Emotional Agility after Crisis and Disruption
Yesterday morning before fully awake, I looked out my kitchen window while grinding coffee beans upon a beautiful normal world until I remembered our situation. Then I felt as if there was a transparent shield in the sky surrounding my neighborhood, like in the movie The Truman Show. The shield is making me stay in my house – or six feet away from people, if I do go out. Argh!!! I felt so trapped. I was frustrated, then angry. I threw my fists into the air to try to break through the shield.
My anger turned to sadness and I let the tears and sobs come. After a couple moments of fully feeling my sadness and self-pity, an insight popped up with a new emotion of optimism. I laughed when I realized I can connect with anyone and appear inches away, thanks to the miracle of the internet. It’s in my power to use it to experience more connections!
How have you been riding your waves of emotion? Have you been constantly exhausted, pressing on without stopping, as this crisis demands of you? Or have you been numbing out, settling into a daily routine of WFH followed by Netflix and alcohol? The change management classic Who Moved My Cheese highlights the emotional difficulties inherent in most people confronting fundamental changes in their lives. That book can easily represent our primal cry as our comfortable world has been disrupted by changes beyond our control.
In the story, Hem and Haw react emotionally to the loss of their “cheese” and stay stuck in the crisis. They feel confusion, doubt and pessimism about finding more cheese and resentment and despair that their happy lifestyle has been taken from them. Their fear of the unknown keeps them digging unproductively in Cheese Station C’s concrete walls for cheese instead of opening their minds to explore new possibilities outside the walls. Hem becomes paralyzed in fear. Being paralyzed in an emotion is an oxymoron: when people are paralyzed by an emotion, they are often actually paralyzed by their avoidance of feeling that emotion fully.
What? Why would you want to let yourself feel the discomfort of fear? Because fully allowing yourself to feel an upsetting emotion releases its hold on you. If you feel the emotion instead of resisting it, it can no longer control you.
Haw was stuck in his fear initially. He eventually let himself feel his fear more deeply which helped him move through it. Then he moved to a hopeful, positive vision: to find cheese and to survive.
The social, economic and personal losses each of us is experiencing during this pandemic is truly unprecedented for all of us. I’ve been feeling the loss of physical connection. Feeling my anger and sadness about it helps me move through to optimism and hope.
I’ll still feel many difficult emotions from the loss of physical connection and other losses before the pandemic is over. I’ve learned that noticing them and expressing them for myself instead of avoiding them helps me move through them more quickly, which clears the way for more hopeful and positive emotions.
How are you dealing with the disruptions from the pandemic, the isolation of working from home, and the fear of uncertainty? If you’re a leader or HR professional, do you know how your employees are dealing with their emotions?
According to a Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) 4/20/20 survey, 65 percent of employers said maintaining employee morale right now is a challenge. Thirty-five percent of employers are grappling with changes in employee productivity.
How can you – and your employees – develop more emotional agility to ride the roller coaster of emotions brought on by this pandemic and its impacts? How can you develop the ability to feel difficult emotions, which will accelerate your access to hope and creativity needed during this time?
The NNHRA webinar “Cultivate Emotional Agility After Disruption and Crisis” on Apr. 29 will provide practical steps for building emotional ability for yourself and your organization. Register to attend in person or get the recording.