In this uncertain and challenging time, many people want to know how best to:
- manage their own emotions,
- support the people they lead and/or influence, and
- somehow remain productive and focused despite these unprecedented circumstances.
Suggestions for Managing Yourself During a Crisis
At this point, I’m sure you’ve received enough advice. You don’t need to be told to self-quarantine and keep your social distance or to wash your hands and stop feeling fear. All of these things are wise to do of course, but I thought I would summarize some helpful suggestions in a series of posts for Thriving Through Crisis: Managing Yourself, Managing Others, and Managing Your Business and Productivity.
In all of the leadership training and coaching my team and I offer, we take a “Whole-Person” approach. This means helping people to first become aware of their own needs, values, and beliefs as well as their automatic thinking and feeling patterns. These thinking and feeling patterns result in behaviors or actions that either serve or limit them. These behaviors then have a positive or negative impact on others. The goal is to become more emotionally intelligent and agile (click on the link and scroll down to the emotional intelligence section.) in order to adapt to the needs of others as well as the needs of the situation.
Since emotional and social intelligence begins with managing ourselves, here are some key points to practice to the best of your ability right now.
Be Informed, But Not Inundated: I am a big proponent of tending to your mental diet as much as, if not more diligently than, the food you put into your mouth. Yes, it is vital to be well-informed and separate the facts from the fiction. Here’s a good video on Truth, Fiction & the Coronavirus. However, it is not necessary to tune into the 24-hour news cycle on CNN (otherwise known as Constantly Negative News). I recommend staying out of the rhetoric altogether.
Our brains are wired to become fascinated with the macabre, so we need to take control over our own minds. I strongly suggest limiting your news exposure to reputable, scientific and medically-based sources such as the CDC, NIH, and the WHO. There is a lot of misinformation and speculation out there that only feeds our fears. This is the time to stretch into an Objective Mindset and make decisions based upon a rational thought process.
Adopt a Self-Directed, Personally Responsible Attitude: As human beings, we are often quick to look for someone or something to blame. Now is not the time to look for scapegoats. Once the worst of this crisis has passed (and it will pass), there will be plenty of time to evaluate and assess what could have been done differently as well as what we need to put into place to ensure this does not happen again. It is my hope for humanity that this crisis results in an awareness of our interconnectedness and oneness and that we learn to make decisions based upon the greater good for all going forward.
In the meantime, accept reality and proceed accordingly. Assess your personal financial situation and take proactive measures as needed. There is a time-tested concept called the Sphere of Influence/Sphere of Control. While we are certainly not in control of the situation, we can be in control of our reaction to it.
Let’s respond and not react by asking ourselves how we can be a source of positive influence for others. This can be as simple as reaching out to friends, colleagues, and coworkers to check in on them regularly (more on this in a future post) to being extra kind to that overworked grocery store checkout person despite a lack of toilet paper on the shelves.
Practice Extreme Self-Care and Gratitude: Yes, we all know we should eat well, get enough sleep, drink lots of water, and take immunity-building supplements, etc. Are you actually doing all of those things? Do your best to avoid over-indulgence and self-medicating at this time.
Also, as trite as it may sound, begin to focus in gratitude and appreciation for all the positive things in your life. A grateful focus allows us to see possibilities and opportunities. Start to use your powerful imagination constructively rather than conjuring worst-case scenarios. What do you want your life and your world to look like when this has shifted? Too often, we are moving too fast to ask ourselves these important questions.
Likewise, while much of the world is on “pause,” let’s take some time to connect with our loved ones, our pets, our hobbies, and our passions. You can clean the pantry and your files too (good for you!), but also take some time to connect with what you really want to create for yourself and others. In short, reconnect to your dreams so you are well-positioned for the future.
From a neuroscientific perspective, we really can only focus on one thing at a time. Take this time to invest in your learning, read inspirational books, and listen to uplifting music and podcasts, etc. If you like movies, watch comedies and light-hearted content. Remember, laughter is the best medicine. You can binge on Netflix occasionally, but take this time to develop capabilities in yourself that you normally tell yourself you don’t have the time to do.
Please hear me when I say I am in no way minimizing the seriousness of this situation for many people. I merely want to remind you (and myself!) that the only thing you can control is your own thinking, state of mind, and perspective so start there.
I’ll end this installment with one of my favorite quotes from Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor Victor E. Frankl, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”