Many experts in the field of psychology have been correlating the pandemic experience to a grieving process.  Many of us understand how feelings of grief or sadness can often surprise us when they pop into our days.  Many of us have been experiencing unexpected down times. Some people are frustrated, panicked, overloaded by stress, while others take all this in stride or have no real significant emotional unbalancing. But one of the more common responses people are experiencing is sadness, as they recognize the long-haul nature of living through a pandemic.  These pandemic blues are real and should be dealt with. 

When you experience any kind of blues, do not ignore them.  Unprocessed emotion is like a weight you carry around in your mind and heart. It can last years, even decades and quietly eat at you.  Find the space to process what you are experiencing.  Emotions affect productivity in all forms of life and human productivity is rarely consistent. It’s more likely your performance at home, work and play is coming in peaks and valleys during this time.  Work within this reality. Give yourself the time you need to recharge or surge, depending on how you feel. These are not the easiest of times, yet there are many opportunities to grow, let go, improve and find out more about yourself and others.  To be your best, stay in the moment and pay attention.

One way to grow and develop is to be observant and stay consciously aware of your surroundings. When you are out and about, pay attention to the level of diversity and detail around you. Observe how people interact with each other. Observe how others respond to you and other people around them. Observe the differences in actions and reactions to the same situation. Observe who is doing well in these situations and who is not. Try to discover ways to help make things better for yourself and maybe even for them.  

One of the best kinds of observation is observing yourself. Pay attention to your thoughts and reactions, particularly during tense or stressful situations with other people. Ask yourself if you could do better by taking a moment to put yourself in their shoes. As the old saying goes, “There but for the grace of God go I”. How would you want someone to interact with you if you were the other person. Think, how would I want me to communicate with me? Invariably this brings out much more sympathy, and even better, empathy. This will allow you to better connect with others and move towards a much more harmonious conclusion to the situation.

Observing our surroundings helps us start to see what is hidden or not obvious. And sometimes, this approach will allow us to notice what seemed obvious to others but that we were not paying attention to. This is invaluable on many levels. When we notice how others behave and react, and more importantly, how we behave and react, we start to notice things of which we were previously unaware. With the kind of information that you will gather, you will have a better picture of personal and group behaviors in your daily sphere and be much more effective at dealing with them. It is very much in your best interests to get curious. The more curious you are, the more likely you are to learn and retain information that will help you navigate this new world better. To do that, take conscious action. Be a leader and foster more collaboration, engagement, and creativity in the world around you. It all starts with waking up and widening your view to the hidden resources everywhere.  

The impact of the pandemic has been substantial in our society. It is impossible to return to normal after the turmoil of the past months. Our pre-virus existence had many “normalized” social ills with a fraying of community and disconnection between so many. When we take the time to better understand, we realize that we have so much more in common with others than we have differences.  For many, life before the pandemic was a haze of busyness, moving from one thing “to-do” to the next, rarely pausing to reflect on the value of our common humanity and what our common desires are. A powerful approach to this new world is to realize that we are being given the opportunity to author a new, better future.  Out of destruction comes the opportunity for greater reformation. But we need more than just good intentions. Honour your intentions with action. Practice optimism as much as you can. As we all prepare for the fall, challenge yourself on how you can bring more community and more humanity to your home, social and work environment. 

One of the best ways to ingrain new behaviours and make them more natural and automatic is to be consistent with those behaviours. This is a conscious choice and we need to keep reminding ourselves about it. Be a leader in making those choices a part of your new normal. It is your life and you are responsible for your emotional state and behaviour. Although we can complain that it was others that put us in a particular state, those emotions come from us. If we act like we are not involved and expect the world around us to devote itself to our happiness, we will be sorely disappointed, as so many are. True personal power comes from accepting that our emotions are ours and we are part of how and why they exist. It is our life. No one can eat or sleep for us, so why do we expect others to do things to make our emotions more to our liking? Take responsibility for your emotions and take action to put yourself in the best place. Expecting others to make us happy takes away our personal power, giving it to them. Usually others neither want nor accept this responsibility for your emotional state. So if you are expecting them to do this on your behalf and do not get involved to work on your emotional state yourself, you will find the world much more cold, dark, uncaring, lonely, disappointing and frightening.

Consistency is indeed a challenge when it comes to emotions.  It is difficult to take responsibility for your emotions and try to manage them. It is easy to find daily examples of people who come up with a whole litany of reasons why they should not be responsible for their emotional state and behaviour. It is always the fault of someone or something else. In this way one does not have to change or accept any undue burden about their emotions and so, will not change. They believe it is the responsibility of others to change, not them. Change is often difficult and personal change is one of the hardest forms. Yet self-management is critical in this moment so we can be the best for ourselves and others.  Do not ignore your emotions. Pay attention to them as they give you insight into what you need to do to best lead yourself. 

Turn inward and be aware of your emotions. If you are scared, ask yourself what you need for security. If you are anxious, find a practice that will calm your mind. If you are at peace, share with others what is contributing to your wellbeing. If you are invigorated, use this period to develop further your creativity. There is neither a perfect leader, nor a perfect response to this time in our lives.  Yet, if we all continue to grow, we will all be in a better place to lead ourselves and others through this viral disruption that has come into all our lives.   

Kevin Blok