By Professor Lynda Holt MA, RGN, DipHE, CPBP, FinstLM, FRSA, CEO, Health Service 360 (www.healthservice360.co.uk)
In terms of human behaviour, even global crises like the pandemic follow a predictable pattern. First there is the acute crisis, where no one yet fully understands what’s happening, but they step up and do whatever it takes. Then comes the messy middle bit, we’ve accepted the crisis – but the end is not yet clear. Finally, we get to resolution; the crisis has abated and, critically, we have made peace with what has happened and our role in it.
As far as the Covid-19 is concerned we are some way off that. We may have moved into a less threatening place with the virus itself, but levels of anxiety and stress pose a significant risk across the care sector. As we navigate this journey from the messy middle towards resolution, leaders and managers are tasked with spotting the signs of stress and distress, providing support and rebuilding team resilience, often at the same time as dealing with their own exhaustion and recovery.
We are human, we are not untouched by all we have seen and experienced through the pandemic, nor should we be – it is this very humanness, or connectedness, that provides our road map out of this.
Our individual roads to resolution may vary, but we’ll navigate some similar terrains, and we may need to view some familiar landmarks from a different perspective to get to our destinations. Take a look at these landmarks.
Pay attention to your environment:
It might sound obvious, but when we are in familiar terrain, like our workplace or with people we know, it can be easy to stop noticing and to take for granted what we expect to see, to drown out familiar sounds, or even whole conversations.
To some extent, this helps reduce overwhelm, enables us to create patterns and habits which help with emotional overload and stress; but it also means we miss the early warning signs – the bumps in the road that suggest a bigger problem may be looming. This applies both to yourself and to spotting stress and distress in those around you.
Pay attention to how you feel:
While we usually know better, many of us in caring professions think we can run on an empty tank despite the flashing warning lights, and to be fair we usually judder and splutter to our destination, sometimes in a less than optimal way.
When we pay attention to refuelling and maintenance we can usually travel further and often have a little more in the tank for those unexpected detours, hold ups and difficult terrains.
Paying attention to how you feel includes understanding what, or who, fills your tank and what drains it – this way you can plan your journey make sure you are putting in more than you take out – most of the time, and stay within a manageable range.
Pay attention to what you focus on:
One of the biggest challenges to resilience is where we put our focus, whether that be things that empower, connect and enable us, or whether that be things that build anxiety and stress. When you survey the terrain, the hazards and the distance you may need to travel it can feel daunting. As humans we tend to run scenarios, rerun things that have already happened as we process and make sense of our experiences – this is great if our internal dialog is helpful, but often it is not!
When you notice your inner talk, you can do something about it if you need to – choose to focus on the stuff within your control, the next step in your journey, your own attitude and behaviour, the things you can directly impact. This is one of the best ways of building your own resilience.
Pay attention to how you show up:
You have complete control over your own attitude and behaviour, try to be consistent, choose kindness and connection – it is better for your own well-being.
When people trust you, anxiety reduces, they are more honest and open because they feel safe, and they are more likely to follow you on a healing journey.
Pay attention to the wins:
In the end, the road to resolution is one of connectedness, of understanding ourselves and our contributions, and making sense of the things outside of our control. For sure we have some challenging terrain ahead, but we also have a lot of shared purpose, a lot of small and not so small wins that make up our contribution. Make time to acknowledge and celebrate those wins.
Finally, as you navigate the terrain, include enough stops for you and your people so everyone gets enough refuelling and maintenance to keep them on the road.