By Leigh Ann Errico, Executive and Team Coach at LAeRRICO & partners
“I can’t wait for things to go back to normal” is a line that I’ve heard more times than I can count this year. While we all miss certain aspects of life pre-pandemic, not all of the changes brought on by coronavirus are bad. For one, the collective embrace of our humanness is a shift that I hope is here to stay.
Before March of this year, most people showed up to their place of work every day primped, preened and put-together (although likely frazzled behind the façade). They were able to compartmentalize their life from their work—and were expected to.
But life isn’t drawn with clean lines; it’s messy—and 2020 has finally given us permission for the mess to be seen.
As Pema Chödrön said:
We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
For the past several months, we’ve all been reminded that our co-workers have families…because of children photobombing or making noise in the background during Zoom calls. That we’re not invincible…because either we or those we know have gotten sick or lost loved ones. That work-life balance is important…because of finally having the chance to go on a walk outside during the work day, when the temperature’s just right.
I feel like this year has given me the chance to exhale with my whole being, and I don’t want to go back to holding my breath. Do you feel the same? The only way for us to hold onto this positive of the pandemic will be to clearly and thoughtfully redraw our boundaries.
Someday, hopefully soon, when the virus mostly goes away and we go back to the office, even if just part-time, boundaries will need to be a central focus of teams—both learning to create new ones for oneself and to respect the new boundaries of others. We’ll need to spend time in self-reflection to identify our own unique needs, then clearly make request(s) to other(s) in order to realize the vision for our new life with new boundaries. We’ll also need to stop questioning the dedication or motivations of others, based on how much they let their life bleed into their work. We’ll need to learn to build buffers into our schedules, to respect certain times of the day as off-limits, to pursue more workplace flexibility, to take the time off that we need to recharge, and to forget feeling like we have to hide the fact that there’s more to our lives than earning our paychecks.
Making this humanness stick post-pandemic is a mission that I hope we’ll all get behind, because life’s just better when it’s served raw and lived authentically. I’m so passionate about the value of this COVID-driven transformation that I applied for and enrolled in the Health & Wellness Coaching certification program at Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership this year. My 2020 pivot to make supporting well-being even more integral to my coaching practice is so that I’m expertly-equipped to help employees and teams reprogram themselves to revere humanness, rather than reject it. We all finally understand its importance thanks to the pandemic, and science shows, after all, that better mental and physical health unleashes productivity, creativity and success in our work.
We’re not robots; we’re not fairy tale characters; we’re not photoshopped models…we’re humans—and we should be the best humans that we can be.
Moving forward, 2020 will be referenced as a turn in the zigzag of our lives. “Pre-pandemic” and “post-pandemic” will be used to differentiate between two distinctly different time periods. My goal is to help you and your team make humanness a defining characteristic of your post-pandemic life. Are you with me? If so, let’s talk!
Harness your power to choose and escape
By Leigh Ann Errico, Executive and Team Coach at LAeRRICO & partners
We all have choices. In challenging times, the choice is choosing what we pay attention to and where we direct our focus. During a global pandemic and a U.S. election year, it’s tempting to focus on the unknown, the “swirl,” the what-if scenarios – but the questions we all have to ask ourselves are, “How is this serving me? What is the most powerful, healthy and productive choice I can make here and now?” Below are tips to help keep anxiety at bay:
1. Watch the news less
It’s one thing to check the local weather and get a basic idea of what’s happening in your community. Watching the news for hours on end, however, is entirely another. Once you have information about what’s going on in your world, have the presence of mind to step away. Let your heart and soul rest from negative news. Allowing the same heavy content to be pushed on you for hours every day feeds anxiety. Fight it instead by going on a hike, grabbing a good book or watching a light-hearted show to escape and relax.
2. Focus on what’s in your control
Not letting things that worry you hijack your attention is easier said than done, but mastering this form of self-control is vital to managing stress. Let go of things that you, personally, can’t control. Can you single-handedly choose who’s elected president? Nope. Can you have an impact on the outcome and make your voice heard? Yep! Replace big concerns with small proactive steps you can take to counteract them.
3. Use free time productively
The time we spend ruminating on current events can be put to much better use. If you’ve recently lost a job or been forced to spend more time at home, then perhaps there’s an opportunity to learn a new skill or hobby. Take your professional knowledge to the next level with podcasts, audiobooks, and online courses. Revise your resume, network with people with whom you’ve been meaning to reconnect. Plan your days by dedicating your focus to specific tasks during designated time slots. Ideally, plan ahead (at least the day before) so you can wake up with a positive and productive mission in mind.
4. Create healthy distractions
Replace worry with distractions that break you away from unhealthy obsessions. This can be as simple as dialing up a loved one (and not talking about everything that’s wrong in the world). Create rituals to spend time with those you care about – make a meal, watch a new Netflix series, or exercise together.
5. Utilize Appreciative Inquiry (AI)
Telling people how you feel and what you appreciate about them is a valuable practice, especially during tough times. Examine your life: What resources are available to you? For what are you grateful? The pioneer of Appreciative Inquiry David Cooperrider’s “Ah-Ha!” moment came when he and his team member found themselves in an increasingly hostile and negative atmosphere while working on a research project and decided to change their approach. Rather than inquire into what was NOT working, they decided to examine what was in fact going well. The revelation was that inquiry itself can powerfully shape the way we perceive and develop our systems and support as human beings. Change your thoughts in order to shift your mindset, your disposition and your energy into a more positive direction.
6. Just breathe
Stress and anxiety can have a number of physical, as well as emotional, consequences. When we are anxious, for example, we often take more frequent, shallow breaths. This can lead to tightness in the chest and even panic attacks. Simple breathing exercises, used when overwhelmed, can be remarkably effective at calming stress and anxiety. Box Breathing, a tool often used by Navy Seals to stay calm in stressful situations, can be done quickly and discreetly. Close your mouth and slowly breathe in through your nose for four counts. Hold your breath for four seconds. Then slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of four. Hold the exhale for another four counts.
Did you know the Apple watch has a reminder to breathe? But no fancy device needed, you can simply set any timer to prompt you to stop and do deep breathing exercises – if you’re feeling really anxious, every half an hour!
When we feel like our back is against the wall, we must be intentional to find mental escape. Amidst the pandemic, it’s up to each one of us to do our best to not only protect our bodies from the virus but our heads from the disease of negative thinking. Make choices every day that will serve you well.
Leigh Ann Errico is a Georgetown University-certified leadership coach, Corentus-certified team coach and the founder of LAErrico & Partners.
This article was first published by ThriveGlobal: https://bit.ly/2SyGixc
Leigh Ann Errico