In my last post, we talked about how as positive leaders we have to be creative and innovative in running our organizations during this Coronavirus crisis. This week we’re going to talk about the fallout of taking various measures to help curb the pandemic and how you can help keep you and your team safe and sane throughout these crazy and uncertain times.
Like many businesses, you might have employees working from home, you might have furloughed staff, you might even have closed your business or just have it operating in a minimal way. Whatever your current situation, this is hard, there is no denying it. And, while following the guidelines of social distancing and not convening in-person groups is undoubtedly going to help us flatten the curve, it’s also taking its toll.
Many people I’ve heard from are expressing how heavy it all feels. They’re physically healthy, but they’re feeling the emotional and mental weight of the very different times we’re now living in. Some are feeling fear and anxiety over the unknown, what’s coming next, and the financial impact of it all. Others are feeling depressed or bored from being stuck at home and unable to engage in normal activities. Anger or frustration can also surface as more aspects of our lives get canceled. Whatever way it might be showing up for you or your team, please know, this is absolutely normal.
Why? Because humans are social beings, we usually enjoy the freedom to do as we please, and we need to know that our most basic needs are being met — i.e., we’re physically healthy and safe.
The Coronavirus pandemic has stolen from us these fundamental aspects of life.
However, here are five strategies you can use to cultivate mental and emotional wellness for you and your employees in the face of this uncertainty. The good news is that all of these are free and can be done from home.
1. Limit how much news you are consuming. Yes, we absolutely must stay informed right now, especially because the situation is fluid and changing by the day. However, that doesn’t mean you should watch cable news 24–7. Instead, choose a reliable source and check it briefly a few times a day. Although, preferably not right before bedtime as it could impact sleep, which leads to my next point…
2. Maintain your routine and a healthy lifestyle. While it might be tempting to stay in your jammies all day, stay up late, and binge on Oreo cookies right now, I promise you that will only make you feel worse. So, go to bed and get up at your normal time, get dressed for the day, and follow a schedule of work or activities to keep yourself focused and busy. You need a strong immune system right now, and we all know that means getting 7–8 hours of sleep a night, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly. Can’t get to the gym to work out because it’s shut down? Search YouTube for yoga classes and fitness classes or check out this free resource, fitnessblender.com, for a range of workouts you can do in your home. Plus, remember, fresh air and walks are available at any time outside your front door — just keep your distance from other humans right now.
3. Acknowledge and manage your stress. It’s okay to feel a bit weird right now so give yourself some compassion and use some coping techniques. One method is to imagine the worst possible situation that could occur, then imagine the best possible outcome, and follow that up with what’s most likely to happen. Once you’ve settled on what is most likely to happen, make a plan and take action. This exercise is recommended by positive psychology expert, Dr. Martin Seligman, and it’s helpful for putting things in perspective and regaining a sense of control. Another technique you might use is to simply look around and count your blessings — express gratitude and appreciate what you do have rather than focusing on what you don’t have or what’s been taken away.
4. Breathe. Maybe that sounds a little too obvious, but I can assure you it’s not. When we’re stressed, we tend to take shallow breaths that are mostly up in our chest. Doing this sends a signal to your nervous system that something’s wrong — it puts it in a state of high alert, which makes you even more stressed, and that rapidly becomes a nasty downward spiral. Instead, pay attention to your breathing and focus on taking deep belly breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose. This method of breathing calms the nervous system and tells your body that everything is going to be okay.
5. Socialize…virtually, of course! If you only choose one of these five strategies, this is it. Positive social interaction is absolutely crucial to our physical, mental, and emotional health. Plus, on the other side of the coin, we know that loneliness actually shortens your life — it’s the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Right now, life can certainly feel isolated, lonely, and socially-disconnected. But you can mitigate the effects of this by connecting frequently in the next best way — virtually. Use technology to FaceTime with family or arrange video chat meet-ups with friends on Zoom or Skype (both have free services).
Finally, remember that even though you might feel alone, you’re not. We are all in this together, and if we use some of these strategies, we’ll pull through this and emerge maybe even stronger than before.
If you’ve got questions or you just want to share what you’re doing to keep spirits high on your team, drop me a line at email@example.com — I always love to hear from you. Plus, if you want me to address a specific topic in these posts, just let me know.
Also, if you want some more simple practices that can increase positivity, download my book for free at 25 Tips for Leaders: How to Leverage the Science of Happiness to Increase Performance, Productivity, and Profitability. Yes, it’s all framed around work, but frankly, many of the techniques I share in this book are helpful for your personal life, too.