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Post-Pandemic, Social Unrest, and Politics – Business as (UN)usual

Coping in the new world

As the world slowly emerges from the grips of the global pandemic, I find myself sitting in my office with a need to speak with several colleagues and staff members. I remember a time when all it took was to pick up the phone and call them or in the case of staff members, walking over to their desks. For many of us, that ability has not been available for over 18 months. And for some of us, that option is now part of history, the “I remember when” days.

Nothing will be the same from here on. There is a proverb that states “change is the only constant”. As a change agent, I specialize in helping individuals (personally and professionally), teams, and entire organizations navigate change. Yet, I remind myself that sometimes change is hard, frustrating, and unbelievably slow. When we reflect on the events of the past year and a half, the changes that we’ve experienced were not planned, scheduled, or anticipated. As human beings experiencing such abrupt changes as businesses and schools shutting down, the inability to travel and see family and friends, weddings and celebrations thwarted, and being advised to remain in our homes, created a sense of “lack of control.” Resulting in people feeling angry, isolated, and stressed.

Over the last year, (1) the Covid-19 pandemic, (2) the social unrest resulting from the entire world witnessing the murders of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and (3) the ongoing political unrest including the January 6th Insurrection, greatly impacted how we work and socialize. Current research studies in the U.S., Europe, and Asia have discovered in real-time how we are collectively coping with these unprecedented worldwide events. The results are not surprising. These events have exacerbated stress and imposed isolation eliciting a rise in mental health issues. Nationally and internationally, there is a renewed focus on well-being and mental health. Experts have warned that a “psychological pandemic” follows such traumatic disruptions. Everyone is suffering, some of us more than others. We aren’t used to this much attention around mental health.

On top of all that, we are pushed and pulled in all directions by people of influence trying to forward their agenda. The late Senator Daniel Monyihan once said, “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, just not their own facts.” It seems as though that is no longer the case. Even with the sophisticated technology being used to fact check, some people are still creating, believing, and convincing others that their “facts” are accurate in the face of evidence to the contrary, a concept known as “confirmation bias” in Inclusion training. Nevertheless, it poses serious damaging barriers to our becoming “one nation.”

How do we cope?

We can start by acknowledging that there's a lot that we don't have control over. We then implement some practices that will help minimize the emotional toll that these situations have imposed on us and perhaps consider one or all of the following:

  • take a break from the news and social media

  • try to view both sides of situations before determining what you agree or disagree with

  • connect or (re)connect with meaningful relationships

  • find healthy ways to cope with stress

  • make sure we are getting the proper amount of rest for our bodies

We cannot self-improve our way out of the current health and social crisis. Many of us are going through trauma and significant stressors on a global scale. Recognizing and admitting that feeling overwhelmed or challenged is part of being human. We must be kind and compassionate to ourselves and others in the midst of the most dramatic change and shift in our country and world. This may be easier said than done and requires a change in behavior to accomplish. As we work to feel better, remember to stay connected and support others. When you encounter others who are angry, short-tempered, and/or downright rude, recall the construction signs on roads under repair and “GIVE’EM a BRAKE!”

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