What We CAN Do - dealing with work, stress and uncertainty

05/23/2020

 

How we will work going forward

The status of our employment and how we work – now from home - are just two areas where we are being severely tested during this period of COVID-19.

With an extraordinary number of people working from home we are not only learning to adapt to our new workspace, but also, thanks to this forced adaptation, discovering different perspectives on our skills and capacities and a further awareness of “how” we work.

Some clients I have spoken to have found the transition to working from home quite easy, indeed preferable. The experience of working from home has provided some with greater focus and motivation: they work and manage their time more effectively. The opportunity to have greater control over the management of their work and projects day to day is giving others a renewed satisfaction in the quality of their work and in their overall engagement. These experiences are producing an interesting and sometimes surprising perspective for these individuals. And it is providing them with information that will enable them to articulate how they work best - all of which may help them to create a new, personal “offering” going forward.

For others, however, working from home is having the opposite effect. The blurring of boundaries between work and home life is stressful and can be difficult to manage. The lack of direct contact with colleagues and team leads can reduce focus, motivation and enthusiasm. Many people thrive with structure and direction, and when these are minimal, the result can be a lessened sense of capability, engagement and contribution. But even these experiences can provide valuable perspective: they give us a chance to be aware of, to describe, and to articulate our personal capacities, how we work best, and how we can leverage and contribute our unique “offering”.

These are just two examples, but they point to the information this unusual time may produce for all of us. This new awareness of “best personal fit”, coupled with the time to re-assess our skills and capacities may just give us insights into how we work, how we want to be engaged and contribute to our work going forward.

 

Signs of Increasing Stress during COVID-19

A few weeks ago, I wrote two short pieces on the challenges of working from home and the blurring of boundaries when we work from home.

Working from home while also managing family life, living with the insecurity of job loss or reduced incomes, schooling our children, caring for sick relatives, worrying about loved ones in other cities, and living with uncertainty on a daily basis are all ingredients for stress.

What we can do to mitigate the stress:

  • The practice of staying present – each day during this period requires a reset of our patience, acceptance, focus, resilience, hope and action. Connecting inwardly with ourselves and being aware of our feelings, attitudes and the daily realities before us, help us to focus on what actions/decisions/changes are possible in our immediate context(s). This helps to keep our lives manageable and helps us to stay present.
  • By keeping the focus on what is possible each day, remember to be compassionate, flexible and accepting of oneself.
  • Demarcate time for physical and emotional self-care - structure each day to include some time outside, some form of movement or exercise, healthy eating, consistent sleep, time to sit quietly, time to meditate and connect with your own inner world of thoughts and imagination.
  • Allocate some unstructured time to ease the pressures of the day. This may seem counter intuitive but the pressure to be highly productive and goal oriented during this unusual period is also creating an increase in stress and anxiety. Some balanced “free” time is good for us and helps us to connect with our feelings, thoughts and imagination.
  • Allow some time for a hobby or activity that you enjoy, and which is separate from work or household chores.
  • Stay connected. Reach out virtually and regularly with extended family, friends or colleagues. We need social connection, we need conversation, laughter, shared stories, inspiration, giving and receiving the warmth of understanding.
  • Tap into and be nourished by what is of personal value. This unique time can make us acutely aware of what really matters and what is of highest value to us.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend with social media and the news. Being informed is important but being saturated by the topic and relentless commentary on COVID-19 can simply be too much
  • Reach out for help, counseling, conversation. It’s okay not to be okay, to seek help, and to share your experiences and feelings with someone who will understand and provide you with support.

 

Uncertainty - What Can We Do?

These uncertain times can easily produce feelings of helplessness and questions about what we can actively do about the uneasiness that surrounds us.

I was listening to a seminar recently given by my mentor, Dr. Alfried Längle. He discussed the “existential awakening” taking place for many of us during this time. Part of that awakening is a heightened awareness and consciousness of what is of value to us. As I stated in my examples of stress reduction, being nourished emotionally, physically and spiritually by these personal values provides us with a compass of hope and action in our daily lives.

Dr. Längle also reminded us of the immediate and constant access we have to our “inner world”. As he stated, “the outside world (social, economic and work lives) may be closed to us but our inner world is always available”. It is within this inner world of feelings, thoughts and imagination where we can connect deeply with ourselves in the present, to see what is possible in our current context, and to act. Some examples he gave:

“can I feel what isn’t calm within me but needs more care”?

“what do I need to support and protect myself and those closest to me”?

“what can I do for my health, for the health and protection of those in my home”?

 

You can contact me directly at brittmari@brittmarisykes.ca  for further information on coaching and counseling sessions.