There is probably no part of our daily lives that in unaffected by the current coronavirus crisis. The media are covering little else, with dramatic headlines and statistics broadcast from dawn to dusk. The declaration of a state of emergency by Doug Ford will have heightened the importance of preventative measures actions required, but it will also have raised the levels of anxiety and stress amongst business and general public alike.

Experts have predicted that after the crisis has passed, Ontario may face a so-called “echo pandemic” of mental illness. One in five Canadians will experience some form of mental health problem in their lifetime, and around 8% will suffer from major depression.

The good news, and it really is good news, is that we can all take simple steps to protect our mental health now and in the next few weeks. Here are just a few easy ways to build and strengthen your own mental health, whether you’re working or keeping safe at home.

  1. Stay social

Human beings are social animals. We like to to talk, to interact, to be with others. So, stay connected with family, colleagues and friends using whatever technology you have – phone, video calls, social media, conference calls. With the closure of non-essential businesses, your employees may be feeling isolated from the social world of work when staying at home. Holding meetings online via apps such as Zoom is simple and cost-effective, eliminating the need for travel or physical distancing.

  1. Plan ahead

As a larger business owner or manager, chances are your pandemic plan has already swung into action. However, smaller businesses might still be finding their feet in the new COVID marketplace. Now is the time to take stock of the situation and move towards an adapted way of working with a plan and a purpose. You may decide to take your physical store online to sell to customers in Ontario and beyond. Or you may decide to set up a service to deliver items to people’s home yourself. If your business involves any potential face to face contact with the public, such as repair and security, make sure you have the right PPE (personal protective equipment) employees require to keep safe. Thinking ahead now can save a lot of stress later on.

  1. Keep fit and healthy

As much of Europe is discovering, there are positive points to being at home, not least of which is being able to cook a healthy, nutritious meal for themselves and all the family. Yes, some ingredients may be in short supply, but this only fuels the inventive spirit further, to seek out different recipes online. Exercise is also important, given that our average calorie intake at work might be considerably less than sitting in our home office near the kitchen and the cookie jar… A business is only as healthy as its leader, so make sure you keep yourself health and active so you can help your staff and company moving forward.

  1. Help others

One of the mental strains associated with a crisis is a feeling of being overwhelmed, and being powerless to do anything about it. One of the greatest morale boosters available is to help other, such as volunteering to deliver medicines to the most vulnerable in your community. As a business, can you help in other ways such as switching production to an item required to combat the virus? Funding has been made available for this through the “Ontario Together Fund” (more details below).

  1. Enjoy life

At a time when some of our favourite activities may have been curtailed, such as eating out, socialising and playing sports, it’s important take time to enjoy other activities that help you relax. In many ways, this outbreak can actually help business people who have focused hard on their work to readjust their work/life balance. You can spend more time with the family, now that your daily commute might be 10 metres from kitchen to home office. Or take the hour you’d normally sit in traffic to read a book, listen to music, do some yoga, go for a bike ride, or call a friend you haven’t seen for a while. Keep this time screen-free if you can; don’t watch the news or browse media sites and give your brain a COVID break. As the government says: “Make time to step back and consider how to take advantage of unexpected flexibility in your daily routine.”

Call for businesses to help combat COVID-19

The new Ontario Together Fund is available to help companies make investments in new equipment or retooling to build their capacity or provide technological solutions to combat the coronavirus pandemic. As Rocco Rossi, President & CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce said:

“We have been overwhelmed with calls and emails from businesses asking where they can obtain direction or funding to support reconfiguring their operations to manufacture in-demand and critical medical supplies and equipment… It’s never been clearer how critical Ontario’s supply chain and the businesses within it are to the health and prosperity of this province. We’re pleased to see the government continue to take action to support those businesses and hope that commercial rent relief is the next step.”

Still anxious or worried?

There are lots of resources online to help you: here are just a few of our favourites:

Big White Wall (BWW)

A free mental health portal funded by the Ontario Government offering peer-to-peer support for anxiety, depression

Ontario Chamber of Commerce Mental health Resources

A really useful list of resources to help.

Pandemic Preparedness for Business

A straightforward guide to planning ahead.

Every Mind Matters

A clear, well written guide from the UK NHS.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health 

A range of FAQs, self-assessment tools, and tip sheets.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH)

Tips to stay mentally healthy and positive.

Help your family too

Older children may be quite concerned about what’s happening, and be exposed to endless rumour and myth amid the more accurate information on social media. Kids Help Phone offers “professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young people”.

If you are concerned about your finances, the Canadian government has introduced a whole variety of schemes to business access funding and credit, and help for individuals too. See Dept of Finance for more details.

Or call us here at Woodstock Chamber. We’re working remotely but still very much in touch, as The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) is hosting weekly instead of monthly conference calls with chamber staff across the province. Last week we had a minister from the Ontario Government join us. Rest assured that the OCC is advocating on behalf of business during this critical time, as we are at a local level too.