Regardless of the enterprise, be it a small business, a corporation, a government agency, or community-based organization, people look to their leaders for guidance in crisis regarding almost every aspect of their lives. People need clarity and direction, and above all, honesty. We are experiencing an unprecedented crisis as the extent of and response to this pandemic increases and changes daily. Below are a few guidelines for leaders in this time of uncertainty:
Lead by example.
You must take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Let your staff know what you are doing to care for yourself.
- Get adequate sleep
- Eat healthy - avoid sugar, processed foods, and animal fats. Fruits and vegetables are critical
- Limit alcohol and caffeine intake to one and at most two drinks a day
- See additional recommendations below
Be clear about what the plans are for your facility or business.
Be honest about what you don’t know. Let your staff know that current plans are fluid and subject to change.
- Hold a daily briefing - even if nothing has changed. Depending on your work culture, you could do this by conference call, video conferencing, email or text.
- Explain your reasons for the plans and actions you have taken.
- Include everyone (even those who have been laid off or furloughed). Maintaining connectedness is important for all. Laid off or furloughed employees are especially vulnerable to disconnection and fear.
Delegate, delegate, delegate.
- You are likely to have more on your plate than you can handle
- Trust your people more than ever - People will rise to the occasion
Take care of yourself and significant others.
Coping in the face of uncertainty
Disruptions and uncertainty during this event go beyond the disease itself. On the one hand, we may be worried about getting sick, especially if we or loved ones are more vulnerable to the virus (adults over age 60 or people with compromised immune systems). At the same time, the current pandemic has also caused school closures, job disruption, sports suspensions, expectations to work from home, and needs to isolate, all of which serve to make our lives even more uncertain. This incident also reveals causes of anxiety that exist in our communities regularly: lack of access to healthcare; financial need requiring you to keep working; or past experiences of trauma that left you feeling unsafe or out of control.
It is normal for people of all ages to feel worried, frustrated, or even angry, in the face of circumstances that change or feel uncontrollable. We would encourage you to discuss these questions with trusted friends, family members or colleagues:
- How am I feeling about the current situation?
- What fears, anxieties, or worries might be causing my emotions?
- How will the current situation impact my life and/or my family?
- What has helped me deal with stressful situations in the past, and how can I use them now?
Make a resiliency plan.
- Plan for the future, even a day or week at a time with the current situation in mind.
- Think about what you want to accomplish when all of this passes, for example, a vacation, more education, etc.
- Identify your strengths and how to use them to benefit others in your community.
- Identify what you can do now that may help your friends, family and community.
- Make plans with others to check in, talk, and do activities (even virtually) together.
The Dos and Don’ts: The Basics
Limit your exposure to the news. Despite the quick pace of the current situation, not much changes in a day. Know where to get accurate, reliable information like your local public health agency and Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment (website link here). Discuss what you have learned with family and friends; this helps us process events and maintain some perspective. Share accurate information with others in your networks who might be hard to reach or have difficulty understanding.
Be careful about blame. It is human nature to look for someone to blame in times of crisis. Unfortunately, this is rarely helpful and often leads to increased irritability and frustration. No group, race, or ethnicity has any responsibility for the pandemic. Treating others with kindness and respect is necessary for our ongoing community cohesion, health and safety. We are all in this together.
Recognize what you do control. Put your time and energy into affecting what you DO have control over to increase your mental and physical health.
Don’t panic buy - Buying things that we may use seems like a good idea, but buying large quantities limits access to supplies for others. Other people need to be able to wash their hands too, and 100 rolls of toilet paper will not keep you from getting sick.
Don’t use general social media for updates about the current situation. Social media contains a lot of inaccurate information and rumors that can often promote fear. Find your local and state public health social media channels.
Do frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Do clean surfaces in your home, and personal items such as cell phones, using regular household products.
Do continue to treat everyone with dignity, respect, and equity.
Do gather supplies you might want to have at home in case you are asked to stay home.
Do make plans about how to manage if someone becomes ill.
Do use your skills and resources to support others in your circle or community, for example:
- Help Colorado Now.
- Bring food and necessities to those who need to stay home.
Don’t be inactive.
Don’t overeat or undereat.
Don’t drink alcohol or use marijuana to excess.
Don’t use illicit drugs.
Do spend time getting fresh air and some sun. Go on a walk, Sit outside.
Do practice social distancing: avoid large social gatherings, maintain at least 6 feet of space between yourself and others to limit the spread of the virus.
Do exercise when possible. Find ways to release energy. Even short periods of time are beneficial for both your physical and mental health .
Do Sleep on a regular schedule. Aim for 8 hours a night.
Do yoga, Pilates, stretch, etc.
Don’t dwell too long on the ‘what ifs.'
Don’t spend time with people who blame others, catastrophize the situation, or make you feel stressed.
Do breathe deeply. Extra oxygen in the brain helps us to think more clearly and make rational decisions.
Do practice grounding (muscle relaxation, breathing, mindfulness, emotion regulation) to help self-soothe if you become overwhelmed or anxious.
Do contact a trusted friend, family member, clergy or therapist for support or to check-in.
Don’t leave the news on all day or continuously scroll through your phone for updates.
Don’t make decisions based only on the choices of others.
Don’t hoard masks. These are NOT helpful in preventing COVID-19.
Do make choices that are right for you and your loved ones.
Do know your potential health risks and the risks of those close to you.
Do maintain your routines (keep a schedule of meals, bedtime, exercise).
Do question the reality of concerns/fears and discuss them with trusted individuals.
Do stay home if you’re not feeling well.
Do know who to contact with questions.
Don’t cut off all connection from friends and loved ones.
Don’t spend much time alone on computer, phone or TV screens.
Do make plans to reach out to others: text, phone calls, email, social media, video conferences.
Do schedule parallel activities (watch a movie, cook the same meal, do the same exercise video) with others whom you cannot see face-to-face.
Do support others who are struggling.