C-Suite Agenda

A More Adaptive Way of Coping in Times of Uncertainty

Let’s be clear. The CEOs are relied upon and are the back bone of their companies. We observe this concept with Amazon. Jeff Bezos is its CEO and president. As he has been the world’s richest person since 2017, he was named the richest man in modern history after his net worth increased to $150 billion in July 2018. Even in the belly of COVID-19, Bezos is hiring for an additional 75,000 jobs.

I believe every CEO wishes for a business model like Amazon’s. It’s unfortunate though that nowadays far too many would show a different outcome. According to Market Watch, it took 30 days to lose all of the 22.3 million jobs gained over the last 10 years due to COVID-19.

When CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck reports that the Neiman Marcus veteran brand is hard on the heels of bankruptcy with options to sell businesses and close some stores, there’s an unprecedented problem and no one has yet come up with the answer.

If you are somehow indicated in these Market Watch’s stats, although you can’t change the situation, you can change how you respond to it.  I urge you to start by giving your attention to what you have in your power to manage because the way you show up in times of chaos is the way you will show up everywhere.

In my last article I told you that it’s our mindset, not our circumstances, that carry more weight. In challenges times, practicing both inside the mind and out in the world makes a huge difference. You can become aware of your coping style and if needed then develop a more adaptive way of coping by doing these.

Observe your thoughts. Get away to a quiet place to notice your thoughts specifically about your ability to cope with your situation. Intrusion thoughts will keep coming back to bother you to dwell on them. The more you try not to think of something different, the more you end up thinking of it. For example, has the thought “There is nothing I can do” crossed your mind? Write down as many thoughts as you’ve had about your ability to deal with your current challenge.

Observe your coping thoughts. People deal with difficult situations in different ways. Differentiate between your helpful and unhelpful styles of coping and thoughts.

  • If you’re actively coping, you are taking responsibility, looking for options and try to take charge of both the situation and your emotions as much as possible. You’re thinking along these lines: “What can I do to make things better or what can I learn from this?”
  • With surrender coping thoughts, you let go of what you can’t control and simultaneously take responsibility for what’s in your control. As you understand what you’re doing is no longer working, you’re questioning: “Am I investing my energy in the best place?”
  • If you are coping passively, although there may be things you can do to change things or deal with your emotions, you probably aren’t taking on this responsibility. Instead your maladaptive coping thought is, “There’s nothing I can do or I don’t have what it takes to deal with this.”
  • Over control coping is when you overestimate the effect of your actions. You probably see the writing on the wall but will stubbornly ignore it. Again, your maladaptive coping thought is, “I must succeed no matter the costs or I must push myself harder; I have a reputation to protect.”

Observe the value in your coping style. Thinking back on how you’ve been affected by COVID—19, determine whether or not the maladaptive thoughts were of value to you. Do you or don’t you believe that thinking this way will help you deal effectively with your challenges, either by changing the situation itself or how you feel about it?

Observe more helpful alternative thoughts. For those thoughts that you identified as not helpful, you can build resilience by reframing these thoughts into more helpful, adaptive thoughts. For example, if your thinking was along the lines of there’s nothing you can do, begin reframing these kinds of thoughts with, “This is merely a learning opportunity for me to pivot in a new direction.”

CEOs who can cope with a stressful event can master, minimize, or tolerate the stress that is associated with it.

We can’t see into the future and don’t know when this present crisis will lift. What we do know is this, with a more adaptive way of coping, we can manage the demands of it and those to come.


Written by Dr. Deana Murphy. Have you read?

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Deana Murphy, Ph.D.
Deana Murphy is author of The Lead2Flourish Effect (2021), a leadership performance strategist, applied psychology practitioner and a CEO-executive coach specializing in executive performance wellbeing. Deana Murphy is founder of DecisionLab Global and an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.