Tips to Manage One’s Mental Health during Covid-19

by Marzena Kulis
Managing Director
Medical Devices
Johnson & Johnson, Middle East
There is a fundamental sense of purpose that binds us together as part of the Johnson & Johnson family and is one that is driven by Our Credo. Long before corporate citizenship became a business imperative, we had drafted a set of values that guide our decision making and the way we work. The reason I refer to this is because I am a firm believer that for resilience to exist, let alone prevail, there needs to be a sense of purpose that we are passionate about, driven towards and unified by.
Overnight, our lives have changed. It is easy to say that the past few months have presented us with more challenges than ever before. Balancing the needs of our families, our teams, our customers and our own health hasn’t been easy. Like many others, my small family was incomplete during the last couple of months with my husband being stuck abroad unable to return to the UAE because of Covid-19 travel restrictions. Looking after my family at home, and my family at work, remotely was no easy feat.
That to me is what ignites encouragement in myself and others around me. Like in one’s personal life, if a little passion exists, hope, productivity, energy and rigor will persist. As social beings, the separation intended to safeguard our physical health has serious impact on our mental health. But what has inspired me to keep going, sanely for that matter is the courage I saw in each of my colleagues, my mentors and mentees, those working from home, on site or in the field to make things work, keep us connected and focused on serving those who depend on us.
The creativity in leveraging technology not only to stay connected for work, but also recreate the social experiences at the workplace was immeasurable. In the short time of the lockdown, I was able to connect with more individuals from the organization on a personal and meaningful level than I did in the last year entirely. From morning coffees, fitness and meditation classes and knowledge sharing sessions, to our very own series of late night entertainment homemade live shows: ’The Lockdown’ and ‘Kids got Talent’, we were invited to each other’s homes, and allowed ourselves to show a new depth of vulnerability that not only humanized all of us, but made us bond stronger.
It is at times of crisis that we need encouragement the most, for ourselves and others. Here are some tips that have worked for me:
  1. Take care of yourself. You can’t give what you don’t have. Very simple. One must take care of themselves to be able to give energy and care for their loved ones. Take physical and mental breaks, step away from your workstation regularly and make sure to make deliberate effort and time for meals, breaks, exercise and social time with loved ones. We have all slipped into unbalancing work and life at home, but you must make time for the things that you enjoy. For me, that would be swimming as well as gardening, which is my therapy and source of nurture.
  2. Model key behaviors. As leaders, one must set the tone not only for what we do in any organization, but how we do it. From thinking courageously outside the box to taking care of our own mental health and prioritizing our wellness. In my case I had taken several Sundays off to disconnect for longer weekends and recharge. I have found this to help promote a culture of self care and helps cement the desired culture towards surpassing our ambition.
  3. Ask for help. My own remedy during the lockdown was a weekly catchup with dear friends whom, due to the pace of pre-Covid life, I used to connect with monthly. It was as if we had created our own friends’ support group! Our interactions saw so much love and reminiscing, experience and thought exchange, and more importantly has proven therapeutic to me during uncertain times. On a company level, we had extended dedicated counselling and mental health therapy sessions to our employees and their families to help ease the stress of the Covid-19 world.
  4. Prioritize your objectives. Don’t stretch yourself too thin and take a moment to acknowledge your accomplishments.
  5. Stay positive! I always start by acknowledging my blessings. Gratitude sets me up on the right tone and inspires me to be better and do better by myself and those I love.
What has happened to the world is truly shocking. But it has never been more important for each of us to be our best, so as to do our best. Being a peoples’ company that withstood the tests of time for more than a century, I reaffirm that one of our secret ingredients to our resilience is our passion to serve those who depend on us and change the trajectory of human health for our families and communities at large.

Once I am out of lockdown... 
I will reunite with my family to enjoy summer in nature. I can visualize the blue waters, I can truly smell the color green, and already feel the sunburn on my nose.

My favorite quote is…
Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm” ~ Publilius Syrus