In a recent video conference with Assiniboia business members, counsellor Andre Lorrain from Praire Counselling & Meditation talked through some of the ways that the coronavirus pandemic measures could cause anxiety in business owners, employees and customers alike.
Because Lorrain offers his counselling services in Gravelbourg and Assiniboia, he thought that rural communities might be in need of an outlet to voice their concerns and seek advice on how to deal with their anxieties during this time.
“This is an unprecedented time for us because we don’t usually prepare for a pandemic,” said Lorrain. “I think that’s causing a lot of anxiety and stress in people because you don’t know when it’s going to come or where it’s going to come from.”
Many businesses are experiencing customers who are frustrated that they cannot run their errands the same way they used to, or that things take longer or they have to wait outside.
Nerves are already frayed, said many business owners, especially in rural areas where businesses are now seeing more out-of-town customers travelling from other communities and potentially putting others at risk.
“Moving away from face-to-face contact is quite a challenge [for many],” said Lorrain.
The ongoing uncertainty is surely causing heightened levels of anxiety in everyone for a number of reasons, Lorrain noted, and businesses are no exception.
Because it's expected that these measures will continue for the near future, Lorrain offered some advice on how to help manage those increased levels of anxiety during times like this.
“As the days and weeks goes on, it's going to be a struggle because we’re all worried,” said Lorrain. “But [it’s good to] know that you’re not alone in this and we’re all going throught the same issues and struggles in trying too navigate this.”
The first thing to remember is to look after your own mental health as much as anyone else’s.
It’s important to maintain a regular schedule, said Lorrain, and that includes sleeping and eating properly and trying to get at least a little exercise every day.
It's also important to think about how much time you spend watching TV, to avoid overstimulation or fatigue, and to do something relaxing that doesn’t involve screens before going to bed to properly relax the eyes.
The most important thing to do right now, agreed both Lorrain and business owners, is to stay connected with other people — coworkers and staff in the work setting, and family and friends in the personal setting.
“Staying connected is the best way to circumvent the feelings of being isolated,” said Lorrain. “Right now we feel very isolated physicially, but we can still stay connected even if it’s by way of phone or internet.”
Many businesses are keeping up with employees both in a professional way, but also in a social way — such as sharing trivia questions or recipes on a company email chain, for example, or just checking in on each other.
“Staying connected with your employees and staff is very important,” said Lorrain. “Let them know you’re still there, and as business owners and managers, let them know that you care.”
Anxiety and stress is something that everyone is susceptible to, said Lorrain, and it’s entirely okay to be affected by those things.
He encourages businesses and everyone else in the community to reach out for support if they are feeling like their anxiety is becoming unmanageable.
Using the 7-11 breathing technique — count to seven as you inhale, and count to 11 slowly as you exhale — is an easy way to subdue the fight of flight reflex that anxiety triggers in the brain.
If you begin feeling more severe anxiety, reach out to a mental health professional. HealthLine 811 is able to offer mental health support, and so is the province’s Mobile Crisis Helpline by calling 1 (306) 757-0127.