Guest AuthorNarendra Ambwani

Why are the stresses of Covid 19 so challenging!

By | Narendra Ambwani | Helping CEO/CXO Excel

The stresses caused by the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) are very different as compared to what we have handled in the past. We have faced disaster events, financial losses, professional setbacks and loss of family members. However, we need a new approach to handle the unique challenges posed by the ongoing Covid 19 situation.

All of us have dealt with many crisis situations and moved on in life. Now, just think about how those events were handled. In most cases, they were one time events and they had serious emotional, physical, business or financial impacts in our life. But we managed to live through them and brought our life back to normal. Our minds have learnt to deal with issues which have predictable outcomes (Positive or negative), predictable duration, predictable health implications, predictable job, salary, bonus or career setback, predictable social or relationship issues and any events where outcomes can be guessed from the past history or experience. Our minds want predictability, so that we can prepare a plan of action to mitigate the impact of an event. We want to know, what lies ahead at the next corner, as we are heading towards it. Our minds equals uncertainty to fear. We overestimate the threats in our minds and underestimate our abilities in dealing with unknown. May be that is why Indian fortune tellers are still consulted.

Now let us compare our past experiences, with the present unprecedented crisis. World has never faced a situation like this in 100 years, so no historical experience to help us guide or predict. We are affected in every aspect of our life, both professionally and personally. Everything is disrupted. Our office/ business is closed, all transportation is shut, all shops are closed, schools are closed, hospitals do not admit normal patients, social life is at standstill, entertainment, bars, restaurants, sporting facilities and almost every part of our life has become an issue. We do not know when disruption will end and which part of our life will come back to normal. It’s an unfamiliar situation, with unknown outcomes, unknown impacts on our health, our family,our finances, our job, our lifestyle, our social activities. Given the intensity of uncertainties, our minds are facing a new level and changing variety of stresses.

 Here are few thoughts and suggestions to help you manage the daunting uncertainty of present situation.

1.   Embrace a cognitive re-frame: To start with, please stop referring to the situations in your mind, as Problems or Issues. Treat them in your mind, as Challenges instead. For an example, you have “bread and butter” issue of getting daily needs of your household items like milk, bread, vegetables etc. If you see it as a problem in your mind, you will only feel anxious and nervous and you will not use your rational creative mind to find alternative solutions. Instead, if you treat it a challenge, you will be energized and find many alternatives. All of us love challenges and enjoy the excitement it creates. And when we win the challenge we feel happy and charged up to take up the next challenge. Mentally when we are tackling a challenge we are ready to accept a defeat but it does not dishearten us.  

2.   Write it down: Make an exhaustive list of all the challenges that you are facing as a result of COVID-19. Involve your family to join in and make the list together. Their participation in handling these challenges is important as they too are experiencing stress and need space to voice their thoughts. The list should cover all aspects of current challenges, including, professional, security, health, entertainment, social networking, mental health, daily chores, household supplies, maintenance/servicing of appliances, and so forth. 

3.   Delegate responsibilities: Being able to contribute toward shared goals and challenges gives people a sense of purpose, while reducing burden on others. For each item in the list of challenges, write down if the challenge can be handled by you or a family member. Assign responsibilities accordingly. Since the situation in the present crisis is constantly changing, the list must be reviewed and updated daily. Multiple options on each agenda item must be created as fall back options. For instance, the source that provided vegetables last week may not be operational this week due to RED zone in his or her area. Use the help of friends and neighbours to expand your list of sources for supplies and services. Seek advice from your business colleagues and trusted friends on issues of professional concern. Do not feel shy in seeking help from others. In this crisis, all help should be sought and welcomed. 

4.   Standardize a routine: Create a routine for the day to ensure basics needs are met for all in the family. Daily exercises, meals, safety behaviours, sterlisation around the home, use of face masks, entertainment, free time, social activity and connectivity via mobile or internet and so forth. A healthy and happy family will reduce considerable stress and provide mental support to all. Lockdown and WFH are an excellent opportunity for family bonding, make full use of it. Emotional bonding will help reduce stress.

5.   Accept uncertainty: There may be challenges in your list which are beyond your control. Such as when will lockdown end or if it will be extended or not. Do not waste your energy on items outside your control so that you have razor sharp focus on challenges where you can succeed. Do celebrate success of any or every item in the list. Celebrations reduce stress and energise us.

6.   Moderate your expectations: Much of the current stress relates to failure vs expectations. We must accept this new reality. No one can get everything they desire in this crisis. Things are disrupted so you should adjust your expectations based on the reality of the day. Be grateful for what you get or achieve in your list of challenges (see #2 above).

7.    Have faith in yourself: We are all born with tremendous resilience. Trust your mental and innovative capabilities. You have lived through many difficulties in the past, so you know that this Covid 19 will also pass someday. Believe that you will get through the current challenge.

8.   Focus on the present. We do not know what will happen in the future, and worrying about the future is unhelpful – it is unproductive and causes distress to all around you. You will face current challenges better if you focus and manage your present well. Focus your energy on the present and stay healthy and safe. Live by the day.

COVID-19 creates constantly changing situations and poses a huge challenge, but we are capable of handling the challenge in a systematic manner. We must focus our attention on what is here and now. We must put our energies behind what can be acted upon and not worry about future. If we take care of present challenges we will build capacities to be ready for the future.

I look forward to your suggestions and ideas. What has helped you deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 period?

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