The Psychological Impact of COVID-19 – How to protect the mental health of yourself and your team 

“Health is the only thing one truly has.” 

This was the saying of which my former boss at Toyota Motor Asia Pacific would consistently remind me while facing the 2008 financial crisis. Despite all of the challenges facing us, we continued to find relief in our mantra, and twelve years later, the phrase still rings true.

Similarly to what we are facing now, in 2008, almost overnight, all travel was suspended and we found ourselves in a new scenario. Instead of traveling 180,000 miles a year to our frontline dealerships, we found ourselves sitting still, twiddling our thumbs, and waiting for the next (most likely not great) news to make its way to our floor. For three months, it was as if we were in a temporary state of contemplation. 

Results from a NAHCP survey show that of the employers surveyed (N = 256), more than half are providing special support for the emotional risks posed by COVID-19, and 23% are considering doing so as well. 

Of course, in 2008, our health wasn’t actually at risk like today. Today, we are experiencing an existential crisis wherein employees and employers are questioning the purpose and meaning of their work and company.

A dear friend of mine in a senior marketing position at a SAAS company recently said to me, “Here I am laying on my couch at home doing screenshots for a presentation about our upcoming Learning Management System (LMS). For what?”  

As we spoke more, it became apparent that what she really felt was that yearning for her feelings to be acknowledged. And then with the lingering layoff threat, she was searching for deep meaning in her work, and to be part of something greater than herself. People are yearning for connection and purpose. 

During this pandemic, fear and anxiety; changing daily routines; and a general sense of uncertainty are everywhere. No matter a person’s salary, job title, or role, the effects of the extraordinary societal change right now is a heavy burden. 

It’s not enough simply to “rally the troops” and hope for the best in your organization. 

In response to my email last week on how companies can prepare for the post-pandemic world, I was asked, “how do leaders build mental health maintenance into day-to-day operations?” which is why we’ve compiled a list of

 10 creative ways to ensure the good mental health of yourself and your team:

  1. Share Good News

“Tell me something good” is one of my favorite phrases.

In our weekly meetings, we have adapted the start of our meeting with this phrase. 

In the past, it seems many organizations simply jumped from meeting to meeting, aiming towards productivity, and looking to get through the agenda swiftly. 

It’s important to identify that people move through meetings and their daily agenda with many things on their mind. 

Today, there are layers and layers of stressors. Develop a way to open and close meetings that focus on the positive.
  1. Focus on Gratitude

One way of doing this is with your morning huddles. A friend and fellow author, Deb Gabor, shared with me after a presentation at an Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) event that she changed her daily huddle to begin with something the team members are grateful for rather than their priority for the day. 

Recognizing that we all hold a lot of pressure right now, regardless of context, the practice of expressing gratitude creates a safe space for team members to find positivity from the good in their lives. 

This doesn’t just work in person, either. Meetings with clients, the way you email, virtual summits, or even webinars can all get on board the gratitude train.
  1. Provide A Healthy Meal for Your Team

Nourishing our brain with healthy food is crucial to our well-being and performance. 

Since we aren’t in offices, our “work family lunch” became much more difficult. Just because we aren’t physically together doesn’t mean that putting good things into one’s body is any less important. 

Extend a weekly gift card to a food delivery service to each employee, pick a day of the week, and eat lunch together via Zoom or another conferencing tool.
  1. Morning Stretches

If your morning meetings are early, include stretches, movements or some type of meditation as a part of the meeting. 

Whether it be at the beginning, middle, or even end is no matter, just so long as time is taken to get people moving. 

Taking a moment to recognize that people will be or have been sitting all day long is empathetic of leadership and shows that you care for their well-being. This is common in Asian countries and the impact is well-documented.
  1. Make People Laugh

Stress relief from laughter is no joke. The Mayo Clinic says that a good laugh in the short term can stimulate organs, relieve your stress response, and improve the immunity system. 

What ways can your company incorporate laughter from your culture and values into day-to-day operations? 

For example, one client has a joke internally in their office about their inability to grow mustaches. Without anyone knowing, the CEO had a designer Photoshop some of the team members faces to have all sorts of different mustaches. He releases one per week in the group chat. 

In my company, we have a competition for who can come up with the theme for Friday’s huddles every week, and it’s always better than Hawaiian Shirt Friday. Humor randomly during the day is important but even more important is how you can standardize it to be consistent while remaining authentic.
  1. Video Killed the Radio Star

Many professionals are recommending to not just use video for meetings but to keep video on while team members are simply working. 

If your marketing team had three people that are used to working together, encourage them to work alongside each other via video. 

Of course, they’d be working on separate tasks but this would allow for normal chit-chat and banter as you would have in an office. 

Similarly, encourage your team to share lunch together with the people they used to enjoy eating with. And if they can get outside, even better. This allows them to keep the connections they built from the past and sustain their relationships.
  1. Encourage ‘Paying It Forward’

It’s proven that when feeling down, one of the best things one can do is give to others.

How can your team ‘pay it forward’ to others? One idea is to have them support their friends. If they have friends that have lost their jobs or temporary work, encourage them to go on LinkedIn and write a recommendation for their friend, endorse them, and maybe even share their profile on LI for others to see. 

I’ve also seen many philanthropic campaigns to raise relief funds for those affected. For teams, small acts of service that are recognized by leadership and celebrated can be more impactful than giving money.

  1. Create New Traditions

In terms of crisis, many people seek connection and comfort from others, says Kelsey Stratton, PhD, program manager for resilience and well-being services at the University of Michigan. 

“It is important to find creative ways to maintain those connections. We might also find some comfort by remembering that we are not alone, and that we are all in this together to protect the health and well-being of our communities.” 

Create new traditions for connecting regularly with coworkers, departments, and industry friends. 

For example, I was invited to a private group of industry leaders this week to meet for a happy hour. It wasn’t a webinar or any type of virtual summit. It was just peers getting together and having an outlet to vent.
  1. Burn the Fears

As a team or individually, on a weekly basis, journal your fears. Make it a practice. Rip out the piece of paper, scrunch it up in a ball and throw it away or even burn it. 

Letting go of fear is an important step in feeling comfortable in a time of uncertainty. 

Coping isn’t just about tackling fear – it’s also about embracing the good. Write down a daily list of the good that’s happening personally and professionally. 

Perhaps you’re able to spend more time with your kids, or read a book you’ve been meeting to get off your list. Keep these shards of goodness and collect them in the jar. When quarantine ends, you can pull them out and read all of the wonderful things that occurred during this crazy time.
  1. Focus on the Why

Simon Sinek says people don’t get attached to what one does, they get attached to why one does it. 

Internally, we have adapted our agendas to include our why purpose statement at the top of every agenda. 

This includes our weekly state of business, our daily morning huddle, our evening morning huddle, and our department meetings. 

With one client, we worked to adapt the messaging on their website to consistently state their “why” on every page of the website for all existing or prospective customers who visit it.

To be a humanized leader today, one must recognize that our team members are not operating as normal and we should not expect them to, either. We must have empathy for what they’re going through and the impact on their mental health as well as ours. We must adapt normal operations to be accommodating to the challenges our teams are facing.

What have you done internally with your team to embrace the mental health challenges we are facing? What have you seen other companies do? What do you wish your company would do?

Some of you know that I am very passionate about health and well-being and that I am certified in Integrative Nutrition. 

I will be running a 45-minute webinar on this topic for leaders and their team members. Your entire team is invited and welcome.

When: Apr 22, 2020 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada) 

Register in advance for this webinar.

How to Address Mental health and Well-Being During COVID-19 

The key takeaways include:

  • How organizations are reacting and preparing to deal with employee anxiety and stress
  • The basics of mental health and the spectrum of mental health
  • Tips to cope with these mental health challenges
  • Hacks to keep you and your team motivated
  • The most popular and effective apps to support mental health
  • How to keep mental health normal conversation post COVID-19
Thank you for all you do as elevated human leaders and for being a part of this important conversation.

Hilary Corna



Hilary Corna

Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, Founder of the Human Way ™...

Hilary’s favorite title is HUMAN.


I am starting a revolution. One business and one person at a time.



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