The world around us has been turned upside down. The things that seemed important and critical have evaporated or been re-prioritised. The skills and experience needed to thrive in treasury, and in life, are being tested and questioned. Coronavirus, the pandemic that is leading to such uncertainty, has thrown us all a curveball. Much has changed and this uncertainty will continue for some time. Here, Michelle Yeoman, qualified executive coach and former HR Director, explains how we can manage our reactions in these unprecedented times.
1. Believe in your ability to adapt
The coronavirus pandemic, which is likely to be the crisis of our generation, also gives us the opportunity to adapt. Human beings are naturally creative, curious and adaptable. By adapting to a mindset of growth, it could be an opportunity to develop new skills, experiences and abilities that will stand you in good stead personally and professionally.
With many of us juggling working, schooling and parenting from home; sharing office spaces or makeshift desks with our partners; and connecting with colleagues and loved ones remotely, we are developing many new skills without even realising it.
These include thinking on our feet, patience, planning, communication, relationship management, and self-awareness. Multi-tasking and IT skills will also be put to good use.
By positively focusing on the skills, abilities and behaviours that we’re learning and developing through this challenging time, we can support our mental wellbeing and help reduce anxiety levels.
2. Recognise that we are all in transition
The only constant in life is change, however the changes that are occurring as a result of the coronavirus are unprecedented. We’re all reeling from the enormity of it. But as William Bridges said in his book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes: “It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions …change is situational … transition, on the other hand, is psychological.”
Transition is the process that people go through as they come to terms with the details of the new situation. The changes that have been made – remote working enforced, loss of health, education, freedom, families being parted and households being thrown together – have happened quickly. There hasn’t been any time for people to transition.
Coming to terms with what is happening is necessary. We have to let go of old ways and norms. The ‘in-limbo’ stage, the phase between the old reality and the new is upon us. The old is gone, or on hold, and the new way feels alien and uncomfortable.
The changes are happening with very little consultation, so we may feel afraid, in denial, angry, sad, guilty, frustrated, overwhelmed, disorientated and uncertain. These are all common responses and it’s important to understand that no one is alone in feeling this way. Here are six ways in which we can manage our reactions to this situation.
- Allow yourself to feel – and take stock of – all your feelings and emotions.
- Don’t minimise – you may feel guilty for feeling your situation is not as challenging as those of other people. It is hard for everyone, so ensure you acknowledge your situation. By doing so you can better identify ways to adapt.
- Keep a journal – recording your personal insights, thoughts and feelings is a well-documented way to relieve stress, boost your mind and can inspire you to think creatively.
- Practise healthy self-talk. Treat yourself with kindness. In times of feeling overwhelmed or stressed, ask yourself, ‘What would help me right now?’ and commit to prioritising yourself.
- Practise gratitude – list 10 things you are grateful for each day. This will help to ground you in the present and create balance.
- Communicate – with your partner/spouse, manager, family and friends. Let them know how are feeling and identify solutions together.
3. Recognise what you can control and what you can’t
When everything is feeling out of control, it’s important to recognise what is within your control and what isn’t; what you can influence and what you can’t. That way you can focus your time, energy and efforts efficiently. Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, shares the Circle of Influence model. This has been used in leadership development, coaching and therapy for many years. It is a model that will stand any professional in good stead and is a useful tool in anyone’s resilience armour.
4. Sharpen your saw
Life is a constant source of learning and growth opportunities. To continue to advance your career, it is important to have a growth mindset and embrace learning. How often do you ask questions in an effort to understand situations, people, opinions? How often do you take on new experiences and challenges? Do you embrace feedback and learn from your mistakes? The ability to learn new behaviours and skills, and unlearn unhelpful behaviours, habits and patterns, will make you more adaptable, marketable and successful.
5.Understand what makes you resilient
To thrive in your career and in life, you need resilience. Resilience is the ability to adapt and the capacity for change. If you think back over your career and life, one of the constant features will be change. The opposite of resilience is burnout. Burnout has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an occupational phenomenon. To avoid burnout, and develop your resilience, consider how you can:
- Be more present – develop your ability to stay in the moment, focus your attention and be calm.
- Manage your energy – energy can be physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. Be aware of what drains and what boosts your energy in these four areas. Aim to spend more time on the things that boost rather than drain.
- Understand your values and purpose – during times of uncertainty and change, our values can become misaligned and that makes us feel ‘out of sync’. Knowing and understanding your core values and purpose, how they play out, and how best to stay aligned when under stress, can enable you to make clearer decisions, be more confident and more driven. It will also make you more self-aware and adaptable, meaning you are less likely to burnout.
Career momentum means different things to different people, but we’re now being sent a stark reminder that health comes first. Working on your resilience and wellbeing during this uncertain time will help you maintain career momentum, and create new foundations for a happy and healthy treasury career.