Margaret Moore's picture Submitted by Margaret Moore March 31, 2020 - 3:30pm

It’s not even the end of the first quarter of 2020, and we have already lived through three distinct times – before pandemic, pandemic awakening, and pandemic times.

Now that we find ourselves living in pandemic times, it's apparent that this extreme experience is new for everyone, everywhere. It is rough to witness the accelerating and cascading tragedy, risks, and uncertainty surrounding us. Tens of thousands of people are at death's door. Millions of people have lost their livelihoods. It's a full 360 degrees of losses - lives, livelihoods, lifestyles, and life savings.

Few people prepared themselves for these times. Beyond stocking up our pantries, we didn’t think much about taking courses on skills for pandemic times. We are winging it, finding and inventing our way forward together.

Here are my thoughts on pandemic skills for pandemic times, to fuel your exploration and conversations.

Immunity in Pandemic Times

It's interesting that we need to cultivate two kinds of healthy immunity simultaneously, to hang onto our physical and mental health.

The physical immune system needs to handle the infection and invasion of a fast-spreading, aggressive virus.
The second kind of immunity we need is the emotional immune system to deal with the rapid infection and spread of raw fear, anxiety, and worry.

Resilience in Pandemic Times

We need an upgrade in our approach to resilience. Way beyond coping well in normal times with adversity in one or two domains of life or work, we now need to bounce back from 360 degree adversity arriving all day long.

I often feel "whack a moled" - as if I was a board of toy moles in a "whack a mole" game. One part of me barely gets upright before getting knocked down by the COVID-19 mallet, then another part pops up and gets whacked, and then another part gets whacked; you know the feeling....

To whack back, it's important to gather the energy and resources needed to get up every morning, stay upright during tough days, and bounce back fast as new challenges emerge throughout the day.

Pandemic Mindset

I'm wondering about how to prop up our mindsets, inspired by the extraordinary healthcare workforce on the front line hampered by inadequate protection and equipment. What comes to mind is four core skills to be summoned and sustained daily: compassion, calm, strength, and purpose.

  • Compassion comes first because we are navigating a colossal amount of suffering. This situation requires a new kind of mindful breathing – we could call it pandemic breathing.

Breathing in connection - with everyone we know and don't know. We are all in this together.
Breathing out love, kindness and care for ourselves and our fellow human beings, some who are in harm’s way and others who are doing their best to avoid or prevent harm.
  • Being calm comes second, because we can’t focus, think straight, or make the right decisions and choices in each moment without calming a fearful, frenzied mind.

  • Being strong is being grounded in our inner and outer resources – resources gained from past adverse experiences, unique strengths we’ve cultivated, and support systems that we can lean on for a boost from time to time. Strength also comes from consciously and continually attending to the positive - harvesting the good things in our lives, all that we have to be grateful for, and all the possible upsides of this experience.

  • Being purposeful is last and important. Purposeful, productive activities and contribution makes us feel useful. We need an inner compass to give our activities direction, one that is deeply motivating. What is our vision for who we want to be in these times? What meaningful contribution do we want to make? What higher purpose does this experience serve? What can we do that we will be proud of when this phase is in the rearview mirror? What intention is important to bring to each moment?

Habits for Pandemic Times

These rough times call for new habits of mind and body that fuel and refuel, similar habits to those that foster well-being in better times, but with an upgrade to deal with extremes. Consider a few habit upgrades that foster pandemic well-being to improve your resilience and immunity to the virus and to pandemic fears. Engage in mindset habits of compassion, calm, strength, and purpose to keep moving forward.

Other nourishing habits to invest in (no surprises here) include mindfulness practices, plenty of exercise and nature “baths,” nourishing food and sleep, and zooming warm social connections and rich conversations. A little fun, humor and creativity go a long way too, like rapping about social isolation, or singing and playing music on balconies.

Leading in Pandemic Times

All of us, leaders included, are profoundly rattled by the incredible losses, risks and unknowns. Let's de-rattle to be role models, upright and moving forward every day. Let's model pandemic skills supporting pandemic-level immunity, resilience and well-being. Let's arrive as ready as we can for each moment - compassionate, calm, strong, and purposeful. And let's have some fun now and then.

Onward and upward.

Coach Meg