Showing up the week after a crisis

One does not need training in psychology to know that the events that took place in KZN and Gauteng have been traumatic.

After a year of simmering COVID tension, the pot has boiled over and it has left us all feeling shaken, scared, angry and disillusioned.  For those living in the hotspots that were affected, the looting and rioting caught us off guard and for days on end we’ve stood through the day and night protecting our communities, our homes and our businesses.

Now the crisis has calmed and we are all expected to show up at work and pick up where we left off. Easier said than done. Don’t be surprised if you or your team are experiencing one, or more of the following post crisis symptons:

  • Negative thoughts and emotions.
  • Loss of interest in usual activities.
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping.
  • Hypervigilance.
  • Irritability and aggression.
  • Overthinking.
  • Avoiding talking about what has happened.
  • Self destructive behaviour – over eating, drinking too much.
  • Feelings detached from others.
  • Absence of positive emotions.
  • Exaggerated or startled responses.
  • Avoiding places and events.
  • Anger and blaming.
  • Disassociation – feeling like you are in a haze or not connected to reality.

Practical tips to help take care of yourself:

In a team setting, each team member could be experiencing a range of these emotions which in turn affects the collective. Now is not the time to ignore these emotions, but rather to engage with them, unpack what your team is experiencing, and develop a way to move forward in such a way that you look after each other as well as get the job done. In order to do that, here are three practical steps you can take.


Check in to see how your team is doing and give people a chance to connect. Extended periods of trial can certainly take a toll on our minds and bodies. Regrouping is something we need to do more regularly as live through these times. Connection and verbalising what one is feeling has a calming affect and will create the space for your team to ‘purge’ periodically.


Check in to discuss priorities and focus areas for the next few weeks. Whilst vision and strategy are business fundamentals, we need to keep in mind the limited emotional capacity people may be experiencing. With this in mind, choose milestones which need to be reached in the short term and aim for them. Keep your team focussed on those, and those alone, before raising your heads periodically to review the long term strategy.


Check in to assess what resources are required to support your team physically, mentally and emotionally. As we at Appletree always say, we are now far beyond the ‘leave your emotions at the door‘ approach to leadership. It is critical that we are clear on the resources and tools our people need in order to flourish and remain engaged. There is so much at our disposal, especially since we have navigated challenge and crisis for an extended period of time now.

Perhaps it’s time to consider the fact that change, uncertainty, and perhaps even crisis may become a more regular feature in all of our lives. It’s time to ensure that we equip ourselves, our teams and organisations to be able to navigate extended periods of stress. Together, we have what it takes to overcome.

Author: Sarah Shuttleworth

Image: Riccardo Annandale (Unsplash)

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