COVID-19 is impacting every single person on the planet! Life will never be the same as it was before the pandemic, for any one of us. So many things have already changed in our working environments, our companies, politics, healthcare, travel, and education. Some businesses will be forced to close, and new careers will be born. In all of this, there is so much that is unknown about what the future holds. Some people see 2020 as the most exciting and vibrant time to live in, and others believe that it’s a period of doom and despair. Regardless of which way you look at it, life will never be the same again. It’s now important to understand – psychologically and emotionally – that our old life has ended, and that we need to transition to a new one. We need to slowly start to create a new life for ourselves and for our loved ones.
This week’s blog is on a rather unusual topic: how to give yourself permission to grieve your old life and find meaning in a new one. For the past five months, I haven’t been in a single coaching session where the topic of COVID-19 hasn’t come up. People share their fears, their apprehension of the unknown, and the pain it has caused them. I have noticed that my clients are, unknowingly, grieving the end of the life they knew before this pandemic. Under normal circumstances, we battle to grieve the loss of a loved one, but how do we grieve for something that’s not a person, but an actual life that involves us?
Grieving is a very healthy and important process of letting go of a loved one. It’s a deeply painful, emotional process, and it brings up many emotions such as denial, anger, betrayal, disappointment, guilt, sadness, and relief. There will be days where you’ll want to talk about your loss, and others where you don’t even have the energy to get out of bed. Grieving means being consciously present and feeling the pain, as well as remembering the happy moments you shared together.
There’s no difference between grieving for a loved one and grieving for your old life. You’ll go through the same grieving stages, and you need to give yourself permission to grieve. In doing so, you’ll begin the process of transforming from your old life to creating your new one. Also, what’s very important is that you don’t have to do anything on your own. When you see that you’re unable to progress in your grieving, please ask for help from family, friends, or a professional like myself.
The five stages of grieving
The Grief Model, developed by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in the late 1960s, comprises of five stages. They can be summarised using the acronym DABDA.
Denial: This is the first stage where you’re in utter shock, disbelief, and denial about the impact the pandemic will have on your life. You feel numb by what’s happening around you, and cannot comprehend its gravitas. You feel like you’re watching a bizarre science-fiction movie. Your body and mind are in shock, and you shift into survival mode, only taking in as much information as you can comprehend. Life feels empty, meaningless, and hopeless.
Anger: Once denial wears off, anger sets in. All too often we struggle with anger as an emotion, because we believe that it’s not socially acceptable. Remember that in this instance, it has its right place. Give it room to unfold, and feel it in your inner being. You’ll become angry at the injustice of life, the pandemic, and, if you’re religious, even at God. The anger is about why this has happened to you and your loved ones, making your life unfair. Don’t bottle it up! Give yourself permission to feel it, process it, and then release it. It will feel like an intense muscle cramp: it hurts, it’s debilitating, and it makes you draw in your breath from the pain. Exhale slowly, breathe, and relax into the anger until it slowly begins to become less tense, and the muscle cramp starts to ease. Processing your anger is an very critical stage to work through, and one you can easily get stuck in.
Bargaining: This is the start of your transformation and creative process. It’s like seeing the light at the end of tunnel. You’ll become resourceful, hopeful, creative, and will be optimistic that bit by bit you can claim back some old parts of yourself and your old life.
Depression: After having experienced the bargaining stage, you may think that the depression stage is going a step backward, but in actual fact it isn’t. It’s about learning to surrender what you can’t control, and putting all your energy and focus into what you do have control over. There will be days where you become withdrawn and slump into a depressed mood, and this will be the preamble to surrendering to your new life. You may be quite negative, feel sad, low, and lonely, and can even lose your zest for life. You could even begin to wonder if you’ll ever be happy again, and have the quality of life you had before the pandemic. What’s very important in this stage is to surround yourself with people who care about you, and to set small daily goals to keep working on.
Acceptance: The fifth stage is to surrender and accept. It’s the key to your freedom and transformation. Acceptance means you’ve come to embrace your new reality, but it doesn’t mean you approve of it. You’ll start to understand that this is the new norm by which you’re going to live, and will begin to adjust accordingly. You’ll re-organise your roles and responsibilities, and will bring in different structures, methods, routines, and ways of doing things. You’ll do your best to establish meaning and purpose in new activities and tasks, and will accept that you’ll never replace the old with the new. When you realise that it’s time to create something totally new, you’ll find that this is where the power of transformation happens.
Give yourself permission to grieve. It’s very necessary and will serve you to move through the challenges of COVID-19. Accept that you won’t ever return to your old life – and savour that – but equally you’ll look forward and take steps to creating a new meaningful life. Use all the support you can get to assist you during this transformational time.
As South Africa approaches the six-month mark under lockdown restrictions, I don’t believe there’s a single person who doesn’t want things to go back to normal. But what most of us have probably realised is that things aren’t going to be normal for at least a few more months – if not years. Some things will never be the same again!
To stop, or at least to slow down, the impact of COVID-19, we have had to change almost everything we do: the way we work, exercise, socialise, shop, educate our children, and take care of our families. Every single country aimed to ‘flatten the curve’ by imposing social-distancing measures, but this brought about a shift in the working world, for companies and employees alike.
Now that the government has eased the nationwide lockdown to alert level 2, businesses and employers will again have to be innovative to keep their companies going and their people working. The COVID-19 pandemic is not a temporary disruption; it’s the start of a completely different way of life. We don’t know exactly what this new future looks like, of course, but we do know that working remotely isn’t just a cute new trend. It’s a new reality, and it’s here to stay.
No one can predict the number of people who will become unemployed, but it’s already evident that many thousands of businesses across all sectors will never operate fully again, and thousands of people will lose their jobs. Sadly, those with no capacity to work from home, and the people who don’t have the skills or experience to find work will be most affected in the post-pandemic economy.
Fast-forward a few months to when we move to alert level 1. What happens then? Does everyone simply return to work as usual? What sort of work environment will we be walking into? How many jobs will still be available? Will the experience of living through COVID-19 suggest that going back to old ways might not be such a good idea? And, of course, we need to remember that no one knows how long COVID-19 will be around.
As with everything, there are pros and cons of working from home. Imposing one-size-fits-all policies on it will come at a cost to everyone. Some people simply cannot work from home because they miss the office banter, time away from families, and the support. Others have found that they have so much more time on their hands, are getting much more work done, have read books which have been on their bedside table for too long, have reconnected with their families, and to some it’s felt like a bit of a holiday, with less stress and no company politics.
What employees do want, however, is to still feel that they’re connected to their colleagues, and part of a team. With the help of evolving applications, companies are succeeding at this, whether through virtual weekly meetings, or just by encouraging people to call each other, rather than emailing and texting. After all, we’re creatures of habit, and most of us get used to routines – many may even like them – and few want them to be disturbed. As time goes on, though, all of us will begin to adapt to a new routines, working spaces, and a different kind of relationships.
COVID-19 has not been without a silver lining. Carbon emissions have gone into free fall; air pollution has evaporated, leaving cities tolerable for children to play outside; traffic commutes have become more manageable; companies have saved on office expenses; and there has been a re-flourishing of the sense of community, supporting local businesses, and building together to get through this hardship.
The point is that the virus has given us a glimpse of how we might live and work very differently, and perhaps more in tune with the future.
There are days where I don’t want to hear the word COVID-19! I am so tired of the information overload, and my brain is saturated. I don’t want to read or hear any more news about it!
One moment I’m in denial about the new working world, and the next I see the endless opportunities. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride that just doesn’t stop. In every conversation I have with people (online, of course), COVID-19 comes up. We talk about it at the dinner table, with family, friends, clients, and even with suppliers. Everything I do, and every thought I have, seems to revolve around life before, during, and after COVID-19.
I’m sure that you, too, wish you had days where COVID-19 didn’t come into any of your conversations or thoughts. However, as much as I wish the word and its impact on our lives away, I have to be realistic and accept that it’s here to stay – probably for many months, if not years.
The new way of working
I believe that we haven’t felt the true impact of COVID-19 yet, especially in the business world. Many of us are still coming to terms with the new normal, making sure that our employees are screened and safe, that customers keep their distance when being served, that virtual teams have what they need to work remotely, and that we might even have a combination of employees working at the office and others from home. There are so many different, drastic, and vast changes which are happening all at the same time.
COVID-19 didn’t give us the time or luxury to adapt or implement changes in small increments. It’s come in a tsunami wave, and we need to be agile and on our toes all the time. We’re constantly challenged to find that sweet spot of balancing being courageous and driving our business forward, and, equally, being compassionate to people about their health, jobs, and the way forward.
A complete business overhaul
On reflection, are the changes that COVID-19 is forcing us to embrace in the business world such a bad thing? I can’t speak for you, but I have procedures, systems, and processes in my business that needed to be tweaked, and some even needed a complete overhaul. I never found the time BC (before COVID-19), and often thought that as soon as I finished a certain project, I’d get to it, but somehow I never did. It stayed on my wish list of To Dos for months, and sometimes even years.
COVID-19 has shone a bright floodlight on every angle of my business. It’s highlighted what’s working exceptionally well, and exposed the processes that aren’t. It was painful to face reality, but if I’m honest with myself, I knew BC that those areas weren’t working optimally. Now I have to be agile and either adjust the process or do away with it completely.
I told myself that it’s not the time to be emotional and sentimental about structures I’d worked hard for in my business. Rather, it’s time to be level-headed and future-thinking. I asked myself whether certain processes were relevant, and whether they were working at their best. If they weren’t, I questioned whether I could amend them, and if not then I need to stop doing whatever it was.
COVID-19 has given me the courage and creativity to perform a profound business overhaul, and make very swift and sobering decisions. Some of them were difficult to make and I felt sad because of them. I tossed procrastination out the window, rolled up my sleeves, and went back to basics on many structures and processes. I’m in the process of learning to run a lean business. COVID-19, as disrupting as it has been to my business, has brought an intense overhaul in the business. This is something that I’m humbled and grateful for. I hope you find the courage and wisdom to see the opportunity that it has brought you. Maybe you can’t see it right now as you are still in the fight, flight and freeze mode, but hopefully you’ll soon see that this profound disruption was necessary in our business world. As uncertain and rocky as the future might seem to you, you will get through this and adapt your business. You’re more resilient and creative than you give yourself credit for. In the bigger picture, COVID-19 has taught us to appreciate and acknowledge that our people are our most precious and powerful factor to our business. Cherish them!
There’s no denying it: remote working is the new normal! The benefits of a digital workspace have become apparent to employers and employees, and nobody’s going back to the old ways.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged businesses to reinvent themselves. In some cases, businesses have had to make the difficult decision of whether to close their doors, or to extend themselves into the digital age. We’re beginning to not only work remotely, but also to modify the way we do business. Most people have discovered that many jobs can actually be done remotely, and that a majority of employees actually prefer to work from home if at all possible.
Companies are starting to invest in technologies and systems that facilitate the digital workstation, giving employees the tools they need to connect, collaborate, and perform their core responsibilities from anywhere, at any time. There are, however, people who are still sceptical, so let’s explore the benefits that your company could be missing by not embracing the digital workspace.
Employees have the ability to work remotely, and with maximum flexibility. In so doing, there’s no compromise to the company’s efficiency, its productivity, or its ability to meet its goals. There are no limits to the concepts of place or time, and there are any number of technologies available. In addition, employees are unfettered by time restrictions, giving them more choices as to when they will work. Given those choices, employees can schedule work times to suit themselves, and will probably put in more time than necessary.
BC (before COVID), employees may have felt that they were isolated and away from their team and support system. With so many options available, everyone can easily interact with each other in virtual meetings. The ability exists to share and discuss documents, data, and images, and people can exchange ideas about things that they’re working on. They can also collaborate on projects together, despite the geographic distances that may separate them. And it’s generally easier to keep everyone engaged and in step, because people are almost always online in some way.
Company cultures are beginning to adapt, and we’re seeing happier employees who are more engaged, have better ideas, and are more innovative.
There are many benefits for both employees and employers.
Employees produce more when they have a healthy work-life balance. And because they can work from home, they’re less likely to call in sick, because in many cases they can still work from home.
Employees are generally happier, and are more likely to offer the best of their skills and talents to the company. They tend to be more engaged, productive, efficient, and offer better customer experience.
Staff turnover is reduced because employees feel trusted, rewarded, and appreciated. Companies which offer flexible work arrangements find it easier to attract potential employees.
Employees and employers recognise and value the importance of the seamless integration of the various digital technologies in the workspace. This enables the improved management of workforce resources, team communications, training, performance statistics and reviews, and HR matters. The workspace can be brought together by means of communication applications such as chat, video conferencing, and conference calls.
This should be the foremost reason to transform your organisation into a digital workspace. Everyone will benefit massively from this.
Employees will have more hours in the day, more flexibility, and so many more added personal benefits and savings. They won’t have to pay for public transport, or for petrol and car servicing, or parking, and they’ll save on commuting time. There will also be less time spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic, probably resulting in less road rage. And they’ll be in much better shape to start their day!
Companies will enjoy reduced (or eliminated) office and building costs, office-related issues, building maintenance, staff refreshments, stationery, and much more.
Change is never easy, but with COVID-19 as the biggest factor – it’s really a game changer – can your business really afford not to invest in the digital future and the future of your company?
Empathy isn’t something that we’re hearing for the first time, but what is unique is that it’s finding its way into our business culture and vocabulary. In fact, in 2017 the Merriam-Webster dictionary identified empathy as the fourth most searched word of the year. This means that it really matters to us, and it’s here to stay. Instilling empathy in the workplace isn’t one of those nice-to-haves that you need to implement so that your people are happy and productive. Quite the opposite! It’s a long-term strategic culture decision that an organisation makes if it wants to experience satisfied customers, an engaged workforce, and a financially healthier business.
What is Empathy?
The most common definition of empathy is the ability to understand and experience the feelings and thoughts of another person. The aim is to get a better understanding of the other person’s perspective on a situation. Expressing empathy creates a positive and trusted connection among people; however, as always, we’re complex creatures and so we need to distinguish between the different types of empathy. American Psychologists, Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman classified empathy into the following three types.
- Cognitive empathy: the ability to distil how a person is feeling, and understand their thoughts. Developing cognitive empathy means being a good communicator because you can connect with the person at their ideal cognitive point.
- Emotional empathy: the ability to experience the feelings of another person. It’s about really understanding and intensely relating to another person’s emotions. Emotional Intelligence is the skill that assists you to build emotional connections with others.
- Compassionate empathy: is a combination of cognitive and emotional empathy, but has the additional component of being able to assist the person to take action to resolve their situation.
We all like to be understood and for others to consider – or at least listen to – our perspective. So, empathy is a two-way street, and you’ll receive as much as you give. It requires patience and practice, but it enriches relationships, minimises conflict, and improves problem-solving.
Empathy in the Workplace
The workplace is busy and we can get distracted by many things that continuously call for our attention. A client’s urgent deadline, a project that requires our input, wrapping our head around new systems, and managing a demanding colleague are all examples of things that distract us from focusing on empathy. We think that once a particular manic period is over, and a certain project has been completed, we’ll focus on empathy, but that day seldom comes because something more pressing always gets in the way. Empathy isn’t something you can squeeze into your workplace culture when you have time. It’s a strategic decision you make if you want to ensure your organisation remains profitable.
Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s the reality. Let’s look at some facts and figures to substantiate my comments.
- The 2017 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report showed that high-performing employees who are not engaged at work will consider leaving. The only thing that would keep them there is empathy. Employers need to provide an environment in which high-performing employees are recognised and supported to achieve their career goals, where their needs are met, and where there is a work-life balance.
- The 2018 Bussinessolver® State of Workplace Empathy reveals that 93% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. This figure proves that empathy as an organisational culture isn’t a nice-to-have, but a must-have. In fact, 92% of employees believe that empathy is undervalued in their organisation.
- In the same survey, CEOs unanimously link an organisation’s financial performance to the level of empathy. The reason for the financial boost is that employees would be willing to work overtime for an empathetic organisation.
- The 2016 Harvard Business Review highlighted that the ten most empathetic companies generate 50 percent more earnings than those at the bottom of the index.
- Finally, Businessolver’s 2018 survey has ascertained that instilling empathy as a core value into the DNA of a business has a direct bearing on the workplace culture, innovation, productivity, and profitability.
These facts and figures might feel overwhelming to you, but you should use them as a motivator and a little nudge to start introducing empathy as a core value in your organisation.
What organisations aren’t acknowledging
All the surveys and statistics show that empathy in the workplace really does matter, but you have to decide whether you’re ready to embrace this change. Can you accept that empathy is what is going to motivate, unite, and connect people within your organisation? You may be sceptical and follow the “wait and see” approach, or believe that empathy doesn’t really apply to you. Then perhaps you should consider these four facts that all call for empathy in the workplace.
Firstly, women are becoming an equal representation in the workforce, and feel that organisations are only 33% empathetic and can do more. Women are dissatisfied with organisations’ low levels of empathy, and CEOs are aware that women in leadership positions would enhance the empathy quotient.
Secondly, employees are increasingly concerned and fearful about the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the workspace. Are we even sure how AI will impact on our job security and the ability to connect with customers and colleagues?
Thirdly, despite the technology and online platforms, employees still value face-to-face communication the most because it’s easier to share and feel each other’s empathy. More efficient communication methods such as video conferences, emails, and text message definitely lose the empathy factor.
Finally, empathetic organisations attract and retain talent because it drives collaboration and innovation, and makes employees feel like they belong.
Empathy impacts on how we engage with others in the workplace and outside of it, as well as how we experience our daily life. The chances are that if you encountered empathy today, you’ll pay it forward and give to someone else.
Be part of the empathy revolution, and start thinking how you can instil a more empathetic culture into your organisation today.
With the announcement of the nationwide lockdown, companies have become despondent, and absolutely terrified that their business may shut down. It’s at times like these that optimists would say that ’n boer maak ’n plan, and, in some cases, this is true. Many businesses will rise to the challenge, make a full recovery, and inspire others to do the same.
Companies have been forced to become smarter and more flexible. Most have discovered that their teams can actually work from home. Some employees have adopted a new sense of work-life balance, and many others are more connected than ever before. Boomers have literally become Zoomers! Apart from that, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer experience companies are achieving accelerated growth, and e-health, e-legal, and other e-solutions are popping up rapidly. This is really good news if you’re in a business where you can ride the wave!
If you’re not, however, you may be one of those companies who will experience a defensive reflex to keep the spiralling losses under control, especially if you’re in high-impact industries like construction, tourism, and entertainment. It’s important to remember that no-one will be entirely spared from the impact of this pandemic. It will have a profound impact on all aspects of every business, and it is totally understandable that in times where demand is plummeting, and the future outlook is uncertain, companies will refocus all their efforts on the essential business processes to keep the business afloat!
Amidst these massive disruptions, a combination of short- and long-term innovation responses can provide a ray of hope for businesses. If history has taught us anything, it is that we are capable of finding interesting ways to reinvent ourselves – often bouncing back even stronger than before!
Just as the pandemic has revealed differences regarding the preference to work from home, experience with remote learning, entertainment, and consumption will also shape consumer attitudes toward digital and physical experiences. Differences in consumer preferences may generate valuable business opportunities, new products and services, and new business models.
To ensure that your company responds efficiently to new opportunities, you may wish to consider expanding your brainstorming to include external input. Ideas from customers, partners, and other external parties may offer invaluable insight, and a way to get ahead of the curve when it comes to market trends and reprioritisations. You might find that communication and collaboration are more crucial than ever, and that you’ll need to adapt your processes, find ways to streamline your workflows, increase productivity, and reduce wastage.
There’s no way around it. The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed our daily lives, and the same is true for our businesses. One thing is for sure, though. It has encouraged innovation, and we’re starting to see a true entrepreneurial spirit emerge. There’s a change from victim mentality to that of being a leader; businesses and communities are supporting each other, “local is lekker”, and sharing, collaborating, and innovating is at its best! And as the world begins to emerge from the crisis, we will find new ways to interact, entrepreneurs will actualise previously untenable business opportunities and reassess innovation strategies, consumers will be able to take advantage of new environments, and policy and regulations will adapt to keep everyone safer in the future.
“The only way to discover the limits of what’s possible is to go beyond them to the impossible.” (Arthur C Clarke)
COVID-19 has turned everyone’s lives, hopes, and dreams inside out, and upside down. No-one, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity has been left untouched by the ramifications of this worldwide pandemic. Perhaps at the beginning of lockdown the thought of staying at home sounded exciting and different. We could finally do all the things we wanted, such as spend time with our families, pursue our hobbies, watch TV, or sleep late. But soon all those ideas became a little less exciting, and the novelty wore off. If we had ever thought about something like this in our lifetime, maybe it was associated with a “Big Bang”. I don’t believe that anybody would have believed that it would be an invisible virus that would have such a huge impact on the entire world!
Right now, everyone is experiencing an array of emotions ranging from high to low. We also have a steady stream of questions which don’t have answers, and an existential fear of what the future will hold. The media and social media platforms provide an overload of information, which we’re struggling to absorb, arrange, and understand. Every now and again, what we hear gives us a glimmer of hope that it will be over soon, and that the ramifications aren’t as severe. At other times, we’re overloaded with doom and gloom. Subconsciously, our minds are absorbing the news, but we can’t cope with the volume and negativity of it, and many of us feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, hopeless, and scared for the future. These emotions are all absorbed by our bodies, and we begin to show somatic symptoms of headaches, irritability, anger, lack of sleep, mood swings, or binge eating. Life with COVID-19 is testing us in terms of patience, compassion, self-love, empathy, and goal orientation.
I’m sure you’ve set some goals for 2020. These may be part of a New Year’s resolution, or your annual personal development process. These goals have now been turned on their head, and tossed out the window. Some may be on hold, others could be unattainable, and some may even be future dreams. Either way, your goals have undergone a change process. We need goals in our life because they give us meaning and structure. They help us stay motivated and focused, and, in the time of COVID-19, setting goals becomes a key coping strategy. That being said, we need to change our expectation of goal-setting in these times to ensure that our goals remain realistic and attainable. So, our goals need to be short-term, and we need to lower the standard of attainment. You might not agree with me on these two points, but we’re in an abnormal situation both emotionally and psychologically, and we can’t expect the same results as we would in any normal situation. You would be creating unrealistic demands on yourself, and setting yourself up for failure if you put more pressure on yourself; something you really don’t need right now. Slow and steady wins the race!
Five Easy Steps to Set Goals During Lockdown
I’m going to outline how you can set realistic goals during this time. These will make you feel more in control, with autonomy over the things you want to achieve. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” Begin with the outcome in mind, and then set the goals you want to achieve in the short-term. This easy and practical five-step process will help you turn problems into goals, and will allow you to take proactive control of your life.
Step 1: Define Short-term
You need to define what the short-term means for you. It can be as short as a week, month, or a quarter, but right now it’s not advisable to plan for longer than six months. Life is too fluid and unpredictable, so planning for longer can be too ambitious.
Step 2: Set the final goal
Setting goals isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most of the time we aren’t sure what we want or really need. So, you can approach it in one of two ways, and choose the method that feels natural to you, knowing that there is no right or wrong way – just your unique way. You can either say what you don’t want, or you can work from the point where you wake up in the morning and you’re living your ideal life. If you choose option 1, where you write down everything you don’t want, your next step is to list the things you have direct control over. Focus on these, and discard the ones you can’t control. Next, re-phrase what you don’t want to what the opposite would look or feel like. So, “I don’t want to continuously feel anxious,” would be “I want to feel calm and in control.” Continue until you have completed the entire list. If you choose option 2, you have visualised the final outcome and need to write down what you would like and need to get to the final destination. Complete this sentence: “I need to have …”. As an example, you could write, “I need to have a reliable income.” The power of these two approaches is that you have made a list of what you want to focus on, and what you need in your life right now.
Step 3: Prioritise your goals
You’re likely to have a long list of wants and needs, and this can sometimes feel quite overwhelming. You cannot realistically focus on everything on your list in the short term, and this means that you have to decide what’s important and urgent right now. The things that are the most pressing can be attended to quickly, and the more important ones will require some more planning and time. Research has proven that we can’t actively focus on more than three or four goals at one time. When one goal is attained, then you can relook at your list and add a new one to work on.
Step 4: Further rank your goals
Differentiate between whether the goal means that you need to act or think differently. Is it about behaving differently to get to the end result, or does it mean that you need to think differently? This information will help you to deepen your plan of action, what support you may need, and the length of time required. We all know that changing our thinking might require a big adjustment and getting into action.
Step 5: Plan of action
With your goals set out in front of you, brainstorm some things that you can do to move one step closer to achieving the goals. Don’t judge your ideas; simply write them down. You’ll revisit your ideas many times, and will adjust them as you go along. As mentioned before, focus on small incremental progress steps rather than huge leaps. The continuous progress, regardless how small, will assist you to feel positive, experience positive emotions, reduce worrying, and make you feel more in control.
In Conclusion: Short-term and small goals provide stability
Thanks to COVID-19, you’ll have to reassess old goals and introduce new ones. Having small goals to focus on every day will give you stability, purpose, and meaning. You’ll start to feel in control over your problems, and notice that you’re proactively addressing them. Becoming active also reduces anxiety and feelings of overwhelm, so get that piece of paper out and start with your five-step goal plan now. The positive outcome will surprise you.
We wish you awareness, resilience, and perseverance during this time. Please reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and feedback.
The 4Seeds Team
After the address by President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding our economic rehabilitation, and the update on the lockdown conditions in South Africa on Tuesday 23 April 2020, it’s understandable that as business owners and employees, we’re nervous about our future. We know that in order to flatten the curve, we’re going to need more time to recover, and for most there will be an uncomfortable feeling when we look into this uncharted and uncertain future. Finding ways to relieve anxiety is the best we can do for now, and we’ve put together three simple mindfulness practices to do just that, and to help you keep calm while in lockdown.
Before we dive into these three practices, we need to unpack the why, what, and how of anxiety. Having a solid understanding of anxiety is already a step in the right direction towards relieving its effects.
While depression is concern about past events, anxiety grows from having overwhelming feelings of stress, fear, and worry about the future. These thoughts and uncomfortable feelings can manifest into the following symptoms:
- Raised blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Racing, or unwelcome thoughts
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Lack of concentration
- Increased body tension
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?
Diagnosing anxiety disorders needs to be done by a trained health professional, and usually you should approach it from a holistic perspective when wanting to reduce the symptoms of prolonged anxiety.
This article in no way aims to provide an alternative to conventional medical intervention; however, through it we will increase your awareness of the symptoms of anxiety, and offer three simple mindfulness practices to relieve anxiety during this challenging time.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
Before moving into any mindfulness practices, please remember that it’s not about judging your thoughts, or trying to push them away. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s the non-judgemental observation of your thoughts; noticing the impact they have on your body and emotions.
This approach may sound simplistic, but it’s not. Mindfulness requires the constant and repetitive retraining of the brain from being involved in the thoughts and stories, to becoming a quiet and non-judgemental observer. This takes time, practice, patience, and self-compassion. However, there are many benefits of practicing mindfulness regularly.
Three Simple Mindfulness Practices to Relieve Anxiety During Lockdown
Practice 1: Pay attention to your thoughts
A strong starting point for relieving your anxiety is to become aware of the thoughts you have that cause anxious feelings. As humans, we think rapidly and continuously. This has served us in our survival as a species because it allows us to predict threats, and plan our escape. However, despite the power of the mind to think in creative and adaptive ways, most people stick with similar, familiar thought patterns. Our brains tend to follow the most used pathways, so, when you start to pay attention to your thoughts, you’ll notice similar sequences and patterns of reasoning.
This first practice of mindfulness is to notice the thought patterns that elicit an anxious response in your body. Start noticing the unconscious and unhelpful stories your mind is looping through. This is a powerful first step in developing your mindfulness practice.
Practice 2: Do what makes you happy
In unprecedented times such as these, we’re being given the opportunity to engage in activities outside of our usual routines. Being able to play, relax, laugh, read, or cook, has become more rare in society over recent years as workplace demands and digital communication have increased. However, during lockdown, we’re being given the time and space to remember what we enjoy doing. This in itself may require you to shift your mindset around lockdown. If you do more of the things you enjoy, you’ll not only have time to move more easily, experience more positive emotions, and feel a deep sense of accomplishment, you’ll also be actively, consciously relieving your anxious symptoms.
This second mindfulness practice we’re encouraging you to try is to engage fully in what you enjoy doing. Use this time to completely release any thoughts while doing it. This is the practice of flow; it allows you to become completely absorbed in what you’re doing, and performing it for the pure inherent joy of doing it, rather than its outcome. Take the time to remind yourself of what you enjoy doing, and do it often. This simple mindfulness practice will allow you to combat your fears and worries for the future by helping you to stay present. You’ll experience more joy and positive emotions in your day. Give it a try – you’ve got nothing to lose!
Practice 3: Be Grateful
Gratitude has, over the past decade, become a common household concept. From social media posts to art and spiritual teachings, gratitude has become increasingly more recognised as an important emotion to experience and express.
The feeling of gratitude has been found to have dramatic physical and psychological benefits, and requires relatively little effort to practice.
Our final mindfulness practice to relieve anxiety during lockdown is to take the time to acknowledge and appreciate what you already have. Whether it’s taking stock at the end of each day as you get into bed, writing letters or journal entries, or simply expressing it to your loved ones, taking the time to notice what you’re grateful for is a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety. It reminds us to be in the present moment, find meaning and pleasure in the past, and feel positive emotions and hope for the future. Whether it’s as simple as being grateful for your morning cup of coffee or the roof over your head, finding at least three things that you’re grateful for will help you to remain calm, and keep an optimistic focus on your situation.
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, and the various techniques which have been developed to combat depression, anxiety, and stress, look into the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn.
In Conclusion: Mindfulness Practices Relieve Anxiety
During these challenging, isolating, and worrying times, it’s imperative that we find ways to manage our anxieties and worries about the future. While traditional medical diagnosis and treatment may be necessary to manage stress from this uncertainty, what we’ve provided are three simple practices to relieve anxiety during lockdown. Each practice is not only simple and practical to do, it will help you to experience greater ease with your current situation, and help you to grow and become more resilient as we step into the unknown future.
We wish you awareness, resilience, and perseverance during this time. Please reach out to us via email@example.com with your questions and feedback.
The 4Seeds Team
The current worldwide pandemic has brought about fear and anxiety in many people around the globe. With the changes in our routines, our work life, social distancing, mandatory lockdowns, shopping, kids, and our homes, the coronavirus has become a brutal psychological test for many. We’re worried about life, finances, our jobs and our health, running a family, and so much more. While in lockdown, working from home, and not having to go out might be easy for some, it’s not that simple for others, and causes much distress.
Fear, anxiety, worry, and many more emotions come up for many people. But how to deal with it? How do you ensure your mental peace and physical health don’t take a toll? How do you make sure everything is good around you, and that you remain strong for yourself and your loved ones?
We’re all wired to follow a certain set of patterns, so this change and uncertainty is bringing up a lot of insecurity; this will obviously lead to anxiety. It’s essential to remember that you’re not alone. We’re all going through this, and to help you to control your anxiety and fear during lockdown, we suggest the following strategies.
Tell yourself that this is not permanent
While problems and crises do happen, we must also remember that we have had our share of good times too.
Everything in life goes in a cycle. So, while there are ups and downs, none of it is permanent. It will eventually fade out, and life will return to normal. Keep telling yourself this; it will give you a sense of hope and long-term security.
Stay away from unnecessary information
While it’s good to be updated on what’s happening, and to take precautions accordingly, too much disturbing news, and the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases has a very strong impact. It brings up all the stored traumas in our subconscious mind, which will lead to more anxiety and fear.
Our advice is to limit your time on social media and the news, so as to avoid its impact on your mental health. You can, however, still adhere to the basics to help curb the crisis.
The benefits of practicing gratitude are endless. People who do this, taking time to notice and reflect on the things they’re thankful for, experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and have stronger immune systems.
Gratitude helps release serotonin (called the ‘happy chemical’, it contributes to well-being and happiness) into the bloodstream. This instantly elevates a person’s state of mind, and helps them to release their fears and worries.
Gratitude is not only about being thankful for positive experiences. In fact, sometimes thinking about negative or difficult situations can help to really nail down what you have to be thankful for.
Be grateful for your house, your body, food, and your family. Remind yourself how significant these things are, and how quickly we forget how important they are in our daily grind. Notice the good things, look for them, and appreciate them. Savour, absorb, and really pay attention to those things. Express your gratitude to yourself in your journal, or thank someone personally. Remembering these things and feeling grateful will also help switch your focus from a sorry state to a pleasant state of mind.
Create a flexible but consistent daily routine
Working from home sounds like a dream — pyjamas all day, slacking off, maybe even working from the couch! But it can get bleak and unproductive pretty quickly if not approached in the right way.
Even if you don’t have to keep the same hours you did when you were going into the office, try to have some kind of regular routine. Wake up and go sleep at the same time, exercise, watch TV when you usually watch TV, and eat regular meals. Dress for work! You can’t feel and act like a professional while wearing pyjamas. You’ll stay productive, and the more you stick to that routine, the easier it will be when you return to work.
Exercise and eat right
While we don’t have access to gyms, fitness classes, sport facilities, stadiums, public pools, and playgrounds, it doesn’t mean we should stop being physically active. There are plenty of online workouts you can do from the comfort of your home, and doing so can help your mental health. There are any number of exercises you can do without any equipment, and YouTube, Instagram and other social media platforms have channels that offer instruction in everything from yoga to Pilates to strength training. And, if you can still go outside to your garden, nothing beats a bit of gardening, and the extra Vitamin D is great for your immune system. These activities will not only keep you in shape, but they’ll also release toxins from the body. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and will release all your stored energy.
When it comes to eating, include more greens and water-based fruits, as they keep your mind and body balanced, active, and healthy. Your food does not have to be boring, and it’s actually the perfect time to experiment with new and exciting recipes.
Keep a clean and positive environment
A clean home really lifts our mood. Also, cleaning helps us feel a sense of accomplishment, and diverts our focus from what we’re feeling.
Do a deep spring-clean, and get rid of things that you no longer need. Organise and de-clutter your home and workspace. Not only will this protect against the spread of illness, but it also makes being cooped up in your home a lot more pleasant. Finish that list of chores you’ve been putting off, or never had time for. Also, find ways of putting out brightly coloured things, and play uplifting music. This will definitely enhance your environment, and make you more cheerful and relaxed.
Focus on what’s really important
“And just like that, money, social status, and all that superficial stuff means absolutely nothing.”
We often talk about our priorities in life. How many of us have actually stopped to really think about what’s most important to us (relationships, jobs, money, status, material objects)? Never mind how much time we spend on our priorities compared to the less important things. Well, now is as good a time as any to invest in what really matters.
Stay connected to your support network, and make sure it’s a healthy one. Check in with your close friends and family. Get on the phone, Skype, or FaceTime, and make time to connect regularly. You’ll probably need it, and so will everyone else.
Ask yourself what works for you. What are the circumstances that allow you to be your happiest, calmest, most energetic, and most productive? Try create the most favourable circumstances for yourself. Remove the things you don’t need, don’t use, and don’t love. You may find that you have more space to be creative, and you might get a boost in focus too. It’s irrational, but it’s true: There’s a lot we can’t control, but being able to manage the things we can control in our life will help lift heavy burdens, allow us to reconnect with what’s really important, and will bring a lot more peace and joy.
Use this time to visualise and create your future
We’re all worried about countless things at the moment. Our next paycheque, taking care of our loved ones, paying the bills, our relationships, and stability. Now’s the time to visualise and think about building a future.
Create a foundation of what you’d like to achieve once the pandemic is over. Visualisation helps us get clarity. It also helps in actualising our dreams and reality. This is the perfect time to think about our goals, and as we do that, our focus will shift from fear to what possibilities can be created. All of this will help us feel a sense of hope and positivity.
This is an unprecedented time, and you’re doing the best you can. We don’t know how long this isolation will last, but think about how much better things are going to be on the other side. We’ll be able to visit people, go to our offices, and most importantly we’ll have a better understanding of what matters and how we want to deal with the future. Be grateful for this time, think of the end goal, and take things day by day.
We’re resilient people, and we will get through this!
These techniques are there to help you to deal with fear and anxiety. If you feel as if your emotions are building up and they’re too much to handle, it’s advisable to talk to someone or seek professional help. The team at 4 Seeds is here to help with personal and business coaching to provide the support, expertise, and resources you need to manage yourself, your business, and your employees in this challenging time.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension to the nationwide lockdown, we were all forced to find internal resources to manage our stress, and our worries about the effect this will have on our companies, the South African economy, and our country as a whole. What we all need now is strategies to build resilience in the face of uncertainty, and to find ways to not only cope, but to thrive through this adversity.
This article will outline how South Africa is already a resilient nation, and will make you aware of the five most common pitfalls that impair resilience, and that reduce our ability to manage and grow from adversity.
South Africans Are Already Resilient
Because of our challenging and tumultuous past, South Africans have developed an incredible level of resilience, compared to other nations. According to the 2019 FM Global Resilience Index, South Africa ranks number 47. Updated annually, the FM Global Resilience Index is the only tool that compares risk in nearly 130 countries. While you may wish South Africa featured higher up on the scale, it’s important to note that we’re within the second quartile, which for a small developing nation really puts us on the map. The FM Global Resilience Index assesses businesses in different countries according to the following measures:
- Economic Resilience
- Risk Quality
- Supply Chain
It’s estimated that the coronavirus pandemic will potentially cause an estimated drop in our economy of between 2% and 4%, which is extremely high. However, we have the ability to bounce back from this tragic global pandemic.
South Africa has a highly innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. We have overcome many challenges in the past, and have continued to grow despite our many setbacks.
We have the capacity, the energy and the will to overcome this global shutdown by further strengthening our resources, and building resilience in the face of uncertainty.
Watch Out: The Five Pitfalls that Impair Resilience
Resilience is one of those traits that we admire in others, and often wish we had more of in ourselves. It’s a key ingredient that we use as a buffer to ensure that we don’t spiral downwards too much when challenges or traumas happen. Resilience is a crucial coping tool that helps us to manage daily life with much more ease. Most of us learn to become resilient through life experiences, but how can you start building resilience in the face of uncertainty right now? A powerful way is to start noticing these five pitfalls.
- Jumping to conclusions
At times like these, we’re being asked to slow down and not act in haste. While it may be extremely challenging to make decisions during this time of uncertainty, it’s important to remind ourselves that we must not respond reactively.
We don’t have the facts, and we don’t have a blueprint for how to manage these uncharted waters. Rather, we need to keep our cool and not make rash decisions or come to unsubstantiated conclusions.
Become aware of where you may be falling into this trap. Not only does it impact your mental health, but acting reactively can prevent you from being resilient and moving in the right direction with conviction and with confidence.
- Tunnel vision
In times of stress, it’s normal for the human brain to go into fight-or-flight mode. When we’re in a place of fear, we’re not able to see the bigger picture, and can quickly only see doom and gloom, or the worst-case scenario.
While preparing for the worst may seem like your only option, it’s important to remember to take a step back and to look at the bigger picture. Look for ways to innovate, solve problems, and respond with resilience rather than with fearful tunnel vision.
Use this opportunity to learn to be open-minded. Direct your energy towards innovative and strategic conversations based on resilience, forward-thinking, and your organisation’s vision for the future.
While the coronavirus pandemic is a global issue, we can still make the mistake of personalising it, and thus reducing our capacity for resilience – and tolerance.
When we personalise things, we will only see our own faults and how we have not been proactive or resourceful enough to prepare for what’s happening. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to remind ourselves that no one knew this would happen, and no one could have adequately prepared for this uncertainty.
You and your organisation are not the problem! We’re all in this together, and there is nothing you could have done that would have prevented the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is one of the most common pitfalls. Externalising is the process of blaming outside factors for the problem, and not considering your own contribution to either the problem, or the solution.
At times such as these, it’s easy to look at authority figures and government officials with a magnifying glass, seeking the faults in their actions, and only putting a negative perspective on how the situation is being managed.
A key part of building resilience is being aware of the positive aspects of adversity, remaining optimistic, and finding the lessons in the challenges. The best way to get around this pitfall is to pause when you feel like criticising the actions being taken by decision makers, and be humble and proactive about how your actions could help to improve things. We’re all affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s up to each of us to look for solutions and to develop strategies to manage this situation.
While this may be the hardest pitfall to avoid, we need to become aware of what we assume others are thinking or feeling. The truth is we’re all responsible for our own well-being, resilience, and solutions. There is no advice you can give another person right now. If you feel you have advice to give, perhaps it’s YOU that needs to hear it.
Be careful of telling others how you think they should be managing their stress or feelings. Don’t assume that you know or understand. Take responsibility for your own situation, and find your best strategies for managing this uncertainty.
At this time of nationwide lockdown and ever-increasing uncertainty, resilience is our best resource for managing stress and finding positive solutions and ways forward. As South Africans, we’re already a resilient nation. We’re enthusiastic, optimistic, and creative, and we need to harness these strengths during this time.
These are some key behaviours and limiting beliefs which we need to become aware of. We need to preserve our energy and maintain our well-being, individually, organisationally, and collectively in order to manage this uncertainty. Remember to keep a check on these things, and in return you’ll be giving yourself greater resources to build resilience and bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.