COVID-19 and mental health: how to overcome stress and stay productive

Evgeniya Naumova, vice president of global sales network at Kaspersky

Viruses… Viruses affect not only the bodies of those who catch them, but also the mental state of millions or even billions more all over the world.      

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have spent months indoors, devoid of action and much of our usual daily routine. Severe and constraining restrictions make us emotional and often confused… Many people are afraid – for themselves, their friends and relatives. Sometimes, it seems that everything is all doom and gloom and that there’s no end in sight.  

But actually, much is still in our power to change for the better!  

What do we have during the lockdown?  

Increased stress and lack of sunlight – This combination may lead to various consequences, from broken sleep schedules to clinical depression. A lack of sunlight is also a major reason why during the autumn-winter period, many people (especially here, in Moscow) are confronted with seasonal affective disorder (a.k.a. SAD), as we are stuck in our homes without adequate lighting. Emotional engagement/stimulation and diversity has now been replaced for many by “quarantine tours” to the kitchen and to its main attraction – His Excellency, The Fridge. 

Disrupted sleep habits – Irregular working hours can blend day into night and vice versa. Some may say a more relaxed sleep-awake schedule may be convenient, but there’s a hidden trap – changes to sleep cycles may affect your health and increase the risk for diabetes and heart disease.  

The rabbit-hole of harmful addictions – You may have heard the term “weekend alcoholism”. Well, some have extended those weekends to cover entire months! As we are no longer held back by the restrictions of driving a car or meeting colleagues, some absolutely do not limit themselves. As a common rule, smoking is also prohibited in the workplace, where smokers, like drinkers, refrain during the working day. But during self-isolation, junk food, alcohol, and smoking… there’s no limit!  

New (sometimes unpleasant) dimensions in relationships – In our “former lives”, loved ones may have struggled to find time to talk, or lacked the strength and time for internal dialogue and relationship-building at the end of a busy day in the office… frequently away from home. Now, many are faced with the exact opposite scenario – living and working together with family members 24/7 – which brings its own unique set of pressures as family and work compete for attention. At the same time, many loved ones, separated because they do not live together, have been “left hanging”. And all of that adds to our COVID-related stresses. People are akin to animals: when the latter feel stress, for example, after being away from a master, they retreat, nag, bite, refuse to eat and so on. However, human beings have a way more delicate mental construction – we depend on emotions many times more!  

So what can we actually do at this time to avoid despair and stay upbeat and productive? 

First, we need to understand that we all have a great opportunity to better ourselves, in order to put an end to this feeling of “groundhog day”! If you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm – so help yourself… act!  

Cut down on reading disturbing news that stirs distress and try not to poach negative emotions. There is no benefit to worrying, nothing to be gained by drawing sad pictures of what might happen if you or your relatives get sick… Try to find more reasons for joy and laughter. Why not watch some of your favorite comedies! 

Do not forget about physical activity – Do sit-ups, push-ups – anything, even if you don’t have fitness equipment at home. My gymnastics coach gave me a great piece of advice: set your alarm clock for every two hours and do 20 sit-ups and 20 push-ups.  

Keep a daily regime – Your body and mind will definitely thank you. For example, if I wake up later, I have to drink coffee to cheer myself up. However, if I drink too much, I’ll have problems with falling asleep at night. We’ve got a vicious circle here, but we can get out of it easily – just set an alarm and get up when you need to and stick to this timing! 

Eat properly – Avoid junk food, cut down on fast carbs in favor of starchy carbohydrates, reduce saturated fat, sugar and salt, eat a wide range of foods making sure you get a balanced diet and your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs. At the same time, don’t overeat – change your pilgrimage to The Fridge to another, more beneficial activity!  

In a nutshell, the advice is rather simple – do whatever you can to keep improving, no matter what the circumstances are. 

Always keep in mind that you and your relatives should be healthy and happy, taking every opportunity you can to help children and parents, loved ones and friends. But in the first instance, help yourself – EVERYTHING depends on YOU! 

About the author

Evgeniya NaumovaEvgeniya Naumova is Vice President of the Global Sales Network at Kaspersky, responsible for sales operations across business segments, including both consumer and B2B.

She has been with the company for over 10 years. Prior to her current role, she was Head of Corporate Sales, Russia, at Kaspersky, where she was instrumental in increasing enterprise product sales 20-fold.

Evgeniya graduated with honors from the Ulyanovsk State Technical University in Ulyanovsk, Russia, with a master’s degree in management. In 2008, she earned an MBA in strategic management from Kingston University. One year later, Evgeniya graduated from the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow, Russia, with a PhD in Economic Science.


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