Our friend and leadership development expert Sarah Noll Wilson is our guest author this week. She joined us on Season 1, Episode 6 of Unleashed.
Over the past 48 hours, I have heard from numerous clients, colleagues, and friends sharing similar messages of fatigue, stress, and burnout. “You don’t need to respond Sarah, I just need to share this…” is how many of those messages started. Okay folks, we need to talk (flips chair around and straddles like a school counsellor trying to be cool). Let’s jam, and talk about what it’s like to be human in a pandemic.
During the first month of the pandemic, there was a collective experience of disruption, disorientation, uncertainty, and chaos. People shared how overwhelmed they felt. People were exhausted trying to figure out how to work from home. People were exhausted trying to figure out how to teach their children and please their bosses. People were exhausted trying to figure out how to stay safe and keep their families safer.
There was decision fatigue, Zoom fatigue, novelty fatigue, loneliness, economic hardship, and a general sense of grieving of the life we once knew. My conversations with leaders quickly shifted from the usual conversations of development planning to deep topics like, “How do I support the intense emotions I see my team members feeling?” “How can I possibly support my team when getting out of bed in the morning feels impossible most days?”
The calls from companies to talk about and share practices about mental health, emotional resilience, and empathetic leadership increased dramatically. While people knew that everyone was being challenged, somehow we convinced ourselves that we were the only one barely surviving. Somehow we told ourselves that everyone else has it figured out, not only do they have it figured out but they are baking homemade focaccia and starting a side hustle.
“What is Wrong With Me?”
We ask, “Everyone else has it figured out, what is wrong with me?” “When will I snap out of it?”
These are real questions shared with us through our work. When we asked people to share – “How are you doing really?” The answers largely navigated from anxiety to fear to stress with just a few hopefuls sprinkled in. People were surprised, validated, and heard when they realized they weren’t alone.
I feel like we need another reminder.
You aren’t alone. You never were. And you never will be.
To be human in a pandemic means:
- living with the constant hum of a threat. Somedays the hum might be so quiet it will lull you into thinking things are “normal” and other moments it will roar back reminding you that while you might be done with it, it isn’t done with us.
- having fewer moments of autopilot where our brain can properly rest while we still go about our day.
- having to face uncertainty every single day. Will I be able to get bread/meat/eggs this week? When will I be able to see my family again? How do I keep them safe? Will I be let go from my job? Will my children grow and learn? Do I have enough money for gas? Will my unemployment come through? Will I need to turn down this gig because they want it in person? Will I be able to support my team? Is this sniffle just allergies or something more? Should I wear a mask? Why don’t they wear a mask?
These questions are happening so fast and sometimes unconsciously that we don’t even realize our brain is exploring the world of “what ifs” and like an app that is running on our phone, it slowly drains our batteries without us realizing. Then suddenly we find ourselves lying awake at 2 AM wondering why we can’t sleep or remember what day it was.
But now we are over 100 days into the COVID-19 pandemic. We have found new habits, new patterns, new norms. This sense of familiarity soothes us into thinking we should “be back to normal” and we are confused when the fatigue faces us again. When we are struck with stress and worry. When we react more often than we respond.
Friendly Reminder: We Are Living in a Pandemic
If you are feeling alone and struggling please reach out to me, to a friend, a family member, to a mental health professional. Our resiliency reserves are slowly leaking out and the emptiness will hit you when you least expect it. Things that were already hard before feel harder now.
We need to be okay that some moments are going to feel low when just a moment before they felt high. Truthfully, I think I navigated at least 11 different emotions just today alone. Here is my favorite thing about emotions: they are temporary. They are always temporary. They don’t always feel that way at the moment, but they are.
And so, I invite you to be deeply compassionate with yourself and others. It is okay that you haven’t developed a sourdough starter or built a side hustle or worked out every day and it’s okay if you did. We all need to recharge in ways that serve us. Just be sure to do so.
To my fellow humans in this pandemic—ride the waves when they come, rest when they are calm and keep looking to the horizon.
Leading in a Pandemic
To those of you reading this who lead teams and organizations, leading in a pandemic requires us to lead differently. Here are a few questions for you to consider to help you reflect more deeply into what it means for you to lead in a pandemic:
- What is the story you hope your team members tell about what it was like to work with you during this time of increased stress and uncertainty?
- What do you do or need to do to ensure you are able to recharge so that you can show up more powerfully for those you serve?
- My good friend and author Marty Linsky shared recently, “Leaders need to stop predicting the future and start creating it.” What impact do you want to make during this on your team members? Your customers? Your organization?
- What is one thing you can do today to move you closer to that created future?
If you’re having trouble navigating the change valley during COVID-19 and readjusting your business and organization to fit within the pandemic – you are not alone. If you’re struggling with remote leadership techniques – you are not alone. While everybody is new to navigating the changes in the pandemic, we are here to help you and your team transition through the changes you’re undergoing. Reach out or apply for a complimentary Business Execution Assessment and get Results today.
About Sarah Noll Wilson
Sarah Noll Wilson is an executive coach, keynote speaker, transformer of teams, researcher, and soon-to-be-author passionate about helping leaders positively and powerfully impact those around them.
Miss her Unleashed Episode in May? Catch up and learn more on how to Connect Deeply in Times of Disconnection.