Many businesses have been caught flat-footed by the coronavirus. Maybe remote work arrangements hadn’t been set up, or crisis communication hadn’t been explored, or frankly, it just didn’t seem real. That day is behind us, and moving forward is daunting. Very few could’ve been prepared for this much stress on a personal level, let alone trying to manage professional stress on top of it.
Being unprepared can knock your confidence and leave you feeling incredibly stressed out in a way that seems permanent – and completely unable to cope – personally or professionally.
Anxiety response: a primer
Let’s break this down. First, the response that we have to stress is hardwired inside of us. Our body, with all the shaking, heat, and discomfort, is doing its job. It doesn’t matter if it’s a menacing dog, being at great heights, or facing down a pandemic. The body and mind are working together to protect you from threats and aggressors. You’ve probably used this to your advantage in the past, stoking your competitive instinct with the fear.
Don’t be afraid of stress; it’s a part of life. A responsibility we do have is to take measures to prevent chronic stress from hurting you on a professional level.
Let’s revisit simple techniques for battling stress. Many will be familiar to you, and that’s ok. Given the potential duration of remote working, social distancing, self-quarantines, and limited travel, it’s essential to view these stress-busters with a new level of respect.
The cost of not employing stress management tactics can be:
- Sleep Problems
- Heart Disease
- Digestive Problems
- Weight Gain
- Concentration Issues
The COVID-19 reality makes slipping into a bubble of hyper-vigilance and negativity incredibly tempting. We’re going to share tactics that will begin to peel the layer of worry to allow you to perform your professional functions.
How to manage professional stress: 8 steps to relief
1) No more negative self-talk
The American Heart Association says that by turning negative talk into positive talk, you can begin to reverse the trend of negativity. A good rule is to consider the things you are saying to yourself and whether you would ever let someone you care about utter them aloud without correcting them.
Let’s try it:
I am failing at everything ⇢ I am knocking down my to-do list one item at a time.
I’m never going to get this report done ⇢ I’m going to give myself the time I need to accomplish this.
My team is gone ⇢ I need to communicate how overwhelmed I am.
Nothing is going right ⇢ It’s about time for my luck to change.
2) Acknowledge that even forced change can be good
Change can spark creativity. Psychology Today says that innovation is the “skilled application of knowledge in new and exciting ways.” How do you pull creativity from earth-shattering change?
Three months ago you might have been burning the candle at both ends with no plan of stopping. We adapt. Recreate the break room connection by having a quick Zoom chat with a co-worker.
Honor your sleep needs, leave the phone out of the bedroom – even if it means retrieving the old alarm clock from the junk drawer. Watch silly videos. Create a beginning, middle, and an end to your day to allow yourself times of inactivity.
Give yourself the daily reserves to lean into change and the new perspective it gives. If you struggle with mental health issues and find these times unusually taxing, tap into resources like Mental Health America, Mental Health Foundation (UK), Foundation de France, World Federation for Mental Health.
3) Process what you’ve learned
Don’t dwell on the ways in which you weren’t ready. Take the lessons—understanding the limitations of your operation, vulnerabilities in billing, adaptability of the team, whatever your lessons were—and plan how they will support your business moving forward.
Implement new tactics or processes based on new information. You have staff that is thriving under remote working conditions, praise them, and encourage them to explore how to maximize the new arrangements. Identify strengths and how to leverage them.
4) Recognize your business wasn’t perfect before
Human beings are incredible at sanitizing history and forgetting that in fact, no it did not go perfectly. We have, as individuals and as businesses, the capacity to improve.
As we grapple with the threats of an economic shutdown, changing vendors, and shifts in the workforce, our focus needs to be on adapting.
5) Make peace with it feeling hard
The truth is, everyone is being challenged, and there’s no sure way to do this that keeps you from feeling the pinch of something outside of your control.
It might even feel like you are starting from scratch. Allow yourself the benefit of your experience. Before COVID-19 you had talent, skills, a plan. You still have talent, you still have skills, probably even some new skills based on your maneuvering over the past few weeks, and soon you will once again have a plan.
6) Pace yourself
We have a tendency to put time limits on certain things, particularly things that make people uncomfortable—grieving, celebrating, learning, things that actually deserve the time and shouldn’t be subject to limitations imposed by anyone other than the person the experiences belong to.
Picking up the pieces, reexamining the way forward, or adapting to a loss of staff or income isn’t something to rush. This is, as they say, a marathon not a sprint.
We cannot tell you how to keep people from having opinions, but we can encourage you to care less about others than you do about your immediate needs. Take a meeting hiatus, build in time for brainstorming sessions, hit up mentors and peers for counsel, and allow yourself as much racecourse as you need to get to the finish line comfortably.
7) Remember that you’re not alone
Navigating this new order isn’t a solitary endeavor. Talk to peers, reach out to partners and vendors, be reminded that COVID-19 is happening to all of us.
You might feel as if you’re the only person or company struggling with how to move forward, but the reality is we are all experiencing this in real-time.
New details and restrictions emerge each day, by reaching out to people you conduct business with, you reenergize lines of communication and create opportunities for sharing information and working together to carry the weight of the new normal.
8) Look for the positives
Visualize the best parts of your new normal. Your commute is less complicated. Joe from accounting isn’t eating your lunch. Your new office mate, your cat, is a great lap warmer. You had been feeling like you were in a rut. You have a team that is eager to move through this time. You have made it through all of the bad days you’ve encountered and you are stronger for it.
The challenges around us are not insignificant, but neither is our collective strength and optimism. From musicians playing instruments on balconies in Italy to distillers the world over shifting production to hand sanitizer, we are finding ways to triumph over fear and adversity.
The World Health Organization has a fact sheet on mental health considerations during COVID-19. You can find that information HERE.