As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, we’re learning more about its impact. Certainly, we’re now well aware of numerous efforts we can make to protect ourselves physically from the virus (e.g., wash hands every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, disinfect all packages and containers coming into our homes, staying home from work if possible, social distancing, etc.). However, what we’re also discovering are the mental and emotional effects that Covid-19 is having both during and after these social-distancing lockdowns.
In fact, new research shows that as China gets back to business as usual, some residents are experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms, which include painful memories, nightmares, feeling irritable and on high-alert all the time, and having difficulty focusing. A couple of the factors that contributed to these symptoms was the lack of definitive information about the virus and anxiety over lack of resources—issues that are currently happening here in the U.S.
Now, as a positive leader, you might not have much control over the availability of resources, or the information being provided by local, state, and federal government. But you do have some control over your team’s mental and emotional well-being. Indeed, there is a lot you can do to mitigate anxiety and provide a much-needed energy boost for yourself and your colleagues.
How? First, provide frequent and regular communication to your employees, so everyone feels connected and informed about what’s going on. Second, if you’re now running a work-from-home team, make sure cameras are ON during video meetings—just seeing other people and their smiles elevates our mood.
Next, apply what we know from the oodles of positive psychology research about cultivating well-being. Essentially, there are five building blocks to well-being: (1) positive emotions, (2) engagement, (3) relationships, (4) meaning, and (5) accomplishments. As such, each of the following activities taps into at least one of these elements. Try one or several of these and watch the positive impact it has on you and your team.
- Move your body. This doesn’t mean you have to suddenly start doing some awful workout routine you hate. It just means including some physical exercise or activity throughout your day—even if it’s just a walk around the block at lunchtime. It will get more oxygen flowing and increase your endorphin production, which means you’ll feel good! How to do this with your team? Check in with one another. Create challenges. Hold each other accountable in a fun way. And, if you’re feeling really adventurous, have a brief dance party at the beginning of each video meeting—cameras ON! I promise, everyone will have a blast and be feeling great after just 2 minutes of shakin’ their booties!
- Follow the Flow. Flow happens when you are so absorbed in an activity that time falls off the clock, and you are not aware of other happenings around you. Some people call it “being in the zone.” Think about what puts you in flow and ask each of your team what puts them in flow. Then, make a plan to maximize the time each person spends doing those tasks and minimize the time spent on other tasks. As you do this, encourage your team to do some task-trading, so everyone ends up with activities that put them in flow every day.
- Emphasize Empathy. Making someone feel heard and understood is one of the most important gifts we can give another person—especially right now. So, this week, focus on being truly present. Listen closely—not with the intent to respond, but with the intent to understand. If you’re working from home, it’s incredibly easy to be distracted or leave your camera off so you can multitask on something else. All that does is disconnect you from others (bad idea) and send a signal that the person you’re talking to doesn’t matter that much (another bad idea). The fact is, practicing empathy increases our capacity to help others and our ability to fully engage with our colleagues…and right now, we need that connection and support more than ever.
- Three Good Things. Have your team start a daily journal in which they record the three things that went well that day and why they went well. That second part is really important. This journal isn’t about making a list of items each day. It’s about taking a few moments to savor the positive aspects of the day and to appreciate exactly how those came about. Engaging in this practice results in increased levels of happiness and decreased levels of depressive symptoms. You can get even more benefits from this activity by having people share one of their three good things at the beginning or end of meetings or start a group or online conversation where these stories are shared.
- Build Resilience. What better time to flex our resilience muscles, right? A simple way to do this is to use the ABC model. That is, when adversity (A) happens, the emotional or behavioral consequences (C) are determined not by the adversity itself, but by what we believe (B) about it. Right now, the adversity is Covid-19 and all the effects it’s having on our daily lives. We can choose to feel like victims in this situation, or we can shift our mindset about it and decide to make the most of it. Using this ABC model helps reduce the emotional impact of stressful events and provides a more constructive perspective when confronted with challenges. Hey, if Viktor Frankl could find meaning and stay positive in a World War II concentration camp, I think we can all manage to do the same while stuck at home surrounded by food, technology, and toilet paper! 😉
Finally, as I mentioned in my last post, remember that even though you might feel alone, you’re not. We are all in this together, and if we make a point of cultivating our well-being during this trying time, we’ll all emerge better and stronger than ever before.
If you’ve got questions or you just want to share what you’re doing to motivate your team and ensure their well-being, drop me a line at [email protected] – I always love to hear from you.
Also, the strategies I shared in this post are from my book, 25 Tips for Leaders: How to Leverage the Science of Happiness to Increase Performance, Productivity, and Profitability. If you want more of these simple, yet highly effective practices, just click here to download my book for free.