None of us could’ve prepared for or foreseen the situation we find ourselves in today. But one of the most important ways to ensure you can thrive during any change is to become an active participant –and understand that “thriving” is relative during any crisis.
If you can find a way to turn toward the change with an “Okay, let’s do this” mindset, it will help you engage in problem-solving, turn on your creativity, and feel more empowered. You also can do a better job of getting what you need to thrive.
Your leaders and managers are doing the best they can, but with such massive upheaval, we need to allow room for missteps and steep learning curves for leaders new to disruption. Find ways to let your experience rise to the task, regardless of the overall performance of your team or organization during this shift.
Okay Let’s Do This: Be An Active Participant
In the Change Quest™ model, we call change initiatives “change journeys” and the participants “travelers” on the change journey. Suffice to say COVID-19 has thrown most of us into perhaps the most substantial change journey we’ll ever face at work and at home. Here are ten tips for thriving through this change journey, while remaining sensitive to your health and wellness in the current pandemic crisis:
1. Learn about the change journey: Details are evolving every day. But as you can, get information so that your brain can begin processing the change. The sooner you orient yourself to the journey and your role in it, the easier it will become. Look for communications from your manager, organization leader, and your local, regional and national leaders. However, be mindful of watching too much news. Our brains have mirror neurons and seeing others in distress raises the alarms within our own systems. So read rather than watch, and be sure to go to trusted sources like the CDC and WHO.
2. Ask questions: If you need more information, ask for it. If something is not clear, ask for clarity. If you’ve taken care of yourself, home and family, ask your team leader how you can best serve and support your role and the team function in this extraordinary time. We are seeing wonderful examples of experts and organizations stepping up to innovate solutions to this crisis.
3. Find your own purpose: If you can create your own meaningful purpose in this change journey, your ability to be motivated and to find small happinesses will increase. Can you find a way to envision the change through a lens that matters to you, and work toward that vision? Perhaps it’s about using the time to become more connected to your family or deep clean your home or learn some new skills. Others are finding solace in spiritual practices and teachings. And many are looking for things to be grateful for in the midst of the chaos.
4. Partner up: You are not going through this alone. In fact, this is a unique time that will forever be shared by everyone around the planet at the same time. We are #AloneTogether and this can help us feel less afraid and more connected. Find a partner like a spouse, coworker or friend to share duties and process the day’s information. Create a larger team of other families, friends and coworkers. You will all benefit from sharing information, leaning on each other, and encouraging each other through the weeks ahead.
5. Build a roadmap: In change management on a regular day, change plans are long, detailed documents. The pandemic response has happened so quickly, there may be sparse instruction and a lot of action taken on the fly. Do what you can to create your own visual map of this new change journey. Especially now, it may help you focus on your needs through the culture shock. Make milestones for yourself in this new landscape and draw them, the steep sections, and the resting places. This can be an enlightening project to do with your team as well. Right now, each week is a milestone as we wait to flatten the curve of COVID-19. We are on a steep incline, so invent milestones on your map such as marking days working-from-home, hands washed correctly, new online tools embraced, and any milestone your team is moved to create for themselves.
6. Gamify the experience: The reward part of our brain loves games and prizes. Gold stars and high fives matter. Find a way to turn the new habits you’re making during social distancing into a series of levels that you earn points or stars for completing. Give yourself rewards for hitting milestones. This may be especially important in this time of not knowing what’s next and can be a great thing to do with family and coworkers. You can even turn a difficult task into something rewarding. Put gold stars on the bathroom mirror for handwashing. Yell out a “We did it!” at the end of each day of sheltering in place. Make up a friendly competition with family members about who has the most creative substitute for toilet paper. As we have seen and experienced, there is a lot of pain and loss occurring at the same time as people are just trying to keep their lives and jobs on track. These moments of levity will bond and support you in connection. When things get painful and challenging, we survive in those bonds.
7. Train for the trek: Let’s face it. Right now, the trail is already difficult. But now that we’re on it, training can help us build strength and stamina. How might you condition yourself for a successful daily trek? This can be a great time to build some skills in leadership, mindfulness, and dealing with change. See what your organization has to offer and look to other sources like books and online training sites like LinkedIn Learning or Udemy. Many coaches and leaders are offering free and discounted services at this time and are worth the Google search. Maybe there are wise mentors you can speak with. Like most things, training can be more engaging when done with a group, so consider how you can invite others to join you. Everyone will be able to learn and contribute in new ways now.
8. Rest at the resting points: Travelers often make the mistake of trudging on when they could rest, thinking something like, “I’ll get done quicker if I just keep going. Resting is a waste of time.” But rest is important for combatting our brain’s natural resistance, especially during a global trauma. Every change journey has slower times or flat sections before the next steep hill. Take advantage of them. We live in such a busy culture that we often don’t know what to do with periods of quiet. So we fill them with extra projects at home, or we push harder on something at work. But rest is vital, especially for the adrenal system after major disruption, so give yourself permission to take a break. This is the perfect time to read, do puzzles, make art, cook, start a garden, and take naps. Get that novel you’ve been meaning to read or listen to uplifting podcasts or comedians. Laughter is important in times like these.
9. Ask for help when you need it: Take advantage of available assistance. Folks who keep pushing through solo, hoping things will get better on their own are at a disadvantage. Often things don’t get better without outside influence. If you are feeling overwhelmed or fatigued or confused, and you can reach out, ask for help! Perhaps you can get some additional coaching or support. Many insurance programs have counseling available as do local community organizations that might offer free or sliding scale costs. Online sessions keep you safe while letting you get help. Often organizations put various support systems in place. Are these still in effect where you work? Who are the helpers in your personal network? How have you seen others receive support? Can you borrow their practice? Make sure you note who and what they are and how to access them.
10. If you need to, take a break: Occasionally, a change journey might just be too much. This can happen when a person is carrying several intense change journeys at the same time, and likely a combination of things from work and at home. This is likely the case for many of us during the massive disruption of COVID-19. Obviously, we cannot take a break from the pandemic but look at other things on your plate. Can you scale back on something or stop doing it altogether for now? Talk to your manager and HR to discuss your options. In regular times, and hopefully now, organizations allow leaves of absence, to take care of family members or deal with an emergency like a hospitalized relative. Consider this carefully and inquire where you can.
Even when many of the details are out of your control, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that you not only survive but even thrive during change. It’s important to take the time you need right now. And when you’re ready to make it work the best you can, use these strategies to be an active participant in the change journey.