to get care, visit