Can’t We Just Move on Already?
Sigmund Freud once observed, “Unexpressed emotions will never die.
They are buried alive and they will come forth later in uglier ways.”
To say that Covid-19 and its fallout rocked our world is undeniable. While some individuals discovered innovative ways to maximize their potential in such unprecedented times, for most, the changes that came with COVID-19 were difficult and unending. Lives were turned upside down and negative emotions were rampant everywhere. They were experienced in the workplace, social gatherings, grocery stores, and even in our homes.
The impact of the pandemic world stirred deep negative emotions. A pervasive sense of powerlessness was evident as massive layoffs occurred and businesses shut down. Other strong emotions like fear and loneliness attacked our mental health. According to Statista, indications of anxiety and depressive disorders in the USA rose a whopping 30% in the first year of the pandemic alone. And according to Statistics Canada, depressive and anxiety disorders increased by 5% in 25 to 44 age group in just six months.1
Fear, particularly of the many unknowns that accompany change, infected all aspects of our lives with questions about health, finances, what to believe, and the security of the supply chain for even basic amenities. And many of those fears aren’t quelled yet!
Unfortunately, it is so often difficult to express or share intense emotions, especially when we don’t know what the response will be. Do others feel overwhelmed as well, or is it just me? Such thoughts only serve to intensify the pent-up emotions and the severity of the stress induced by the covid fallout.
So take an honest look around—in your social groups, at your family gatherings, within the workplace. Have things returned to normal, or to the new norm as it was labeled? Or are we just trying to ignore all those negative emotions—to bury them? If you notice fear, stress, powerlessness, or other negative emotions of this post covid world seeping out at home or in the workplace, perhaps it’s time to let them surface!
A Way Forward
Unforeseen change aroused these emotions; mindful change will be needed to defuse them and move forward. Mindful change can come by reengaging positive behaviours we buried with our covid anger and adopting more productive ways to manage the fallout. But it all starts by acknowledging that the fallout is still here.
The way forward will vary for individuals, as well as employers. The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, wisely said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
A wise first step in our journey forward is sincere self-examination. Whether for ourselves or as managers, ask the tough questions necessary to identify lingering covid anger symptoms and our personal or corporate reaction to them.
Are we triggered by fear? If so, of what? By loneliness? By loss of control?
How do we react – by lashing out? By blaming others? By gaslighting? 2
By internalizing the emotions and sinking into anxiety and depression?
A second step is to gain an understanding of our current capacity. Take an inventory of stress management strengths and weaknesses—our own and our teams. Gather a broad perspective with feedback from employees, colleagues, managers and even clients.
The Entegrys Resiliency Inventory profile can help you gather this information. Just sign up or login to purchase the type of assessment you want. You’ll then find the Resiliency profile under the Specialty family of profiles in our job library.
A third step is to create a plan to grow our stress management capacity—to leverage strengths and build capacity in skills that need to be developed. These might include communication, handling conflict, and adaptability. Be sure to also include strategies in your plan to reduce stress both personally and corporately.
- Personal strategies
Personal strategies might begin with developing awareness of our internal responses—our thoughts, emotions and even body posture. These are our signals to proceed, to shift gears or to outright change direction. Some strategies to help us slow down or change direction might include deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, as well as cultivating a healthy lifestyle of adequate rest, a nutritious diet and proper exercise.
- Management strategies
Some strategies employers and managers could implement to rebuild capacity in the workplace include introducing regular mental health breaks—exercise, nutritious snacks, team dialogue—and maintaining an open-door policy to staff. The best strategies for your workplace will come from your staff themselves. Open a safe, honest dialogue with them to really hear their concerns, identify pressing needs, and gather ideas for meeting these needs.
The last step, of course, is to implement our plan. This step will take courage and commitment. Only then will we begin to transform the lingering emotions into a positive mindset and productive behaviours.
Let’s take this first step now!
“In the United States, the average share of adults reporting symptoms indicative of an anxiety or depressive disorder rose from 11 percent in 2019 to over 41 percent by the beginning of 2021. “
https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210927/dq210927a-eng.htm “Among the age group 25 to 44, the proportion screening positive for major depressive disorder increased from 18% in fall 2020 to 23% in spring 2021 and the proportion screening positive for generalized anxiety disorder increased from 15% to 20%.”
2 Undermining another person’s reality by denying facts, the environment around them, or their feelings.