Help! Staying Productive during COVID-19

I made a brave decision 2 months ago – quit my steady full-time job to start my own business as a consultant, facilitator and coach. I knew things would be tight and challenging, but figured I could make it through.

And then COVID-19.

People tend to be uncomfortable about gathering to learn with an epidemic literally floating around. And personal growth tends to be low on the agenda when people are thinking about survival. So, what now?

And then I remembered a talk I had heard by Henry Cloud, who helped walk some stock-brokers through the Wall Street Crash of 2007 and 2008.

People can get into a downward spiral of negative thinking and pessimism that short-cuts creative, problem-solving, thinking. This downward spiral can be described by the 3 P’s:

1. Personal – as humans, we have a tendency to take negative news or set-backs personally. Thoughts like: – Why did I have to leave my job 2 months ago? – These things always happen to me… – What do I have to say to people in a crisis like this…

2. Pervasive – the next step in the downward spiral is that these thoughts tend to become pervasive. This is not just a lack of a skill set or strategy in one situation, or an unproductive day as I navigate unknown space, but the real problem is me. – Do I have what it takes to get through this? – Do I have what it takes? The personal question becomes about one’s whole life, and doubt is cast over your whole person. The negativity about a single situation becomes pervasive.

3. Permanent – The next step in the downward spiral is that our thinking about our situation becomes permanent. – These things always happen to me. – We were just recovering from 2019 and now COVID-19 hits us. What’s next? – Life will always be this way…” or at least, “my life will always be this way…” But there is a solution. This is a mindset problem, and, in fixing the mindset, we unlock the ability to re-engage in problem-solving thinking.

There are also 3 steps:

1. Write down your thinking. Take it from a vague, ominous sense floating around the back of your head to concrete words on a page. And then dispute it. Ask the statement on the page questions to test its validity.

2. Be absolutely clear about what you can control and what you can’t. Put down everything you are worried about it one of those two columns. And then focus on what you can control. Be ruthless about focusing on it. This increases your internal locus of control, and psychologists affirm this is one of the biggest factors in helping people grow through crises.

3. Connect with people (while maintaining social distancing!) Being social creatures, connection with others has great ability to reduce stress and dissipate anxiety. Proactive conversations help us stay out of the spiral and move us forward. I wish you all the best as you lead yourself out of fear, into proactive space as each of us chooses how best to navigate this next season.

Written by Gary Blair.

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