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Creating True Wellness During Pandemic

Reports of a mysterious pneumonia first emerged from China on December 31, 2019. Within a few short weeks, this mysterious virus earned its own name and began taking the world by storm. As the virus cast its shadow over one country after another, our ways living, working, and recreating changed abruptly and dramatically.

At first, this newfound territory was a bit of a blessing: No more morning hustle to get to school and work on time. No more commute. No more weeknights and weekends on the road shuttling kids from soccer to baseball to piano lessons. More time at home with our families. And we were “all in it together” as we found our way in this “new normal.”

No Normal in the New Normal

But then one week working from home became two and three. Now, the projections are that this situation could last until May, June, August, or even longer. And while some of us struggle to keep our jobs or businesses alive, others are bombarded with work as colleagues fall ill, our businesses experience a surge in demand, or we go into overdrive as we scramble to remain competitive.

At home, with no childcare help for young children and online schooling presenting hiccups for older children, balancing work and childrearing is more challenging than ever. Limited recreation options mean shrinking opportunities to burn off steam. And while we love our families, we never expected to be together around the clock day in, day out, with no end in sight. Furthermore, the isolation and monotony that social distancing and stay-at-home mandates bring only deepen the sense of disorientation and being off-balance.

In short, beyond the morbidity and mortality statistics that receive the most press these days, the story that has received less attention is that we are all deeply affected by how this pandemic is affecting our personal wellbeing, our relationships, and our effectiveness.

While we might have been winging it—and even winging it successfully—the first week or two, with no end in sight to this situation, it is time to figure out a sustainable way to find a sense of balance, wellness, and productivity in these most unusual of times.

The Secret to Finding Our Way

To figure out how to do this, I talked with seven top executives of medium to large organizations who have been juggling demanding global leadership roles with equally full personal and family lives—all while working fully or partially at home. Based on these conversations, I realized that the secret is something called interrole facilitation, where what we do in one aspect of life (e.g., at work) improves how we function in another aspect of our lives (e.g., at home). In other words, when we feel good at work, we feel better at home. When we are intentional about taking care of our personal needs, we do better at work and at home too.

More importantly, I discovered strategies to do this. While some strategies include predictability of work schedule and having few distractions (which few of us can claim right now), other strategies we can and must do, even in the midst of a pandemic—like taking stock of our personal needs and preferred working styles and doing what we can to honor those. While it takes a little planning and discipline, the benefits are more time, more energy, and a more positive mood.

Creating Your Own Normal

By taking stock of the specific conditions you are facing and thinking about the work behaviors, social behaviors, and self-care behaviors you need to respond to them, you too can enhance your sense of wellbeing, efficacy or effectiveness, and connection.

Step 1: Define your own version of success

Although wellbeing, efficacy, and connection are basic human needs, what that looks like is different for everyone. For example, while one person might need to get out in nature each day, another might need indoor daily quiet meditation time. While you might need daily socializing (however you can get it), someone else might need true solitude (an equally difficult task when entire households are home 24/7). To figure out what you need, consider these questions:

  • What do you need to feel whole and well—not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
  • What level of performance do you need to achieve daily or weekly to feel effective?
  • Who do you want to connect with, how much, and in what ways? How much “me” time do you need, and what does that look like?

Step 2: Plan and Act

Next, plan clear actions to create the types of wellbeing, connection, and effectiveness you need. Do you need to create an exercise routine? Do you need to set expectations with those around you regarding your workday? Do you need to deliberately reach out to certain others? Outline a specific schedule or project plan, with the specific actions you will take and the days and times you will take action. Ask for help where you need it. Then carry out the plan.

Step 3: Evaluate and Adjust

After a few days or a week of carrying out your plan, evaluate how things are going. How closely were you able to stick to your plan? What went well, and how did you feel when that happened? What happened when things didn’t go to plan? What contingency plans could you create to help get back on track when unexpected conditions and challenges threaten your balance?

The Way Forward

Although we have found ourselves almost overnight in this strange new world, with a little reflection and deliberate action, we can regain some control over our day-to-day lives. It is only through caring for and assuring our own wellbeing, efficacy, and connection that we will best sustain our holistic health, which will ultimately help us restore ourselves, our organizations, and our world to true wellness.

Written by Bethany D. Jones. Have you read?

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Bethany D. Jones
Bethany D. Jones is the Pacific-West Senior Regional HR Partner at the International Rescue Committee. She helps companies and employees maximize their potential and achieve excellence in contemporary boundaryless work contexts. Bethany D. Jones is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.