Firstly, how are you?
Not a normal way to start a blog perhaps - but given these far from normal times, I think it’s important. And if the answer is ‘not so great actually’, then that’s OK.
We’ve moved incredibly quickly from the emergence of a new virus, to ‘wash your hands’, to ‘don’t leave the house’ and this strange new existence. This virus has had some truly awful impacts, which we are watching play out on a daily basis in the press. Anxiety levels are high, and a compulsive desire to track developments is understandable.
But we can also treat this time as an opportunity to take a step back, press the reset button and put practices in place that will long outlive this pandemic.
Capco’s resident therapist Dr Alex Cutting spoke recently about the science behind the human reaction to a crisis situation. Her incredibly positive starting point was the acknowledgment that humans are incredible at dealing with uncertainty. It is perhaps one of the reasons we’ve been so successful as a species, our ability to take a new situation, react and then adapt.
While we may do a good or even very good job of adapting, it’s important to ensure we’re managing the underlying emotional ‘cost’ of the transition, she noted. You may be feeling overwhelmed, anxious or stressed. Given the current situation that is completely normal – the key is recognising that and using your resilience and various techniques to manage through it.
Dr Cutting’s framed this as resilient responding. This is about being aware of your stress levels and managing yourself and your environment. Certainly, there are a million tips and tricks on LinkedIn at the moment for working remotely and dealing with the crisis. So here are a few of the tips I’ve personally put in place these past weeks:
- Breaks - Create them, get fresh air, exercise when you’re getting cabin fever. I’ve been doing live Pilates via Zoom every Saturday and stuck to it more rigorously than any gym-related session!
- Exposure – Limit your exposure to the news - every time you’re checking the BBC live feed you’re activating your stress response.
- Structure – Create a new normal routine with boundaries between work and home. Create a designated working space, however modest. In particular, if you’re still sitting at a makeshift desk on an uncomfortable chair, fix it now – your back will thank you in the long run.
- Contact - Keep in contact with your colleagues and team mates to avoid isolation while also ensuring you have set aside focused time to work. In the first few weeks of the lockdown back to back video calls were often the norm through the day! Human interaction is important, but on the flipside don’t overwhelm yourself. You wouldn’t normally have 12 face to face meetings in one day with no break, so don’t spend your entire day on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
- One habit – work on implementing one new habit into your day which you didn’t have pre-COVID. Mine is eating a proper breakfast each day and it has been such a positive change. When the new habit is embedded, add another one. By the end of lockdown you’ll have a whole suite of new ingrained behaviours to take forward.
- Positivity - Use positive thinking and the ‘Pollyanna effect’ – more on this below, trust me it works!
The art of seeing things differently’
This is all about positively reframing thoughts or scenarios when your internal monologue starts trending negative. This Pollyanna principle or effect is something I’ve always tried to practice myself and with my children since long before COVID-19’s arrival. Over 100 years since its publication, the tale of the orphaned Pollyanna, who invents a ‘glad game’ to identify an upside in even the bleakest of situations, remains an inspiration.
By way of example:
- “I’m stuck at home with the kids” -> “I’m so lucky to have this extra time with my young children”
- “I haven’t seen my friends or family for weeks” -> “I’m going to organise and hold a quiz over a group WhatsApp video call to get everyone together”
- “I’m worried about me or my family falling ill” –> “I’m taking control by closely following all the available advice”
Like many of us, I’m some way from having mastered all this. However, it’s important we all start trying to embed some of these practices in our daily lives. For the moment, this is ’business as usual’ and rather than just surviving through this experience there’s an opportunity instead to thrive.
With my professional ‘digital’ hat on for a moment, I’m also hopeful that the accelerated digital revolution we’re now seeing take a grip on of even the most reticent of individuals or institutions will prove to be one gift to emerge from this situation. We’ve had the tools to transform the way we integrate work and home life for many years - and perhaps this painful event will finally give us the impetus to use them.
Stay safe everyone.