Bouncing Back from the Pandemic
By: Dr. Helen Ofosu
Bouncing Back from the Pandemic
This has been a long, harrowing, exhausting time – and that’s if you’ve been fortunate enough to stay healthy and safe.
Even if haven’t been touched directly by the virus, your life has been changed in every way. The simplest tasks mean we have to stop and think. Picking up a quick bottle of wine or something for dinner on the way home is now a major undertaking that means putting on a mask, standing in line outside the store and trying to keep six feet away from the other shoppers.
But this will pass, and the end is in sight. In Ontario, the state of emergency is set to end on May 12, 2020 (assuming that we have ‘flattened the curve’ and the public health experts deem it safe to start easing the restrictions). And while things may never go back to completely normal, the day will come when we go back to something close to normal.
We are sure to emerge from this feeling like we’re coming out of hibernation: a little fuzzy-headed, a little disoriented.
Here are some suggestions for bouncing back.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
What’s going on right now is serious. What many of us are feeling is more than regular sadness and fear — it’s pandemic grief.
David Kessler is considered the world’s foremost expert on grief. In this article in Harvard Business Review he explains:
Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.
Pandemic grief may have you losing focus, losing sleep, losing your appetite, having less patience, and crying – all normal responses.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Take the time to take care of yourself. Self-care such as breathing exercises, physical activity, yoga, meditation will help. Keep in touch with friends and family by phone and video. Getting a healthy amount of sleep each night is vital. A nourished body and healthy mind are key to getting back your strength and resilience after experiencing pandemic grief.
I cover the topic of resilience in more detail in this earlier blog article: “Resilience: If you Don’t Think You Have it, You Can Get it.”
Everyone is feeling fear and grief and it will show in different ways. Nerves are frayed; tempers may be short. It will help if you can recognize that everyone is on edge; everyone is grieving. Be patient with yourself and others.
Nothing is Normal. Don’t Try Too Hard.
When the pandemic started I saw a lot of well-intended messages on social media about all the ways we could make the best of this time. Sure, a lockdown sounds like a great time to learn a new language, take up yoga and learn a new skill.
“I’ve been beating myself up for not getting back to it, but the truth is, I have no energy for it,” she says. “I can’t concentrate for long periods. I feel very little creativity right now.”
Everything we knew has been shut down and taken away or put out of reach. Most of us probably haven’t put a name to it. We’re grieving for what we used to know as normal. So it’s okay if you don’t have the urge to learn how to ballroom dance, or learn Mandarin or bake a perfect soufflé. It’s ok. You don’t have to. Right now the best thing we can do is whatever feels right.
Doing what feels right – taking care of your needs – is probably the best way to bounce back.
When it’s Time to Go Back to Work: Take it Slow
Working from home is not easy, and I’d guess most people are looking forward to going back to work. When the time comes, the same suggestions apply. Don’t try too hard. Take it slow. Honour your feelings as much as you can in your work situation.
Don’t be surprised that your routine doesn’t just snap back into place. Everyone will be adjusting. Everyone will be coming out of a month(s) of seclusion. There may be elation, there may be confusion. There may be a lot of staring off into space while we try to get our bearings and recover from weeks of fear and sadness, and our collective pandemic grief.
Reach Out for Help
Under normal circumstances, workplace issues were hard enough to deal with. Now, with so many complicating factors, it will be harder to focus.
If you’ve suffered a loss or been sick with COVID or had to care for someone who was sick, this would be a good time to access your organization’s EAP if you have one. If you’re not sure what type of help is appropriate for your circumstances, this previous guest blog explains the difference between psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists.
Career-wise, your plans have probably been derailed, because everyone’s plans have been derailed.
If you find yourself needing help getting your career on track, I can help.
If you’d like to discuss any of the issues addressed in this blog, I invite you to contact me privately by phone (I offer a no-obligation, free 15-minute initial phone consultation), email, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.
More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.
I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.
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