While it is absolutely, fully understood that these highly unsettling developments can cause concern, anxiety or worse, panic, above all, we are all challenged and reminded to stay calm. To use rationality over irrationality. To make good, sound decisions now, when it really counts.
Yes, there are difficult times ahead. Yes, we will all suffer, in one way or another.
But the world is not coming to an end. We will get through this crisis as we got through many other crises before. And more importantly, we will be more successful when we pull together and collaborate, supporting each other, especially when the going gets tough.
So rather than focusing on all the things, we cannot do at the moment, here are some recommendations for constructive action.
So, what CAN we do?
We will get out of this crisis, sooner or later, as dire as it may appear at the moment.
The first advice is to focus not on the problem, but instead on finding solutions. And if we can´t find any solutions, we have to put our glasses on and look harder. Or even revert to binoculars.
Therefore, remind yourself to:
- Stay calm and serene – for ourselves, for our business, for our families and friends. Here are some tips on how to achieve that:
- Pause button. When you notice that you are experiencing feelings of fear, anxiety, panic – hit the “pause” button on the remote control of your life for at least 5 minutes. Thoughts and feelings come and go. You should not allow your thoughts to enter inside your head without any reason, order or relevance. Instead, the only person that can control your thoughts and feelings is you.
- Rational analysis. Once you have hit “pause” – carefully examine where these thoughts came from. Are you in real danger, right now at this moment? Then you must act. Otherwise, if you experience fears, try to realize that they are the consequence of unmanaged, irrational thoughts such as the “what if” scenarios where we worry about the future. Such thoughts in our brain can put us on a fast-accelerating hamster wheel, where we “ruminate.” We focus on the problem, look at the problem from all sides – and become blind to finding the right solutions. Become self-aware and observe (without judging yourself) when that happens – and then make a conscious decision to choose other thoughts, i.e. those that focus on the solution.
- Reframe. Instead of telling yourself: I am locked in, I can’t do anything – reframe and tell yourself: I am making an active contribution to help the health system protect people in fragile health. Instead of looking at what you have been deprived of doing (go to school/university, keep your business open, engage in private travel, etc) – reframe and focus on all the time you have on your hand to do what you had meant to do for a really long time.For every negative thought – look for 2 positive ones that balance out the negativity.
- Avoid “over-information”. Please do not stay hooked to local or international newsfeeds, whether on TV, online or through social media. This behaviour will only end up boosting your negative perspective and rumination tendencies, or worse yet, feed any obsessive tendencies in your personality. By not switching off, you may well make yourself addicted to the next big bad news bulletin. Ultimately, you will only end up limiting yourself, rather than helping yourself.
- Trust, mutual support and collaboration. Trust in your own abilities and strengths. And trust in the people around you. Give support to, and allow yourselves to be supported by, your families, friends, employees, suppliers and any other involved stakeholders.
Reach out to them to see if there is anything you can do for them. Likewise, don´t be afraid to reach out when you need some uplifting words, some new ideas or some sort of direct support. It is a well-known phrase – united we stand stronger.
2. FINANCES: Cash is King
- If you run a business, ask for a qualified professional opinion before you solicit any credit lines to keep your business afloat and pay salaries. The virus and its associated crisis will go away – debt will not.
- Instead, make full use of any legal mechanisms that will be made available over the next few days and week (like delayed and/ or partial payments to Social Security, tax obligations, etc, in order to comply with any financial obligations.)
After the “employees”, “cash flow” is the most important asset a company can have – protect it to the maximum.
3. BUSINESS MODEL
- Be agile. Take another long and hard look at your business model. What works? What doesn’t? Take appropriate action and cut out any layers that are not productive.
In other words – use the time to reinvent yourself.
- Think outside the box. Can you enter into new collaborations? Can you turn a weakness into a strength, activating a small (or dormant) revenue stream and make it bigger?
Universities and schools are closed – but they continue to render full service through online platforms. Restaurants may be closed – some are already getting active to offer a delivery service.
And with businesses closed and nothing that can be done about it – there are those that get fully engaged in charity causes that they have cared about for a long time, e.g. raising online funds for people in real needs, offering neighbours to go shopping etc.
4. AT HOME
As we are all in lockdown, the best recommendations to maintain your sanity and avoid claustrophobia or “cabin fever”, i.e. extreme irritability and restlessness due to being stuck at home, are the following:
- Enter into a “peace agreement” at home. These are not the times when we should pick on someone´s habits. Be aware when you might be at risk of taking your own concerns, pressures, anxieties or stress out on others – and make a conscious choice not to do it. Be generous towards the others around you, because your family members may look to you as a role model for encouragement and for being the rock in this stormy sea, taking their cues from you for their own mental wellbeing.
- Maintain a rigid schedule, although the kids have no school and you may have to go to your usual workplace at the usual time. Identify projects and project times and set times for them, including when to watch TV, when to play board games, when to work online and when to have meals — as if it was your agenda in the office.
- Keep your usual sleeping patterns – no additional napping!
- Make an effort to dress and feel good about yourself – no pyjamas at home outside of the bed. Maintain your usual hygiene and self-care habits (shave, put on make-up, etc). Your mind, spirit and body will be grateful that you don´t slack.
- Stay active at home. You can´t go to the gym? Run on the spot (staying in the same spot). Follow YouTube tutorials that use the body for strength and cardiovascular training (“functional training”). Schedule half an hour every day, with your family, to be active at home.
- Smile, laugh, maintain your sense of humour. This is not the end of the world. Humour in itself is a distancing tool – use it broadly and often, to keep any irrational thoughts and feelings at bay
- Reach out to your family and friends, make that call you have not made for too long because you didn´t have time. Make that time now, use video calls as much as possible – they are a marvellous tool to stay in touch and animate others, as well as be animated.
- Play with your kids and be “present” when you do – they need their parents to give them a sense of calm and protection.
- Study, listen to music, do whatever you have always said you don´t have time for.
- Fake it till you make it. If you are not “feeling” any serenity – put yourself in charge to make it look as if you did have it. Do some role play in your head, for example, to be an emergency doctor in an ER, in charge of maintaining a calm, serene attitude in order to enable the best care of the patients around them. Reframe any negativity in your own head every time you catch yourself. See the whole virus situation like a big stress test aimed at increasing your resilience.
Your own attitude to this crisis will be at the heart of how you and your family will experience it.
To quote Henry Ford:
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can´t – you are always right.”
So – stay safe, stay healthy, and above all, stay motivated. Come out at the other side of this dark tunnel stronger than ever before.