In life, we have different roles to play and we’re proud of them. We are fathers, mothers, professionals, executives, healthcare workers, etc. It’s re-assuring when we can pin-point our position in a complex world. The responsibilities we take on perfectly justify our existence, and indirectly acknowledge our accomplishments.
Furthermore, all kinds of self-help books remind us of doing more, performing better, bringing the best of ourselves to the workplace, while shoving all the negative emotions under the carpet.
(Note: I’m extremely pleased to see that having the courage to show vulnerability and authenticity has become one of the most applauded leadership virtues in recent years. That’s the topic for another post.)
We try to practice many of the advice, if not all, until our effort is drastically discounted by the #covid-19.
The virus hits us real.
Here is my personal story. In late January 2020, I arrived in France alone for an international assignment. My husband had to stay in Canada this year for his work. We said we would manage the long distance by flying back and forth every month to see each other. All sounds manageable until the virus is spread, boarders are closed, and flights are cancelled.
Suddenly, I’m living in a new country, learning a new language, getting to know new colleagues, breathing in a new culture, and confined in a rental apartment ALONE, while doing my work remotely.
I’m not going to lie – it’s not a fairy tale in Alice’s wonderland. Week #3 and Week #10 into the confinement, I cried, twice.
I was uncertain how long the situation would last, and if I could see my family and friends again. I was homesick, worried, and upset. On an average day, I’m a very happy and positive person. I like smiling, to a flower, to a challenge, and sometimes to a stranger.
Life is good. Why not be grateful?
However, being grateful is not enough when dealing with an unprecedented pandemic situation.
I have every reason to be grateful of my personal situation as I have a wonderful manager and teammates, as well as a great husband and a strong supportive network. To top it all off, I do love what I do for living. It’s not a job. It’s a calling.
For many moments, I still felt sad, defeated and confused. I write journals every night to release the negative emotions and remind myself of the pretty little things in life.
Challenging situation like this draws a much deeper level of strength and resilience from all of us, to name a few:
- For people who provide essential and critical business and healthcare services, they do continue to show up at work every day, but they need to put their own fears and anxiety aside first. These groups of unsung hero have demonstrated unbelievable amount of courage because of the public health mission.
- For people who have unfortunately lost their jobs due to the lockdown situation, they re-direct their energy into finding new career and business opportunities. The uncertainty and uneasiness takes a heavy toll, but they continue to stay motivated and hopeful.
- For people who are lucky enough to have a work-from-home job, the days have gotten longer and longer, as they juggle among family chaos and endless zoom meetings, which all require a few extra doses of calmness and perseverance, and sometimes a sense of humor.
I have no doubt there are sleepless nights, ups and downs for everyone in the past 60 days.
As far as the covid-19 concerns – narrative wise – there is onlyBefore and After.
For my “after” times, to pull myself out of those dark moments and be back into the up zone, I used a simple formula – a trip A approach.
It’s as easy as putting a new battery into a slowly dying engine.
- Acknowledgement. Humans have emotions. Sometimes they are positive and sometimes not so much. It’s quite normal to feel sad or disappointed during difficult times. Don’t repress it. Don’t run away. Shed some tears if your mood brings you to it; Have a quiet day to yourself if you prefer to clear your head; or have a deep conversation with your family and friends if they are there for you. Tell yourself you will be fine tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but right at this moment, you are just not okay. Vulnerability is a symbol of strength, not a shortcoming. Embrace it.
- Action. When you feel down, do something, anything! Start small. The smaller the action is, the easier you are motivated to do it. Cook a delicious meal; Plant some flower seeds; Beautify a slide deck; Read a book; Write a journal; Go for a run; Practice Yoga; Meditate; Play a game. Get going. Trust me – the completion of a simple task will lift your mood, help you to get out of the dreadful feeling. It’s a magical recipe. Doing is more important than being.
- An Above the Line Mindset. This means we must take responsibilities for our own journey. No excuse, no complaints. Ask ourselves: “given the less-than-ideal situation we are in, what can we do to make the best out of what we have?” There is a will, there is a way. If we are willing to put our energy towards a more optimal outcome, we will eventually find a solution to turn the bad to good, to transform the possibility into reality. The key is to take the ownership of your emotions, actions and responsibilities.
I hope this little recipe can help you remain positive and continue standing strong.
After all, despite of all the challenges and uncertainty, the sun rises every morning, so should we!
Get on with it – the good and the bad – one day at a time.
And don’t forget to smile, even with your facemask on.