We find ourselves facing challenge after challenge as we move through this global crisis – and each successive challenge threatens to add to the compounding anxiety and worry many of us are feeling. How will I balance work and childcare if schools remain closed when I go back to work? How will we afford our payments if I am laid off? How will I find a new job in a down economy? Will things ever go back to “normal?”
While we don’t have all of the answers right now, we can take comfort in the fact that we’re all trying to figure out how to move forward and what to do. There is no textbook for navigating change, but fortunately, there are a variety of resources available to help us keep anxiety at bay and continue moving forward.
Quieting the fear
We all adapt to crises in our own way, at our own speed. The origin of the word crisis means “to sift,” which reminds us that we’re in the midst of change, waiting for all of the excesses to fall away so we can begin anew. As we begin to discuss a “return to normal,” it’s becoming clear that things will be different. Like any major life event, things don’t simply go back to how they were; instead, something new emerges.
The exact future is uncertain, but we can use what we know and the skills we’ve developed already to take power back into our hands and help shape the future. Now that we have adjusted to the initial crisis, we’re looking toward the future, which can feel overwhelming. In these moments, it’s time to take stock of what you have control over and leave the unknowns to sift until the next steps become more transparent.
Take time to identify the things you can change and the things that are out of your control. Recognize the irrational fears and what-ifs, and consciously set them aside as best you can. Then you can focus your attention on what you can control and start moving in that direction.
Moving forward through uncertainty
Once you identify what you can and can’t control, you can leverage the resources available to tackle the things you can. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. You’re in good company, as everyone around the globe is navigating a similar sense of uncertainty.
Consider the following approaches to help you keep moving forward through uncertainty:
1. Communicate with your team
As the world shifts, new challenges naturally arise. Maybe workplaces reopen, but childcare does not. Perhaps public spaces reopen, but you’re afraid to risk exposure. Don’t wait to raise these issues with your team. Maintain open lines of communication as the situation evolves. Many leaders are listening and looking for new ideas, so don’t be afraid to propose solutions and be an active participant in shaping your workplace's future. If you’re not sure how to adapt to different individuals' needs, seek out organizations designed to help.
For example, organizations like Circle In and Kunik provide resources to support working parents during this time. According to Circle In, “creating a community for parents within the organization is a powerful initiative. In times like these, they need it more than ever because we’re all figuring out how best to proceed, and sometimes the best answers come from within. This doesn't have to be a massive undertaking, simply creating a channel for working parents can offer an internal support group.”
2. Strengthen your relationships
Now is the time to strengthen your relationships and bolster your sense of community. Networking isn’t just exchanging business cards, it’s about making meaningful connections with the people around you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your extended network via LinkedIn or Slack channels and connect with others experiencing similar challenges. It could be as simple as checking in and acknowledging their struggle, but it might also blossom into a meaningful partnership that shapes your future.
These relationships also provide an opportunity to give back to those in your community. According to SEEK, “while it can be hard in times of uncertainty, giving yourself back some purpose in your life through community engagement can be very rewarding and meaningful.”
3. Adjust your goals
The crisis likely puts your long-term goals on hold. Consider how your original goals can be adapted to the short-term. Focus on skills and step-by-step goals – this could be as simple as getting through the day or as aggressive as learning a new language. Set goals that help you regain a sense of control. It doesn’t have to be career-oriented; personal goals can help make each day feel like you’re progressing toward something larger.
According to Employment Hero, “Setting goals to work towards creates a sense of direction and groundedness. Don’t be afraid to reevaluate your goals regularly; many of the goals you had at the beginning of the year may no longer be applicable. Though this can be disappointing, it’s important to be honest with yourself so you can adjust them and keep moving forward.”
4. Think outside the box
While we all face unique challenges, there is an opportunity to share solutions and ideas with peers and leaders. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but engage with others experiencing similar challenges and build on each other’s approaches. It may take you slightly outside of your comfort zone, but it could be the key to helping you overcome a seemingly insurmountable hurdle.
You don’t have to have 20 years of work experience to come up with creative, new ideas. Everybody is starting from the same position as we adapt to this changing world, so experience is less important than insight and ability. Speak up and get involved in planning for the future. “As a leader, now is the time to look around your organization for the people you don’t normally call on,” says Cameron Welter, Principal at Kotter. “You’ll be amazed by all the hidden talent and ideas within your organization – and what they can do when given permission to try.”
As a leader, now is the time to look around your organization for the people you don’t normally call on. You’ll be amazed by all the hidden talent and ideas within your organization – and what they can do when given permission to try.
— Cameron WelterPrincipal at Kotter
5. Invest in self-learning and development
What careers will be important in this new world? Use this time to skill yourself up for the next wave. If you have the capacity, take time to invest in your own development. Always wanted to learn a language? In this increasingly globalized world, now is a perfect time. Interested in coding? As we become more reliant on technology, this will continue to be extremely valuable. This will help you stay oriented to the things you can control and give you a leg up as the world continues to evolve.
It’s hard enough right now to simply get through each day, but you play a valuable role in shaping the future. It can be as simple as discussing your challenges with your manager or as proactive as upskilling yourself for the future. Whatever you do, give yourself credit, patience, and understanding as you continue moving forward at your own pace.
It’s never easy to silence the fears and stressors that seem all-present during these times, but taking the reins back one step at a time will help you quiet fear and shape a new world.