By: Allanah Paragas

In observance of the Mental Health Awareness this month of May, the ZMG Group held its monthly Coffee Talk series online on stress management and self-care in the time of the pandemic. The May 22 session was led by Icar Castro, a Psychologist well-known for her diverse work experience in counseling, human resources, and organizational development.

The ZMG Group, comprised of ZMG Ward Howell, Asia Select, Asia PeopleWorks and Asia PeopleSearch, has acknowledged that employees may have been experiencing the negative effects of stress and anxiety.

During the 1.5-hour webinar, Castro delved into the current issue some professionals are dealing with. The build-up of events relating to COVID-19 has affected Filipinos’ physiologically and psychologically, thus consequently creating an impact on a person’s capability to work productively. Focusing on strategies and tips, she was able to elaborate on how we can effectively practice stress management and self-care.

We all react differently when exposed to uncertainties and this can affect our well-being. While some cope better than others, we cannot dismiss nor judge how other people are feeling. Some feel worried; some are stressed out, and some may have been undergoing anxiety. While these terms may seem synonymous, it’s important to identify each stage to prevent further negative impact. According to Castro, worry is the feeling we have due to the “continuous thoughts that happen only in the mind…it is the cognitive aspect of anxiety.” Stress is our physiological or bodily reaction to a fight-or-flight situation; while, anxiety is our response to stress, “happens both in our minds and body…and it can manifest itself in physical symptoms.”

The causes of our worry, stress, and anxiety can come from several factors that can concurrently happen in our homes, at work, with our relationships, the environment we live in, biogenic stressors—caused by our intake of caffeine, alcoholic drinks, or nicotine—or between our inner selves. “There is no such thing as a stress-free life. Stress is necessary and is highly subjective,” according to Castro. We experience stress in our everyday lives; and it is necessary for us to undergo these situations so we can grow and develop a resilient mindset.

It is normal for our minds and bodies to negatively feel and react to difficult situations, but dwelling in too much can severely affect both our mental and physical health. According to Castro, (1) recognizing losses, and (2) acknowledging and honoring grief are the first steps in addressing difficulties.

These uncertain times have made some of us think that our feelings or reactions may not be normal. Castro says otherwise, “In the current COVID-19 pandemic, what you are feeling may be a normal reaction, in a normal person, to an abnormal event.”

The pandemic has caused each of us to worry or be anxious; but it also served as a common ground for most of us to understand and feel what each of us is going through lately. Participants of the webinar expressed their gratefulness and find the session very helpful and relatable. “It makes us fully understand and process the situation we are dealing with, knowing that whatever abnormalities we are undergoing…I felt that we needed more time though to cover more questions and discussions but other than that, it was great – very relatable,” said by Asia Select HR Generalist Chiqui Parker.

Extending appreciation for the session is Asia Select HRBP Tel Cruz. According to her, the session can help her team gauge what employee engagement initiatives would be best for Asia Select colleagues. “It was a good temperature check to see how our employees are feeling at the moment; good way to gauge how they are for us to know what type of support we can provide them at this time…Knowing what and how our employees feel or want or need will help my team craft tailor-fit interventions and support to them,” she said.

The ZMG Group leadership team also participated and shared the same sentiment with other colleagues in the session. According to ZMG Ward Howell President and CEO Alex Genil, “It is okay to experience all of those feelings of stress right now because these are normal reactions during an abnormal event, so I think it is important for us to realize that all of us somehow are feeling some form of worry, stress, or anxiety.”

In addition, Asia Select CEO Hans Bayaborda emphasized on the importance of having good relationships in every professional’s well-being. “For professionals like us, maintaining relationships with people you trust is important for your mental well-being. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends, family, co-employees via telephone, video calls, or social media instead of meeting in person – whether it’s people you normally see often or connecting with old friends. As mentioned by our speaker [Castro], in helping and supporting others, think about how you could help those around you – it could make a big difference to them and can make you feel better too.” The webinar made us realize how managing stress and helping out colleagues can be better for everyone’s well-being.

Experiencing loss and grief is normal during difficult times. The negative feelings and reactions we emanate make us vulnerable and human. In addressing these uncertainties, it is important to acknowledge our feelings and other’s situation to have a better sense of well-being and a productive working relationship with others.

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