Author: Emily Manley, Career & Interview Coach

It is very easy at the moment to feel that the world seems particularly complicated and somewhat bleak. As people bunker down and plan for weeks of isolation, and businesses prepare to reduce or stop operations, it is interesting to see how our community reacts.  2020 has been a standout for all the wrong reasons so far.  We saw incredible solidarity and generosity through the bushfire crisis, but I can’t help but feel that the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing out the worst in some of us. Watching footage of people scrambling to beat others to the last supplies of groceries, pushing and elbowing others out of the way, not seemingly considering those who may need it more – had me feeling pretty disheartened about the state of humanity.

I began to ponder, is it easier for people to stand in solidarity and be generous to others when they aren’t directly or personally affected by the event? Does sympathy come more easily than empathy? Perhaps this is why it seems to be each person for themselves at the moment. I felt despondent on the realization that this may be what it ultimately comes down to, that we value our own comfort and convenience over that of our fellow human’s, no matter the cost. Has sacrifice become a pill that is just too hard to swallow in our modern way of living?

As the gravity and enormity of the COVID-19 crisis started to reveal itself, these attitudes became more acute.  People are scared. And fear is a survival mechanism. It triggers flight or fight – and people were fighting. Literally fighting, in the aisles of supermarkets. Social media became a minefield of outrage and judgement. It was a terrifying depiction of how collective fear and anxiety could cripple a community.

It is important to recognize that there are equal numbers of people contributing to the community in caring, generous and supportive ways and we are reminded of the old Fred Rogers quote “in times of crisis, look for the helpers. There will always be helpers”.

We all have a responsibility – to our families, the health workers and the community to look after ourselves, to look after others (however we can by distance) and to find some moments of optimism. Don’t get me wrong, I have had many moments of feeling sad, angry, hopeless and disappointed over these past weeks. I can see how easy it would be to get stuck there. This crisis is simply too big and too devastating to fully process and digest. However, if you stay in these thoughts too long or dwell on the magnitude of the impact of this on individuals, families, businesses and our country – we will end up in a permanent state of overwhelm, fear and anxiety.  Staying on that thought train is not sustainable. That’s not to say we should put our head in the sand, it is important to keep informed and to flex our empathy and compassion muscles outside of our own bubble, but I have learned to be careful with how I am turning to the media or scrolling social feeds.

I’d often thought parenting was the greatest of levellers, but perhaps it is, in fact, an unprecedented pandemic? We all feel lost, we all feel vulnerable, we all feel some level of anxiety. So much of how we will be able to deal with this situation will come down to our mindset. So, during these weeks and months of lock-down, what will your mindset be?  Are you going to let yourself get stuck in sadness, anger, judgement and negativity, or will you make the most of being forced to slow down and enjoy having time to stop to smell the sanitiser?

Here are some of the things we are doing during this time:

  • Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t – this is a situation where individually, we can make a real difference to how well we fight this formidable virus. There is great purpose and power in that. We can’t control the prevention or cure of the virus (unless we are scientists, epidemiologists or health workers who are all doing pheromonal work towards this for us). We can’t control other people either. Most people will do the right thing, but there is always going to be a small percentage who won’t.  But what we can do is control our own behaviour, choices and attitudes and how we choose to spend these hours and days at home.
  • Crying is cathartic, do it as often as you need – many people are spruiking the mantra “stay positive” at the moment, and I think that it is true we need to maintain some positivity to ensure that we top up our much-needed resilience stores so that we are equipped for the road ahead. However, I feel it is dangerous to not also acknowledge the negative feelings. If we don’t acknowledge the fear, grief, anxiety, worry and disappointment that we are all feeling, there is a danger that these feelings will reveal themselves in other ways – poor sleep, substance abuse, mood swings and deterioration of mental health. We need to let ourselves feel all the emotions, but try not to dwell there. Crying is cleansing. The release is necessary.
  • Use the time to think about what you really value –most growth and transformation occurs from the most difficult of experiences. I know many people are deeply thinking about their priorities at the moment. We all know this crisis is going to irrevocably change how we live and what we decide is important to us. Whether that be what we spend our money on, what job we do, how often we go out, where we live and how we want to spend our time. Whilst many things have been lost over the past weeks – lives, jobs, security, freedom to name a few – one thing that we have been afforded more of that we have all (until now) complained there is never enough of – is time. Time to be, time to reflect, time to chill, time to process thoughts and feelings and time to slow the manic pace of modern life right down. Will we ever go back?!
  • Find small things each day to be thankful for – yes it’s cliché, but it works. Look for the small things that you are grateful for in each day. It could be the smell of a cake in the oven, your child’s giggle, a cuddle with your dog, a phone call with a friend or the sun on your face as you go for your daily walk. It is important to keep the humour alive as well. Laughing does wonders. I had a good laugh yesterday when I noticed my daughter was on a virtual play date and they were showing each other their hand sanitisers and describing the scent. Only in a Covid world!

What we are doing at Relaunch Me

Here at Relaunch me, we continue to support our clients who are facing unemployment or anxiety about the future. We launched our podcast a few months ago in the hope that it will provide people with the opportunity to hear some inspiring career change stories and enable them to learn about different career areas. You can subscribe through your favourite podcast app here.