How to master COVID19 personally (english version)

Here is the english version of my (somehow more formulated) manuscript of the speech I held in german at our Campus Session Time and in english for some colleagues of a global entity in english.* It’s based on an article about the current situation, the Covid19-pandemic and about what’s important in such a crisis.

I found the mentioned article Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure in the Chronicle. It is from Aisha S. Ahmad, an assistant professor in Canada/Toronto. She already experienced several crisis situations like war, violent conflict, poverty and confinement and I would like to share some of her insights with you combined with my own thoughts on the topic.

Why you should ignore all that coronavirus-inspired productivity pressure 

During the last weeks I myself observed my environment and in which different ways people in my environment deal with this situation. I can see reactions like „doesn’t affect me“, there are people not taking this seriously, I also took note of fear and heavy uncertainty, people doing frenzy of activities but also people behaving just like there was nothing different – they just go on like every other day, doing their job. I can witness anger and denial but also people trying something new, trying to develop new ideas how to handle this situation, I can see creativity emerging and even people helping other people …. all inclusive.

But what is a good mode to get along with this crisis?

In her article the author points out that she notices a lot of hustle and bustle right now, a kind of try to keep up normalcy. Everybody is doing some online courses, yoga challenges, this and that …. it looks like you just have to buckle down until everything gets back to normal. And there is this question when this will be over.

There is a quote from the article:

„Never … It will change the way we move, build, learn, and connect. There is simply no way that our lives will resume as if this had never happened.“

According to Ahmad it’s much more important to face a permanent change and prepare for it. Therefore she offers 3 steps about what to do in this situation and how to arrange with the conditions of crisis to get along as well as possible with it.

Step 1: Security  

Recently I listened to a broadcast and there was this sentence said:

„It’s ok not to be ok.“

This is not denial but sanity. It’s totally normal not to feel good right now. The first days and weeks in a crisis are crucial, so it’s really important to take care of your physical and psychological infrastructure and to focus on security. It’s necessary to build a safe and sustainable social system now, a small team with family and close friends to encourage and support each other. Also take care of those around you needing your help.

Ignore all that noise around you (FB, Twitter etc.). Focus on your physical and psychological safety. Make a plan how to manage your everyday life with the new conditions. Don’t think about what others make you think you HAVE to do or how you COULD spend your time in the best way. It’s not wise to be overactive now. Right now it’s much more important to build a new sustainable and safe foundation and find out how you can stand and bear this time of physical distance. Find out a good mode for you how to stand it for a longer time. 

What does it mean for us?
If I look around with that thought in mind …. there are families where there are suddenly kids at home everyday. Everyday life has to be organised in a completely new way. People doing homeoffice at the kitchen table, work in the basement … or there is someone in the family who can’t go on working because the employer has to close the company. There are family members working in health care, ill people in the family exposed to higher risks now. Normal activities were cancelled which usually bring emotional and psychological stability, activities with friends etc.

Additional pressure from the outside is not helping now, you need no „how you HAVE to behave and how you MUST use your time“. Instead of this building a secure infrastructure should be your highest priority now.

Step 2: Mental shift

When security is achieved you are ready to take over more challenging activities. Now you’re ready to get involved with the new conditions, now you’re able to regain a better performance also under given circumstances. 

But don’t be too eager to act like everything is normal. Before you start running, learn to walk in this situation. It’s not about being a high performer now but to focus on this change. 

There is a quote from the article:

Take your time. Let it distract you and change how you think and how you see the world.“ 

It’s a kind of human transformation. It’s not about more, faster and being busy – that’s denial and no acceptance. Denial decelerates the process of getting into acceptance. Let yourself in and be slow with this process. 

What does it mean for us?
At the beginning I thought I can go on doing my job as an Agile Master just the way I did before, just remote. Now I know: It is a difference, I have to look around, observe, see what works for me respectively my team, my colleagues and what doesn’t work. What can I do in a different way. How do I feel with that, what experiences do I make? How do I personally get along with this situation, did I find new structures and routines that work for me? 

Are there surprising things e.g. things which I thought to be very important for me aren’t important at all. Things I never really realized and appreciated as I took them for granted and which I’m now terribly missing? Things I’m now so happy and grateful for? 

The last months before the lockdown I’ve been totally busy with several activities, nice ones and voluntarily and I also had many plans for those weeks now. When this „coronatime“ started in the first place I thought OH MY GOD! – I can’t do any of this now! But after several weeks which have been totally uneventful compared to my plans I really learned to appreciate this and no longer grumble on it. I’m trying to find alternatives for those activities really important for me, conversations with friends via Skype, FaceTime and suddenly notice that I talk more often to people living far away. Asking myself why I didn’t do this before. I really closely observe what works for me and what does not work.

We need new routines. 

Usually I go to work and back home by foot to calm down. As I can’t do this any longer now after work I grab my husband and we have a walk or go running in the nearby forrest to cover this need. I also put all my working stuff aside during lunch and after work so I doesn’t disctract me in my free time. 

A Colleague likes to travel just like I do and hardly ever used her terrace in the past. Now she told me she started make it nice and cosy to have a good compensation for not traveling. Of course she’s lucky having a terrace now. 

Looking on step 2 there is one important thing to say: It’s ok if that doesn’t work smoothly. We don’t need perfection now, perfectionism isn’t helping now. It never really is but right now it’s not helping at all.

It’s ok not to be ok.

I have a friend. He’s usually the always optimistic guy, I only know him this way. He has a small kid. When I talked to him lately and ask how he is it was the first time he said: ”With a little kid it’s not ok right now.“

It’s not realistic that everything goes on like it was before. It’s necessary to find new routines and a new everyday life. You need new routines which you can somehow keep on a daily basis. Instead of trying to be perfect it’s much more important to find easy ways to keep up positive energy – also with kids! E.g. medtitation is a great practice to reduce stress –  even in a minute if there is not more time for it.

Step 3: Embrace a new normal POSTIT

When security is achieved, when this mental shift is done then the situation starts feeling more normal again and change is accepted. Now it’s the time for new ideas, now it’s possible to try and create something new. And no sooner than this!

We’re not here. We’re not at step 3. May be the one or the other is here in some certain areas. But not all in total as this journey, this change is an individual one. And the personal situation of all of us is a completely individual one. Right now we’re not far enough to embrace a new normal as we’re still occupied with building a new and secure infrastructure and do this mental shift. We’re busy finding out what still works for us and what broke down in our lives.

There is a quote from the article:

Understand that this is a marathon. If you sprint at the beginning you will vomit on your shoes by the end of the month.“

Accept that this marathon will take a while, followed by a slow recovery afterwards. Nobody knows how long it will take. Right now we’re just at the beginning and the world already has significantly changed. So it’s really necessary for all of us to build a new baseline, a new infrastructure and find a mode we can keep at least as good as possible for a while.

What does it mean for us?
At the end of this pandemic we won’t go on again like nothing has happened. We won’t work like we did in the past. Working remote for example will become much more normal so it’s necessary to deal with that, find good ideas. I myself denied that for a long time, I didn’t want to work remote, I wanted to be in close contact with those people in my team, with those I work together with. Now I accepted that a more intense discussion about this question is necessary. That’s for example the reason why we started to adapt our onsite events to remote versions. And in the end that’s also the reason why I do talk to you today.

What conclusions can we draw out of this?

At the beginning of this session I said „It’s ok not to be ok.“

It’s important to understand that everybody is on his/her own journey and also in his/her own speed  with own challenges. Those have to be overcome without being distracted from all the noise around you. It’ s ok if there’s a shitty day, it’s ok to struggle. Everybody goes through those phases – each situation is an individual one.

I’d like you to understand and accept this.
Build a new infrastructure – this is a marathon, not a sprint.

How to master COVID19 personally (english version)


* During my speech I had several questions to the audience which I dismissed here in this article for a better readibility.

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