Depending on where you’re based, the Covid-19 response means you’re probably now two weeks or more into lockdown. Many people in the software world may be used to remote working and working alone in normal times. But these are clearly not normal times, and you may now be sharing your “workspace” with room-mates or partners and family members, or at the other extreme, having minimal “live” contact at all. And that’s before worries about the economy, jobs, finances, and the prospect of you or your loved ones getting ill. Container Solutions’s lead psychologist Helen Bartimote and talent team intern Lintang Nawacita, have put together guidance for its employees on how to handle their emotions during these unprecedented times. Here’s a shortened version. You can read the full document here.
Understanding my emotions during the crisis
We are currently facing a collective trauma. We are being asked to live life in ways we could not ever have imagined. How do we cope effectively when we feel our world is falling down? Hold in mind that no matter what is being taken away from us, no matter how much we lose; we always can choose how we respond.
Emotions such as sadness, fear, anger and frustration are typical reactions to a crisis or disaster situation. Know that feelings of worry are being triggered due to this situation being unpredictable, novel and ambiguous – all the ingredients that can lead to worrying thoughts and anxiety. Give them time and try not to ignore them. Accept that you are experiencing these feelings.
Now move on to thinking about what you can control; whether that be choosing how much sleep you have, the clothes you are wearing, how much news you watch or what you eat. If you can still exercise outside then do always use this daily time, alone or with someone you live with whilst maintaining social distancing rules.
Remember to play the long game. Maybe now start to think of time in terms of goals for the week instead of the day. Give yourself time to adjust. If you go on at the same pace as before the pandemic then you could burnout before this ends.
How to Respond
In a crisis humans will respond in mainly three ways. They may move into ‘wishful thinking’ and focus on what they wish would happen. This leads them to focus on less health-related behaviours. Another way humans respond to a disaster is to seek help from others excessively, focusing on how they cannot cope and leaning completely on others for emotional support and ‘to make it all ok for them’. The most effective way to respond is to use what psychologists call ‘empathic responding’ which leads an individual to consider how they can reach out and help others around them. This has been found to not only benefit the community but also the individual in terms of overall well being.
These are the top tips from Container Solutions’ guidelines:
- Reach out to family and friends as well as colleagues.
- Control what you can in your home environment. Ensure you have sensible supplies of what you need for now. Establish a coordinated family plan if you are now isolating with partners and children. Look at ways to ensure you stay healthy and maintain fitness where you can.
- Take care in the morning. For many people, anxiety can often be worse in the mornings.
- Be mindful of your media consumption, and how this could also be affecting other people who you may be in isolation with.
- Maintain healthy daily routines. Keep to a rhythm if you can: good sleep patterns, healthy diet, frequent hydration, create work/home boundaries.
- Avoid the excessive use of unhealthy coping strategies, such as drugs and alcohol.
- If you now have your children at home throughout the day, understand that this is a huge change for them also and they will want to be around and close to you. Look at ways to do this whilst also creating some gradual boundaries for you to be able to work. Everyone understands that there is now a ‘new normal’, and if you are having a meeting with a child by your side, this is OK. We all need to adapt to the changing aspects of how to work.
- Don’t feel under pressure to create an educational timetable straight away. Home educating takes time to plan and prepare for. You are not a “home educator”, you are a parent/caregiver and, for now, this is the most important thing. Know they want to be close and feel safe. Focus on what they enjoy doing for the time being and know this is ok.
- If you are now spending more time with your partner and have not worked from home together in this way before, spend time talking about what you both need.
- Share any positive stories you hear about, including about people who have recovered from COVID-19. Stories from China now talk about life returning to normal.
Slower activities are challenging for many in the fast-paced world we live in, but maybe over these next few months this is our time to do this. It might help if we think about the amazing health workers we have in all of our countries who are working tirelessly to be there for us in this crisis.