It’s easy to say you want to be open and connected with others, that relationships are important to you. But what does that look like when COVID-19 has you huddling at home, not wanting to touch any surface contaminated by others? When you need to get groceries and the wipes are gone for the cart? When everything you touch means thinking about who else may have touched it? Even the act of touching your face (again, even though you’re trying not to) makes you want to wash your hands. “Open” and “connected” is only a theory until you test it in extreme circumstances like we’re seeing today.
Now is a rare opportunity to expand our choices, even though choices feel like they are contracting. It’s a rare opportunity to experiment with our well-being practices in a new way. More than ever, we have a chance to live into the values we hold dear to our heart. The practices that support us in good times most assuredly can support us in the bad.
We can draw on our character strengths to meet the changing and uncertain times. A Forbes article reported, “Stanford University found that ‘attitude certainty’ provides a type of psychological safety net that can help us keep fear in check in uncertain and turbulent times like these.”
We can practice loving-kindness. Research shows that this type of meditation increases vagal tone, which, in turn increases positive emotions and feelings of social connection. And you don’t even have to be face-to-face. You can practice this alone.
We can practice self-regulation through deep breathing, calming ourselves and others rather than increasing the stress response. This is self-leadership, and it combats the anxiety that comes from ambiguity. When our nervous system is calm, that spreads to others. People “catch” your calm, which is a lot better than “catching” your anxiety.
We can choose to appreciate the health and freedom we do have to counteract the feelings of restriction and dis-ease.
As leaders, we can look at the strengths in our organization that can help us collectively build resilience. We can rethink the new opportunities of virtual work, perhaps making progress on an initiative that has always been on the back burner. What’s ripe now, given the circumstances at hand?
I’ve been thinking about that for myself personally, and for Wholebeing Institute. What’s clear to me is that there is capacity to connect people virtually in an expanded way. We can isolate physically, while connecting virtually. Plans are underway—more to come.
What would make you proud in the future when you think about how you handled this pandemic? What would make you proud about how you lead yourself, and others?
For today, practice living into how you want to be.
As the co-founder of Wholebeing Institute, Megan McDonough leads with divergent thinking and creative perspectives to build organizations and networks that harness the best in people for the greatest good. She has decades of leadership experience in diverse settings, in roles ranging from Alliance Manager of a $300 million relationship at DuPont; to General Manager of RISE at Kripalu, the largest yoga retreat center in North America; to numerous online-learning startups. A yoga enthusiast, Megan has practiced for more than 20 years and taught for more than a decade, and brings that mindfulness practice to her leadership. Her degree in biology, natural science, and nuclear medicine has little to do with her current work, and everything to do with her radically receptive approach to life. She is the award-winning author of four books on living mindfully. Click here for a course listing.