by Lou Russell

November 01, 2021

No Day is the Same

 

Can I have a Break? 

 

OK, I’ve been patient with COVID, but it’s wearing on me. How about you? I should be happy - our family is healthy and vaccinated, and none of us has anything to worry about. I’d like to believe that we’ll be ‘back to normal’ soon, but it’s clear that tomorrow’s news will likely pivot again.

 

Going on two years ago, I was leaving a wonderful customer gig in NYC. I was sure this virus thing would blow over quickly. Fast forward to 2021. I’ve gone through the adjustments – masks, temperatures, etc. – with flying colors. Still, there is a small and quiet part of me that is still petrified every day.

 

This week I traveled to Las Vegas for The Learning Guild conference to speak on “Realistic Project Management.” The Guild was first in line to be the brave organization to hold a face-to-face conference again. I admit I was anxious and full of doubt...What if I can’t do it anymore? What if I’ve forgotten? What if the L&D community with its amazing ability to develop new ways of learning is past what I can do? This is called awful-lizing and creates even more anxiety.

 

There was an excellent keynote speaker named John Medina which helped me think through my fear. There’s good news and bad news. The first thing to think about is that CHANGE like we are currently going through (Yes, all of us...) is a normal human experience that is controlled by your brain. Even though it’s really good at it, the brain hates change. Pre-COVID we were emotionally able to work more of this out with real people. Now-COVID is lonely and has forgotten how to react socially with others. The muscle must be regrown.

 

Consider the facts from John:

  • Work at being face-to-face as much as possible to keep lines of communication open.
  • Note that you may find at first that you feel farther away from people that you have had contact with previously.
  • When you are remote (e. g. Zoom), you may tend to degrade in social graces than when you talk face to face.
  • With the help of your angry brain, you may criticize others and not realize that you are doing the exact same things (fundamental attribution error)
  • And, most devastating, 1/3 of all people in the US (roughly 25% of the workforce) know someone who died from COVID
  • Think of ‘at least' one special person in your life.
  • Relationships degrade as connection degrades.

 

Stress and Grief are also involved in this process. Here are some examples of your emotions:

  • You feel less in control, perhaps out of control.
  • You lose connection to long-term memories and thoughts thanks to your flight, flight, and freeze brain creating blind spots and memory loss.
  • You are unable to build new patterns of thought.

 

Grief is important.

 

You must stop and process, and it also takes a long time for things to be less hurt. There are three levels of severity of grief, although each individual is very unique:

 

Uncomplicated Grief

symptoms: mourning, loss, sadness

4-6 months

Complicated / Stuck Grief

deep sadness, unable to reach out

6+ months

Disenfranchised

gives up

2 years or more

 

If you have children in school, the speaker emphasized that students are grieving. They will likely struggle to do the work and it is critical to be gentle and patient to be sure you don’t increase the struggle. Their grieving is also impacting their intelligence and ability to problem-solve. What is obvious to you is...what is obvious to you. No two people have the same experiences.

 

What can you do?

  1. Manage your expectations of others and yourself; take time off
  2. Practice “Social-cide” to help you help others
  3. Write letters of gratitude to people: 300 words or less, and read them out loud to the other
  4. Think about three things that went well today each day for one week. Notice how that feels.
  5. Seek first to listen to others and practice asking about the needs of others (less about you)
  6. After ZOOM sessions, ‘rust off’. Scientists say that this creates better impulse control, especially if you are helping others as well.

 

My presentation went pretty well (of course, now I want to change it all...), and I’m recognizing and working on my change, stress, and grief. My brain is still reptilian. It was great to hear that everyone I talked to felt the same way. Sometimes I can’t remember what road I should be on, or forget the one thing I needed at the grocery after I drive home. The Reptilian brain is still protecting me.

 

Be kind to yourself.

 

Lou Russell

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