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Jump Ahead of the Curve

Access Continuum’s COVID response toolkit for leaders, teams and organizations

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Many types of birds make annual migrations, necessary for their access to food and breeding grounds. The distance record for these massive survival journeys belongs to the arctic tern, who flies a wandering path of 40,000 or more miles roundtrip from the northern Arctic to Antarctica yearly.

Migrating through this time of COVID, and all the challenges it brings, can feel like the arctic terns’ adventures. We keep flying without really knowing when or where we might land.

This type of continual uncertainty breeds crisis fatigue.

I found out about long hauls when my sister and I cared for our mother during the final years of her life, after a diagnosis of advanced dementia. She was a wonderful person, even wonderful when she didn’t know where she was. And yet, day-by-day care for someone who could no longer remember to care for herself overwhelmed me at times with deep weariness and anger. I was beating my wings out over the ocean with no land in sight.

Rest, Refresh and Restore…Ultimately, That Is the Best Revenge    

During that time, there were practices I implemented and learnings that supported me along the journey.  My advice after multiple bouts with crisis fatigue in different seasons of my life: Remember that today’s crisis makes for tomorrow’s great stories to tell your grandchildren…but only if you survive it. I’m not talking here about just surviving the COVID virus but also living fully and being bounce-back resilient. My extended family laughs now over holiday dinners about things that happened when we were caring for my mother: the funny things she said, the strange hiding places where we found her jewelry tucked away, her certainty that her parents [long-dead] would be arriving for the weekend. She had a very full ninety-five years; we survived her final few and lived on to tell the tales.

I’m sure you’ve heard that old adage: “Success is the best revenge.” Getting through a crisis in good shape is a win over formidable circumstances. You take your revenge on lengthy emergencies by resting, refreshing and restoring. Even for the busiest of you, it’s possible. It’s even possible to have this be the most vibrant and vivid time of your life. The more you take care of yourself, as a leader and central player, the more you model that for those who watch you.

Try this. Take a moment to consider and apply:

  • When have you confronted some potentially debilitating crisis and come out the other side in good shape? How did you do it? What made the difference for you? How can you use that now?

  • Close your eyes and allow yourself to feel the sensation of being rested and refreshed. In your mind, where are you? What are you doing? Who’s with you? How might you access more of that?

I’ll leave you with a few refresh-and-restore options to add to what emerged from the questions above. They’re grouped by the amount of time you want to dedicate.

  • A Brief Refresh: Tiny Time Outs [1-5 minutes]
    Stopping, Breathing, Stretching, Sending Good Will, Feeling Gratitude, Calling Someone, Making a Music Minute, Standing Outside
    A simple starter. Let’s treat ourselves with as much compassion as we extend to others. Here’s a loving-kindness meditation from Sharon Salzberg to aim toward yourself or others in a breathing moment of repeated prayer:

    May I be safe.
    May I be happy.
    May I be strong.
    May I live with ease.

  • A Quick Reset to Elsewhere: Shift your Focus [20 minutes—half a day]
    Reading, Napping, Dancing, Walking, Cooking, Gardening, Contributing, Playing, Binge-watching
    What’s your personal elixir? I’m a long-time believer in escapism as a solution to overwhelming situations: disappear into a novel, film, design magazine, or baking show. Focusing ‘elsewhere’ allows us to reset. Things don’t seem quite so dire; ideas and decisions begin appearing. The ‘elsewhere’ also includes doing something for others.

  • Real Renewal: Visit Funsville [1 day - 1+ months]
    Camping, retreating, learning, exploring, redoing, virtual or actual traveling
    When I was a child, my dad would invite us to plan outings and vacations together, saying, “I’m for Funsville!” What’s Funsville for you? What could delight you?

The best revenge on crisis fatigue while we’re still flying through it: Unplug daily. Get some extra sleep. Do something you love. Remember to stay safe. It’s not over yet.

PS: If you are looking for a way to shift your focus, tune in and watch Winged Migration, the beautiful heart-filling documentary on global bird migration, or Migrating Birds: Scouts of Distant Worlds, both available online.

You might relate.

Sallie Lee is a consultant with Continuum. She has served as a thinking partner, facilitator, coach, and strategist for a global client base.