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                                                Feeling Awful
Greetings dear friends & welcome to my world again this week. Following on from my comments last week on working smarter, in the early stages of the Pandemic back in March / April, most of us used our ‘surge capacity’ to cope. Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems, mental & physical. We humans draw on for this short term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. [1]
However, natural disasters typically occur over a short period, even if the recovery from the disaster is long. Pandemics are different ~ the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely. The reaction of people to the re-emergence of Covid-19 in the community when we all thought the Pandemic was over in New Zealand has demonstrated many of us have used up our surge capacity.
Whilst the phrase “adjusting to the new normal”, has been repeated endlessly since March, adjusting is easier said than done. How do you adjust to where the new “normal” is an indefinite uncertainty?
I have been associated with the insurance industry most of my working career, & from my brief experience this pandemic is different from a flood or hurricane where you can see the damage. The pandemic damage is for most people, invisible & ongoing. So much is not working ‘normally’ right now; hospitality, public transport, events & travel, just to name a few.
We may be underestimating how severe the adversity is, & people may be experiencing a normal reaction to a pretty sever & ongoing disaster. Research on disaster & trauma focuses primarily on what is helpful for people during the recovery period, however I suspect we are nowhere near close to recovery yet.
People can use their surge capacity for acute periods, however when dire circumstances drag on you have to adapt in a different style of coping. It is important to recognise normality in times of great uncertainty & chronic stress to get exhausted, to feel ups & downs, & to feel you are depleted, or experience periods of burnout.
As leaders, many of us are lifelong overachievers, & accordingly we are accustomed to solving problems, getting things done, having a routine & moving forward. These have been hard to do for the last six months. Feelings of hopelessness & helplessness can occur, especially where we have to place our trust in “experts”, who at times may seem to struggle themselves to get it right.
We are a solution based culture & right now we have a pandemic which has no apparent solution. It means we have an ambiguous loss, one which is unclear & has no resolution. Normal loss processing does not work. Currently we have a loss of our way of life, & when we do eventually get something back, it is uncertain we will not lose it again. It is not death, but it is a major, major loss.
Whilst there is not a handbook or manual for functioning during a pandemic, here is some wisdom for getting our way thru this:

  • Accept life is different right now ~ acceptance does not mean giving up, it means not resisting or fighting reality so you can apply your energy more positively elsewhere.
  • Expect less from yourself ~ we need to replenish ourselves more.
  • Recognize different aspects of grief ~ depression is obvious, but acceptance sometimes means having a good time despite this. It can also mean accepting we cannot change the situation right now.
  • Focus on maintaining & strengthening important relationships ~ the biggest aid in facing adversity & building resilience is social support & remaining connected to people. This includes helping others, even when we are feeling depleted ourselves.
  • Begin slowly rebuilding your surge capacity ~ build into our lives regular practices promoting resilience & provide a fall-back when life gets tough.  [2]
Recognising this is a pandemic means we must adapt strategies to replenish our surge capacity to help ourselves & others on the journey.
I hope my comments each week are helpful dear readers; & again, provide just an opinion, from my world. Thank you for taking the time to be with me, I hope my journey may encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson, with my best wishes.
[1] Tara Haelle is a science journalist, public speaker & author of Vaccination Investigation & the informed parent.
[2] Richard Foulkes @ BNI

Kenn Butler
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