If the 24/7 news cycle before the coronavirus wasn’t stressful enough, it certainly is now. Seemingly every news outlet, both traditional and online, is filled with a steady stream of bleak and depressing news. If you’re not careful, you can easily fall down the rabbit hole of staring at your computer or smart phone screen all day and stressing yourself out like a long-tailed cat trapped at a rocking chair contest. As credit union leaders, we must avoid getting trapped in the negative vortex.
Outbreaks such as the coronavirus are definitely stressors. In fact, the CDC notes that symptoms of stress during such a pandemic can include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Certainly, none of these are good for you, your credit union staff or your members. While we may have limited control over the nature of the news every day, how we react to the stress is another matter. Consider the following three ways to help change coronavirus stress into positives.
Stay Positive and Real. Please note the purposeful combination of positive and real. We can’t act like nothing is wrong. By the same token, we shouldn’t act or live like there’s nothing good (more on that below). Your staff must exhibit a positive tone and image (for each other and for members). Positivity is a previous (and rare) commodity these days. While acknowledging the very real suffering and loss due to coronavirus, we can still choose to keep a positive outlook. It’s all about our mental perspective and attitude. Remember, what you feed is what you grow. If you feed fear and negativity, that will grow. If you feed hope and optimism, that will grow. Quiz your staff about what they are feeding and use it as a springboard to discuss the importance of daily positivity. Change stress into a positive by feeding hope and optimism, for your teammates and members.
Realize there are good things happening. Don’t lose sight of that. You may have to dig a little, but it’s out there. Again, too much exposure to the daily news cycle can make this difficult, so limit your exposure to some degree. Rather, look for the good. Spring is upon us, with all its beauty and rebirth. Many of us now have more time with family. Take time to focus on the good, even if it’s something as simple as tending your flowers or playing a family board game with your children instead of watching the news. There are even designated “good news” sources out there that can help. During meetings (in person and/or remote) ask your staff about what good things are happening in their lives and pivot that into a deeper-level discussion on how they can do the same for members. Change stress into a positive by purposefully looking for the good out there.
Remember, there will be a celebration. The coronavirus scenario will come to an end. We may not know exactly when, but we can rest assured it will end. When faced with an enormous challenge, people can help alleviate stress by focusing on the end-game and celebration. Think of the characters in your favorite book or movie (examples include The Lord of the Rings, The Avengers saga, Star Wars, heck, even National Lampoon’s Vacation). Each features a band of fighters united by blood or bond, up against a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. In the end, by sticking together, encouraging and lifting each other up, and remembering the reason they started their quest, they triumphed and celebrated (even if they did have to punch a smart aleck robotic moose in the mouth to get there). Remind your staff they are fighting together as teammates towards a shared goal and that these difficult times will indeed pass. You can even ask what they plan to do in the post-coronavirus world (i.e.; resumed vacation plans, reuniting with family and friends, returning to favorite restaurants, etc.). Change stress into a positive by focusing on the coming celebration.
There’s no doubt, to use the common vernacular nowadays, these are “uncertain and challenging” times. If we’re not careful, we can let the stress of the situation overwhelm us. This approach doesn’t help anyone or anything, including you, your staff, brand, culture and members. Shift your mindset to the positive and take a different approach on dealing with coronavirus-related stress. Your psyche (and members) will thank you.