Adapting to a New Reality

Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

Unprecedented Change

Before the lockdown, there was some semblance of boundaries. But today, everything is muddled together.

Before, if your kids interrupted a WFH zoom meeting, it would bring embarrassment and over 39 million views on YouTube.

Now work meetings are happening in your bedroom or kitchen table with children interrupting and dogs barking. Not to mention all the zoom meeting mishaps that make a cat a weather forecast star. Even the Supreme Court is flushing toilets during oral arguments. And if you’re like most leaders, work is not slowing down but has actually increased. Then you’ve had to add the job title of “teacher” while removing outside support that you used to rely upon.

You may also have a deep desire to “keep it all together” for your family, your business, and your team. But you’ve lost any space or time for yourself (be it a commute or just a coffee break from the office). On top of all this change – coronavirus isn’t like other challenging life events. Unlike a job loss, death of a loved one, or even a hurricane – these events typically happen in a short time frame. Which means you can start processing and rebuilding in your new reality.

We are still experiencing the evolution of coronavirus. The world and everything about it is still in the process of changing, and we don’t know how long it’s going to last or what it looks like. You may have just gotten used to a WFH schedule, and now things are opening up, and the kids are about to start summer break.  You might be asking:  How will this work? What does this mean? What’s next? What we are experiencing with coronavirus is a series of change processes – or one very long one (depending on how you want to see it).

 

Due to this – our normal tactics of ‘pushing through’ and using adrenaline will not work for a long drawn out event, such as this.

When we are experiencing change, which causes stress, this might show up as:

  • Lashing out or snapping at others
  • Vivid or bizarre dreams (or nightmares)
  • Lack of focus and/or motivation (“busy but bored”)
  • “melt-downs” about small things (crying over spilled milk)
  • Forgetfulness, difficulty tracking time – feeling out of synch
  • Increased judgment
  • Incorrect interpretations
  • Physical impact

All of these responses are totally normal and very human of you. In general, you are less patient, less rested, and have much less of a reserve. You are essentially not feeling or acting as your best self.

Don’t underestimate the impact this may be having on you, even if you have a history of navigating stressful situations. As for myself, I pride myself in being the calm in the storm of an emergency. So when lockdown happened, I thought, not a big deal. I’ve WFH for years, and I’m a coach with great self-care strategies. Besides, I’m an introvert; it’s finally “my time.”

Yet for the first month of lockdown, I was having bizarre vivid dreams (nightmares), and my face was breaking out – which it hadn’t done since High School (thankfully that’s under control). Yet if you asked me how I was doing, I would have said ok. I just didn’t realize how much was going on under the radar. Unfortunately, we can’t avoid the chaos of change. But we can take steps to reduce it, move through it quicker, and learn from it.

Take a break and reflect.

A lot is going on; you need a break to reflect on it. This is probably the hardest thing for a high achiever, a leader, or a mother to do.  You’re so busy wanting to get things done or care for other people because you don’t want to let others down. But if we use the “oxygen mask” example, there is a reason you MUST take care of yourself – it’s the only way you can continue to help others.

You are human, which means pushing through is an old tactic that will not be sufficient in this situation- you’ll hit burnout before it’s over. Take at least a 15 min break each day – make it a real break, not a distraction break – no screens, no work, no one else.

Reflect with these questions:

  • What’s going on for me?
  • What do I need in this moment?

Reset your thoughts (Reframe)

Your thoughts (which are your stories) become actions. If you are aware of the story you’re telling yourself, then you can choose your actions, so they best serve you. Ask yourself: What story am I telling myself? Does it serve me?

Take time to acknowledge and process your feelings (even if you don’t exactly know what they are), and because emotions are contagious, think about: what do you I chose to spread? If you’re like me, you are your worst critic, so start with yourself. Reset your thoughts with extreme kindness and compassion towards self.

Respond (opposite of reacting)

A reaction is typically quick, without much thought, tense and aggressive. A response is thought out, calm, and non-threatening.

To create the space to be thoughtful and calm, you need to slow down and take deep breaths (four-count breath in and four-count breath out). This calms down our instinct for fight vs. flight and allows us to move to the creative part of our brain. Then ask open-ended questions and get curious, which helps you stay in the creative brain – the part that helps solve problems creatively. This is especially important when you are trying to move forward in a world with so many unknows – creativity is essential.

When considering others, acknowledge each person is having their own experience (don’t compare yourself to others). You might view yourself as doing better or worse, but it really doesn’t matter – we are all trying to do our best.

Recalibrate – A New Reality is being created.

Everything has changed, so you can’t keep your old priorities and expectations. Prioritization is a must! You’ll also need to calibrate to a new standard of productivity and expectations. Today there are a lot of interruptions (helping with schoolwork, a team member might need more support, you may need more self-care) – so things take longer. And you’re now juggling a new world with more demands and fewer resources, which means figuring out a new way of working smarter.

Ask yourself:

  • What is most important right now?
  • Is it based on my values?
  • Does my behavior align?
  • How do I want to remember this chapter of my life?

I’m wishing you lots of extreme kindness and compassion for yourself. We are all in this together, so the best way to help others is for you to keep yourself healthy and safe.

If you need additional support, I’m here for you.

 

Resources:

The COVID-10 Crisis: Preparing Yourself and Others for the Next Stage

Are you Leading Through the Crisis… or Managing the Response?

How to Keep Your Team Motivated, Remotely

All in the mind: Helping our brains deal with change