Kindness is Not Just for Crisis

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How do we keep going when we're not sure what's next? ADP's Business Anthropologist recommends you start by being gentle with yourself, connect with others, and find ritual and comfort in the everyday simple parts of life.

The world has changed quickly. None of us has experience going through a global pandemic. We are still grappling with all the change and things we don't know. It can feel overwhelming, scary, and sad. Many of us are just plain tired.

How do we navigate through crisis and uncertainty? When I am trying to sort out big questions like this, I call Martha Bird, ADP's Business Anthropologist, for some insight and wisdom.

Q: When everything feels upside down, we're woolly brained and distracted, and nothing is "normal," what can we do to keep going?

MB: We are all walking into the unknown, and no matter what we wish would happen, there is no way to know right now.

When things feel crazy, it's good to connect to the simple everyday parts of our lives. We can return to mundanity. Find a rhythm to your day that you can retrace. Build in micro-rituals that you do at the same time every day: coffee, a walk, time blocks for work and projects. Use meals as punctuation. Find time for personal reflection whenever possible.

Trying to recreate your old schedule is unrealistic when suddenly you are also in charge of daycare, pet care, homeschooling, and cooking, all while hiding in the closet to find a quiet place for a conference call.

Organizing daily milestones will help things feel less chaotic and give you some sense of what to expect. Design your time and your day in a way that works for you. This reduces stress by restoring what I'd call "the ordering impulse of ritual."

Q: Many of us are grieving all the things that aren't the same and all the things we can't do right now. And we are sad and scared for the people we know dealing with a life-threatening illness. We worry about the people we know who have COVID-19 and our friends and family who are healthcare and other essential workers. It seems like grief is underneath almost everything.

MB: It is. And grief can be exhausting. So, rest is critical.

When grief feels like a wall, don't look at the whole rock face, find the little footholds and grips as you go along. Break things down into micro-movements. Go at a slower tempo.

Grief is not something to avoid or get over. Grief is a form of love and care. After my mom passed, a friend who is a hospice chaplain told me, "Grief is love with no place to go." Once you embrace that, you can see you are not just sad, you need an outlet for your love. Sometimes a small twist of the dial can help us see things differently.

There is loss in all change, even the change we want. It's okay. Instead of fighting it or trying to hurry through it, know that it's part of the landscape. Rest, find an outlet for the love, then move forward in little steps.

Q: Our ability to connect and socialize has changed as we all stay home. What are some ways to deal with the isolation and loneliness?

MB: We are beginning to understand how interconnected we truly are as we stay separate to protect each other. Just because we can't spend time in the same room, we still need to be together in the same time.

Friends and family are our anchor points. Connecting is essential to help us feel a sense of normalcy. Be vulnerable. Talk about how you are feeling and doing. Everyone is struggling with anxiety and change. It helps to know we're not alone.

It's also good to just accept that there are a lot of things that we can't control right now. Giving our time and energy to circumstances we can't change or fix can be draining. Practice letting go and staying in today.

When we can see past our fear, then there is room for laughter, love, and joy with the people we care about. It may be a crisis, but we need to connect and have fun too.

Q: What are some ways we can find joy and hope?

In difficulty there is always an opportunity to view ourselves and the world around us differently. It doesn't have to be overwhelming and alienating. It can be embracing and inclusive. It can invite curiosity and fresh ways of seeing things.

I find hope in nature and in the understanding that we are all part of this world and something bigger than ourselves (or our fears).

I find joy in seeing acts of compassion and kindness as we help each other through. Smiling at strangers, sharing resources, having patience, and being gentle with ourselves and each other develops our emotional muscles for compassion. We see that we're all connected and that we each matter. I am hopeful that we will come through this with an understanding that kindness is not just for crisis – that we might be more fit for purpose as fellows in the human family.

More from Martha Bird: The Social Presence of Physical Distance

Related Resources

Protecting your workforce and understanding policies as your organization responds to COVID-19; see available webcasts here.

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