27 September 2023

Doing time: Staying together in the ‘new normal’

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May Busch believes the pandemic has sorted out the ‘cats’ — people who are happy being left alone — from the ‘puppies’, who crave company.

Even in the best of times, change is hard.

Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic is throwing rapid and continuous change at us on all fronts.

With all this change and uncertainty, it’s no wonder so many of us feel exhausted.

Worse yet, no one knows how long this situation might last and what life will be like when we emerge from this crisis.

So I sent an email to my community asking about the biggest challenge people are facing in this new environment when it comes to their work, job or career.

I did this because I’m looking for ways to support people in this time of challenge and need.

It seemed sensible to start by finding out what people are facing.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the readers who’ve shared their stories and biggest challenges. Thank you. I’ve read each and every one of them.

I’d like to share my biggest overall takeaway so far which is that we are all facing challenges right now and we all need support.

Even those who have enough toilet paper and canned foods to survive Armageddon have struggles.

For example, some families are living in cramped apartments without access to fresh air, while others are living alone and feeling isolated.

Airline and restaurant employees wonder if they’ll have jobs to go back to, while healthcare workers are working overtime and risking their lives to do their jobs.

In my case, I run a business where a significant portion of our revenues are from in-person workshops and events.

In a matter of weeks, they’ve all been postponed or cancelled — rightfully so — and a large chunk of our income has suddenly dried up.

My challenge right now is to make sure I can keep supporting my awesome team financially and emotionally.

The weight of responsibility I feel toward my team has never been greater.

This leads to another challenge: Managing my ownmental state so I can think straight, be creative, come through for my team, and serve my community.

So if you’re feeling anxious, stressed, worried, fearful or uncertain right now, especially if you’re the leader that others are looking to for stability, I understand.

I want to reassure you that you are not alone.

Feeling alone is especially damaging because when it comes to our basic human needs, belonging is right at or near the top of the list.

While social distancing keeps you physically isolated and apart from others, it doesn’t mean you are alone in the world with no help or interaction with people.

The key is to stay connected with other people.

There are so many ways to do that, but what matters is finding those ways that help you to feel connected and not alone.

We’re all different in terms of social needs.

Or as my daughter said last week, some of us are like cats (perfectly happy being left alone) while others are more like puppies (wanting to play and be part of the pack).

For those of us who are more ‘puppy’-like (or know people who are), think about how to join in or take the initiative to reach out to others.

It could be a short email, text message or call to see how they’re doing.

Or it could be setting up a virtual book club that meets via video conference call.

See if you can get the interaction you need while respecting the boundaries of those who are ‘cats’.

In these times, social media can be a great tool for connecting.

Like participating in a viral social media challenge; setting up a WhatsApp chat group or having a daily 10-minute FaceTime or Zoom call with friends to lift each other up.

For the ‘cats’, it’s recognising when the ‘puppies’ in your life need a little more connection with you and being generous while still getting time for yourself.

Since ‘cats’ need human connection too, don’t neglect your ‘cat’ friends and colleagues as they’re less likely to reach out to you.

Whatever challenges you’re facing, the key is to stay connected to others.

Use whatever channels you have and embrace the technologies that help you reach out to others.

That could be video, phone calls, text message, social media, email or even good old snail mail.

When you do reach out to connect, show empathy and compassion.

While our immediate challenges may be different, we’re all in this situation together.

How are you staying (safely) connected with people?

*May Busch’s mission is to help leaders and their organisations achieve their full potential. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared on May’s blogsite.

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