The COVID-19 outbreak has changed how all of us view the world. Every part of people’s lives in India has been affected, as well as the economy, politics, culture, and society. A study conducted by YourDOST found that Indians’ mental health has indeed been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the nationwide lockdown. The highest impact was reported in feelings of anxiety, anger/irritability and loneliness.
This is hardly surprising. As WHO mentioned right at the beginning of the pandemic –
Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown
Entrepreneurs are not immune to this either. Infact, A 1997 study of self-employed people versus those traditionally employed found that self-employed folks had significantly higher levels of job stress and mental health issues.
More recently, a 2015 study found that 49 percent of entrepreneurs experienced mental illness. Add to this the fact that small businesses, including those run by young entrepreneurs, have been hit hardest by the economic fall-out of the pandemic and yet, entrepreneurs have handled the lockdown quite well, as found during the study.
At the onset of lockdown; while students and working professionals were grappling with the psychological impact of the pandemic, entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals as a segment handled the news surprisingly well. It was amazing to discover that they actually reported an improvement when it came to their feelings of anger, loneliness, and happiness.
Even as the lockdown progressed, entrepreneurs/self-employed respondents reported an improvement in their feelings of happiness, sadness, and hopelessness.
So what’s their secret? How have they tackled the uncertainty of it all?
Most entrepreneurs state that the lockdown gave them time to think and introspect. They have used this time to build long term strategies and also upgrade their skills and competencies. This has left them feeling happier, less helpless and more satisfied.
One anomaly in the entrepreneurs’ segment was that they did report a deterioration in anxiety. With the implementation of “Work From Home” being advised, there has been immense pressure on entrepreneurs to keep employees engaged, and maintain their productivity. Additionally, there’s immense worry about the future of businesses due to the impact of the suspension of offline activities such as sales, which usually require in-person meetings and travel. The cause for this was mostly a worry about the future of their respective businesses. Anxiety is naturally going to increase.
So what is it that we can learn from entrepreneurs –
Exercise Exercise Exercise!
This is one of the top preferred coping strategies for this section and for good reason. A study done by Jong-Ho in 2014 showed that leisure-time physical exercise contributes to effective problem-focused coping through stimulating positive emotion. The enhanced coping with stress, in turn, can influence the regulation of health behaviors, thus leading to overall well- being. When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. So it stands to reason that if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
Stay in Touch With Friends and Family
Did you know? Feeling lonely on a regular basis can shorten your lifespan by 26 percent, making it deadlier than obesity or alcoholism, according to a 2018 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science. In today’s new normal, being socially active—even from afar—has a host of mental and physical benefits. Speaking with loved ones helps overcome feelings of loneliness & isolation brought on by the lockdown and social distancing. In fact, according to Psychologists, just hearing the voice of a loved one, even if it isn’t saying much, is soothing to the mind.
Reduce News Consumption
While staying up to date on local and national news is critical during this time, experts say over-consumption of the news can take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health.
Consuming the news can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which causes your body to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Then, when a crisis is happening, and we are experiencing this stress response more frequently.
A recent study conducted by the British Psychological Society states that negative TV news is a significant mood-changer, and the moods it tends to produce are sadness and anxiety. It has also shown that this change in mood exacerbates the viewer’s own personal worries, even when those worries are not directly relevant to the news stories being broadcast.
Meditate More Frequently
Many studies show that practicing mindfulness reduces stress. In 2010, Hoffman et al. conducted an analysis of 39 studies that explored the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The researchers concluded that mindfulness meditation increases positive affect and decreases anxiety and negative affect.
The study conducted by YourDOST is also consistent with these findings. A deep muscle relaxation mindfulness exercise called Progressive Muscle Relaxation aka PMR, can help you release stress from the whole body, thus relieving you of stress and boosting your immunity.
Here’s a companion guide to practice PMR with.
Reduce Social Media Usage
A research paper published in July 2017 reported that using platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat for more than two hours a day is associated with feelings of social isolation among individuals between ages 19 and 32. Other data shows that the incidence of depression increases among young adults who use social media more often than their peers, according to research published in the April 2016 issue of the journal Anxiety and Depression. Entrepreneurs state that we need to be more responsible when using social media especially during this time.
It’s time we take our cue from entrepreneurs, who believe that although the future is unpredictable it can be controlled through human actions.
Would you like to read the full report of YourDOST’s study on “Mental Health Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic & Nationwide Lockdown in India”? Click here to download your copy today.