The declaration of a pandemic today puts us all on notice that, if we haven’t already, we need to up our personal and professional resilience now and prepare for tough times ahead. Challenges lie ahead, at home and and work.
Australians have been panic buying toilet paper but hoarding is not the answer. However, it does show us how easily collective fear can morph into panic. The emotion of fear is particularly contagious. Fear narrows our focus, but unless the danger is immediate (e.g. avoiding an accident) it’s not a useful decision-making state.
So, let’s learn to regularly pause, take a breath and settle our emotions. The situation is temporary, it won’t even aspect of our life and we will get through this. Toilet paper is not a solution but what can we anticipate and prepare for?
As a communication and resilience specialist, social distancing and the probability people will be asked to work from home raises particular challenges for our mental health.
As much as the weekday commute won’t be missed, the benefits that accrue from being part of a workplace are often invisible until they are absent: the daily banter, popping out for lunch, your workmates (even the ones you love to hate) and the daily workday routine are familiar.
There is comfort in familiarity and to find yourself suddenly working at home can feel like having the rug pulled out from under you. Meetings via zoom are effective but human beings are wired for connection. And for real connection we need to share the same air. Add to that, the uncertainty around contracting the virus and if you live alone, the sudden absence of physical touch in the form of hugs or handshakes, and you might quickly find yourself feeling isolated and lonely.
As an individual, now is the time to talk to family and friends about how to support each other to feel safe and loved as the epidemic runs its course. As a leader, now is the time to ask yourself what ways of working are going to support your staff the best over the coming months. How can you best keep them in the loop? What extra support can be put in place to combat loneliness and keep people on track, personally and professionally?
We will get through this together and the science of resilience offers proven ways to get through tough times.
Kathryn Brewer is a communication and resilience specialist and ICF credentialed coach.