3 Tips for Surviving the Rollercoaster of COVID-19

Feel like you’re on a rollercoaster of emotions these days?  Yep, me too.  

When we are living out a well-ordered life full of routines, adjusting to a life that has no or new routines can be a challenge.  And living on top of our family members day in and day out with little to no break isn’t a walk in the park either. The newness of it can bring some enjoyment and much needed time to just be, then the next minute the newness can make you totally want to lose your ever-loving mind.  

For example, one day last week, I was riding a high, sitting in a comfy chair with a lovely view, reading a book while the baby napped on my chest and my older kids were playing outside.  The unique situation of having nowhere to be and the opportunity to read a book in the middle of a random Thursday was ideal. Five minutes later, my kids come running in screaming because one has dumped water all over the other one. They’d had just a little too much togetherness.  I get onto the one that has been mean, and he smarts his mouth off to me, and I totally lose it. A transition from sheer joy to sheer anger all in about sixty seconds. 

And work is no different from home when it comes to the see-saw of highs and lows. One minute I’m excited that our PPP loan is funded. Not five minutes later I’m dealing with the emotions from a long-time client wanting to cancel their contract with us due to the current situation.

My example pales in comparison to the highs and lows that front line healthcare and other works are dealing with.  The emotion of seeing a patient go home after four weeks on a ventilator to then go back into the ICU and lose a patient to the virus all in the same day is the real rollercoaster of these times. 

So how do we navigate the rollercoaster of emotions at home and at work? And as leaders, how do we help others do the same?  I think a video of my kids riding down a hill on their bikes for the first time is a metaphor for how we survive this all: 

1. Recognize and acknowledge the emotions you are feeling.  Name them and help others do the same.  As you can see in the video, the cream of our cookie, our middle child, takes off down the hill with no fear.  As her older brother waits his turn at the top he says, “I’m scared of that hill.” As crazy as it sounds, him just verbalizing this (which is hard for him to do) I believe was the step he needed to actually push off and go.   

I am scared, I am angry, I am happy.  I am all of these things at once. Asking people around you about how they are feeling and allowing them to verbalize their emotions to you can be the best leadership step in helping them tackle the hill.  Being vulnerable enough to express the emotions you yourself are feeling to others also sets a strong example and helps you work through being able to push off and go do the next right thing. 

2. Peddle fast to capitalize on the momentum of the hill.   I don’t know about you, but when I was young and would ride up and down hills, I’d coast down and enjoy the ride.  Thinking consciously or not I’d conserve my energy; I’d take a break from peddling. Which made it all the harder to get up the other side.

As you can see, my two take the exact opposite approach.  They are peddling their hearts out down the hill. When things look easy, or when emotions are positive and exhilarating, it’s time to peddle faster to prepare you for when things get hard.   

If you’re on the high side of the rollercoaster, write a positive note of encouragement to someone, do something you truly enjoy, write down what you’re grateful for, celebrate.  This will help provide the momentum needed to get up steep climbs of negative emotions and difficult situations that will come your way.

3. Recognize that we all deal with different situations and different points of the rollercoaster differently; don’t judge or condemn others or yourself for this.  The middle child had no fear getting started down the hill but listen to her scream as her brother is headed down the hill.  She’s screaming (and you’ll be able to see her if you look) because she was about halfway up the other side of the hill when she fell on her bike because she didn’t have the stamina to get up the other side. No fear going down, all screams going up.  Her brother was the opposite. He was scared to go down but had the stamina to make it up the other side. 

For too many reasons to count (both nature and nurture related) people deal with the exact same situations differently.  And from one day to the next a single person may react totally differently to the same thing on a Tuesday than they did on a Sunday.   Don’t be surprised by this and help people where they lack the courage to go down the hill or the stamina to get back up the other side.  Help yourself too by not beating yourself up when this happens. 

After about a week of tackling the hill, our middle gained the stamina to get all the way up on the other side.  She did because we offered her grace when she couldn’t at first by carrying her bike up to the top for her, then teaching her strategies to keep her momentum going, then offering her big words of encouragement as she was in the midst of getting to the top on her own. 

 

Tackling the peaks and valleys of the current situation with grace is the best we can ask of ourselves and of others.  When we acknowledge our emotions and those of others and help each other through the ups and downs, we walk away a little stronger, with a little more stamina to tackle the next set of peaks and valleys that will certainly come our way. 

How do you navigate the rollercoasters? 

 

Mary Ila Ward

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