Coping with uncertainty in times of crisis
Updated: Feb 25
Everyone is posting how to guides on how to best cope with the current social distancing measures and forced working from home. So I thought I'd throw my view into the mix, after all we have time for reading ....
When things kicked off a month ago in my birth town, Codogno, my high school friend, patient one, was taken to hospital and on that same day my mother and father who live there now, where locked into confinement. I’ve been living in anxiety since then, one of the first to be impacted in Europe. Luckily they are fine, but that can’t be said for so many of our local community who have succumbed to the invisible monster.
My brain has been on overload and I have been in a constant state of anxiety, which at times gets so severe that it makes it impossible to do anything else other than worry. Juggling between defending the P&L in times of recession, keeping the team busy and motivated, whilst looking to the future trying to reinvent our business model. All of this hoping that neither myself nor my family get infected. It's a lot, for anyone.
So I've developed a mantra, I call it BRAVE because that is the single most important thing we must all do: be BRAVE, perhaps it’ll come in handy to you too:
Especially in times of uncertainty, when the present and future are unclear, I find it crucial to focus on the now. Some of my hippy friends call it mindfulness! I’ve never really thought about mindfulness and meditation seriously, always too busy to catch a breath. But over the past month, I have forced myself to slow down. And when I get caught in the anxiety trap I put my hands to work and DO something. I then sit down and describe the action in as much detail as possible. It helps, writing for me is a form of mindfulness. Put your brain somewhere neutral and focus on a small task in detail, it will make the world stop, for a moment at least.
To keep the brain busy and stop the anxiety freeze, I’m reading three types of literature:
Scientific papers or papers published by reputable and informed scientific organisations that only deal with facts about the Covid-19, un-emotional facts. Sensationalism and bad-taste-meme's drive me mad, so I've switched off Facebook and I'll soon come off Linkedin.
History, because this is not the first time a plague happens and it won't be the last. I am listening to a brilliant Audio Book The Little History of Economics, it helps me contextualise things and learn about how others have overcome challenges before us.
Agatha Christie, just finished re-reading Death on the Nile, nothing better than a good old classic whodunnit to switch the mind into pause mode.
Right so this is a slightly trickier one. I have spent the best part of my life in the absolute belief that my present and future are in my hands and that I can make anything happen if I put my mind to it. Well that is no longer true ( it never has been mind you ), we’ve been thrown into a reality where we can't control anything, our health first of all is at risk. And God only knows what will happen to our jobs and daily lives. So there is nothing else to do other than to accept that we are not in control, accept it with optimism. Things will get better.
Whilst we are all worried sick and glued to the TV, life goes on. So I’ve decided to embrace the virtual world, in two ways:
Firstly by using technology to connect with my work colleagues, family and long lost friends, trying to keep a daily routine that is as close to reality as possible.
Secondly by exploring art through virtual reality tours like this one of the Sistine Chapel, spectacular. I can’t wait to go there, when we come out of this.
Now is the time to evolve, the time to change our perspective, our ideas for the future and the way we live. This experience should serve as a break to reality, if we use it well it will give us space to imagine our lives in a different way, and hoping that the economy won’t collapse, perhaps now is the time to think about a new job or a new career. Whatever it is that you never had the time to consider. Now is the time to stop, because we are forced to and because we desperately need it. Stop, evolve the thinking.