COVID-19 has spread around the world at lightning speed since it emerged at the tail end of 2019 in Wuhan, China. Due to the pandemic, and the impact it’s having on businesses, last week I offered a free, online masterclass for entrepreneurs.
I wanted to teach them how to deal constructively with a crisis and how to build their resilience. Having had over twenty-two years of business experience, including business turnaround and recovery, I wanted to ensure other entrepreneurs could move forward and survive.
Now, I want to add to this, and in order to do that, I need to:
- Raise your awareness of what happens during a crisis and periods of stress.
- Reduce the emotional infection and the impact the spreading of stress, fear, panic, and worry is having on you.
- Get you emotionally strong, and thinking clearly, so you can survive (if not thrive) during this time.
- Share some useful resources that will help you.
I firmly believe that as long as we work together with care, consideration, and compassion, the faster we’ll rise from COVID-19.
Right now, we have an opportunity to test and build our mental, physical and emotional health. As most of us in lockdowns, or self-isolating, I believe that as a society we now have a chance to reset and reinvent better ways of being and doing things.
COVID-19 is a wakeup call and opportunity — it’s a time to heal and amend.
It calls for humanity and technology to work together seamlessly. It yearns to bring out the best in people — poise, kindness, compassion, care, altruism, connectivity, creativity, laughter and above all — love. And it gently whispers for you to show up in the world, in the way you want the world to show up for you. Just as Gandhi said,
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
And that’s why COVID-19 is a prime time for you to take stock of your mental, emotional, and physical self-care. You see, the healthier you are, the healthier you’ll stay. And the more able you are, the more able you are to create, serve and positively impact the world.
“Self-care is world care.”
With that in mind, please share this COVID-19 Crisis Survival Kit with others who might find it helpful, and if you want to contact me to find out how we can work together, please contact me.
What Happens During a Crisis?
OK, let’s start with the definition of a crisis and look how to manage the stress, anxiety and rapid change — the journey— you’ll go through as COVID-19 plays out.
The definition of a crisis is…
- A time of intense difficulty or danger.
- A time when a difficult or important decision must be made.
- The turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death.
I like to think of a crisis as being a positive turning point. Whilst it threatens to take something vital from you — your loved one/s, income (job, contract or business), home, health, peace of mind, etc. — it also brings with it, opportunities. A crisis highlights weaknesses and it opens the door to necessary changes and new beginnings.
Regardless of what’s at stake, though, you must remember that this time of crisis will pass…
“Suffering is temporary. Endurance is permanent.”
A crisis has a flow, and as one develops, you’ll discover it has five stages:
- Denial: the problem isn’t that bad.
- Containment: keeping the matter quiet or passing-the-buck.
- Shame-mongering: allocating blame, self-defence.
- Blood on the floor: who is going to pay?
- Fixing: history shows us time and time again that a crisis almost always gives way to something better and that’s why a crisis primarily serves to show where the system is weak.
And, as rapid change occurs, it’s useful to know about another process — the Change Curve.
The Change Curve was based on a model originally developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to explain the grieving process. However, since then it’s mostly been used as a method to help people understand their reactions to significant change or upheaval.
A stressful situation — whether it’s a pandemic like COVID-19, an impeding work deadline or worrying about losing your income — can trigger an onslaught of stress hormones that produce physiological changes like a pounding heart, rapid breathing, muscles tensing and sweating. It can also trigger psychological responses that make you feel anxiety. And as this happens, your focus will shift to broader concerns, diminishing your attention to smaller tasks.
This combination of reactions to stress is also known as the fight, flight, freeze response (F3). And it’s a survival mechanism that exists in mammals to help them react quickly to life-threatening situations.
So, what Is fight, flight, or freeze?
The term fight- flight- freeze was devised in the 1920s by a physiologist named Walter Cannon when he described an acute stress response. Cannon argued that your beliefs determined the fight-flight-freeze response. This meant that if you believed you could conquer the danger then your body would jump into fight mode. But if you believed that there was no hope of overcoming the danger, then you would run from it.
From my experience, I’ve found that only when you recognise each type of response can you find a way to make better choices. So, let’s identify them.
Fight: you’re in danger but believe you can overcome the threat.
- You cry
- Your body language is hostile. Your fists might be tight, your jaw tense, or you may grind your teeth, glare at people, use anger in your voice is angry, or your stomach may be in knots.
- You feel intense anger or like you want to punch or kick someone or something, kill someone or even yourself or go after the source of the danger.
Flight: you know you can’t defeat the danger, so you’ll run or hide.
- Your legs are restless
- You feel numbness in your extremities
- Your eyes dilate and dart around
- You constantly move your legs and feet
- You’re fidgety
- You’re tense
- You feel trapped
- You exercise excessively
Freeze: you feel stuck as you believe flight or fight won’t result in a successful outcome.
- You feel cold or numb in your body
- You feel stiff or heavy
- You procrastinate or get super busy with work
- You feel yourself tolerating the stress
- You have a sense of dread
No matter how you respond, please understand that you are going through the first stage of stress.
Let’s look at all of the stages of stress.
Stage 1: Alarm. The moment you first feel stressed, your body sounds the alarm and increases the activity in your thyroid and adrenal glands. With an increase in stress hormones, you may notice other physiological reactions like your heart rate and blood pressure. You may even experience a decrease in short-term memory, and feelings of stress, fear, anxiety and depression. Or, a short-term boost to your mental focus. But, how you respond isn’t that important. What is, is returning your stress levels to normal as soon as you can after. If you don’t, the second stage will kick in.
Stage 2: Resistance. This involves the physiological and psychological attempt to adapt to and overcome the effects of the stress. This is good if the stress settles, but if it doesn’t then the stress hormone cortisol will continue to be produced and result in poor sleep, increased illness, anxiety, weight gain, and poor cognitive functioning. This is dangerous for it can lead to the third stage.
Stage 3: Exhaustion. Burnout happens when the stress becomes prolonged either from ongoing exposure or inadequate and repeated attempts to deal with it. There are varying degrees of burnout from full-fledged depression to breakdowns and actually having to be hospitalised.
How to Regain Control from a Crisis
Life will always throw challenges at you, and over the years I’ve found it really helpful to understand that you can’t control events, but you can control the way you respond to them. No matter how bad things get, you still hold power over the outcome by the way you choose to respond.
So, when things feel out of control and stress kicks in, go inwards and start with you.
“You can’t think your way out of a crisis — you have to feel your way out of it.”
Right now, don’t think. Don’t try to come up with a fix — a strategy or tactic. Instead, pay attention to your feelings. I know this can be hard to do, as typically, in tech, we live in our heads, but to recover from this crisis, you need energy, creativity and clarity of thought.
And, this requires you to get back into your body and feel where the stress is. Only then can you transform the heavy energy, regain a lightness of being, and access clear, creative thinking powers.
Here are a few things I recommend doing.
Make peace with yourself ASAP. This is not the time to focus on what you did right or what mistakes you made so get rid of the should haves, could haves, would haves, and ought-to-haves.
Move the stress out of your body. You can’t get rid of the energy, but you can transform it by:
- Practicing mindfulness
- Meditating, breathing, using Emotional freedom technique (EFT)
- Getting closer to nature – take a walk in a park or the countryside, or by the ocean or lake
- Hitting the music and dancing it out of your body
- Doing anything that’s creative like painting, drawing, playing a musical instrument, singing, cooking, designing, writing, gardening etc.
- Playing games
- Having Reiki, a massage, or a good soak in the bath
- Praying and practicing gratitude
- Doing things that bring back your joy
Reduce your intake of social media or news.
Social media is a useful tool when it’s used correctly. However, when it’s overused it triggers the ape brain — your limbic brain — where all the drama lives. Using this part of the brain in moderation is fine but it won’t serve you well if you want to find a way out of a crisis. Through overuse it will literally distort reality and activate more stress.
Ensure you get enough sleep.
You need a minimum of six hours sleep per night, and you’ll be at your best each day if you wake at the end of a sleep cycle. According to experts, during sleep your body moves through five different stages of both REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep.
Over the course of a night, the body will go through this five-stage cycle four to six times, spending an average of 90 minutes in each stage. Each stage serves a unique restorative function, which is essential for an effective day’s work. To avoid a foggy, morning head use the sleep cycles (6-hours, 7.5-hours or 9-hours) and aim to wake at the end of a sleep cycle when the body and brain are in light sleep and find it easiest to awaken.
Stay hydrated and well nourished.
Along with physical activity, good hydration and nutrition keeps your immune system strong and your state of mind clear, calm, and stress free. With so many diets or healthy eating plans to choose from, I find these basic tips to work:
- Drink water regularly throughout the day, at least two litres or six to eight glasses.
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol in-take.
- Cut down on saturated fat, sugar, salt and dairy, too. Eat whole foods in their most natural state and avoid processed foods as much as you can. (Your skin will thank you for this!)
- Eat at least five portions of different types of fruit and vegetables/ day.
- My health and fitness coach, Colette Pienaar has some great recipes if you’re vegetarian or vegan and if you engage her as you’re coach be sure to mention you’ve come to her by me!
Consider a work break (temporarily).
If you’re a hard worker, your default response is going to be to work yourself out of this crisis. But that can be dangerous as it can result in burnout. If you’re an entrepreneur rest for a while. Have a break. This will enable you to restore your energy, your joie de vie, and your creative thinking abilities, which you’ll need.
Declutter your work and living spaces.
Sounds like an odd thing to do but if you have a good sort out, you’ll benefit. Along with calming the mind, minimising excess clutter stimulates creativity. It purifies the air you breathe, too, as there’s less dust, and it sharpens your mind. Research from Princeton University has found that decluttering your work and living spaces helps your brain to focus more as clutter competes for your attention. Organised environments lead to a sharp, productive and concentrated mind.
Stay mentally and physically fit.
Staying mentally fit and physically active is critical right now and thanks to technology there are some great resources to help you. Here are some I use or my IN Security Tribe have recommended.
Resources for mental wellbeing:
- Toobee reminds you to take regular short breaks, a breath or smile. You can set it up so you enjoy a positive affirmation every day. When I look at it, I take a deep breath and think about how I want to feel. Last week, I chose “I feel happy and am working with ease.” This week it’s “I feel optimistic” as I need to start helping more people (especially cyber entrepreneurs) navigate their way out of COVID-19. It really helps.
- InsightTimer, Headspace, Calm and even Spotify to help with meditation.
- DailyOM features a universal approach to holistic living for the mind, body, and spirit and supports people who want to live a conscious lifestyle.
- Brain.fm has music that’s been designed for the brain and promises to enhance your focus, relaxation, and meditation within 10 – 15 minutes of use. I find it’s especially useful when I’m writing.
- Talkspace and BetterHelp for virtual therapy or counselling
- Oura ring a beautiful technical ring for sleeping insights.
Resources to keep you physically fit:
There’s a great article by Glamour which lists 31 of the best free fitness apps to try but here are some I use or have tried:
- 30-day fitness app
- Figure8 Fitness for dynamic core training through dance
- Couch to 5K app as a running coach app
- DownDog app gives you hundreds of yoga, HIIT, Barre, and 7-minute workouts and they are making all of our apps – Down Dog, Yoga for Beginners, HIIT, Barre, and 7 Minute Workout – completely free until May 1st. In response to the many school closures taking place, they’re also offering free access until July 1st for all students and teachers and are also extending free access until July 1st for all healthcare professionals.
- Workout for Women app is simple and workouts start at 7-minutes.
- Glo is offering free online yoga, meditation and Pilates workouts to help deal with anxiety during COVID-19. Way to go!
- Yoga with Adriene has a 30-day free yoga class challenge.
And, if you want to take your fitness up a notch, use my coach, Colette Pienaar. She’s incredible and if you follow her advice then she’ll get you the results you want. When you seek her out, be sure to let her know you’ve come to her by me.
Join a community that will support you, like the IN Security Tribe.
This is my group. It follows on from my book and is a place for championing excellence, performance, sharing best practices, wins, and helping everyone within it to thrive. My ambition is that everyone in it develops to their full potential — as leaders, entrepreneurs, consultants and practitioners. The tribe isn’t for pitching and marketing purposes (products, services, or events). It’s not for sharing political, religious, news updates or posting jobs either. But it is for community, inspiration, support, networking and other useful resources. You can ask questions, share your wins, discuss strategies, get feedback, comment and support others in it. You can join here http://bit.ly/INSecurityTriber
Review your expenses and negotiate payment plans.
Within a short period of time you should be feeling much more in control and thinking more clearly. Once you feel like this, it’s time to start dealing with more practical issues, like your finances, and how you’re going to steer your business or career.
Go through everything. Reduce your expenditures as much as you can. Negotiate deals or payment plans if you have to, access grants, or take out loans or new lines of credit. But, always be aware of the consequences. If you’re a business owner, scrutinise your management accounts and bank statements. Letting go of staff should be a last resort, so before doing that check their contracts and find out if they’ll work reduced hours or take a pay cut, temporarily.
Plan and strategize.
Before you can come up with a plan you need to see what’s available to you. Governments, banks and financial organisations around the world are trying to help as best they can, but often the information is fuzzy. By all means access their websites or get in contact with them but be prepared for a long wait. Last week it took me nearly two-hours to get through to my bank. Systems are maxed out and few companies are adequately prepared.
If you’re in business or use an accountant, then get in contact with them. Ideally, they should be feeding you useful information right now. You shouldn’t be charged for it, either. Other useful resources are trade unions, chambers of commerce, federations (like the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) if you’re in the UK) and institutes (like the Institute of Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship (ISBE), Institute of Directors (IoD), ISM, or if you’re in tech or cyber the IEEE, BSC, (ISC)2 etc.).
Now that you’re equipped with more information, it’s time to plan out your action. Use a coach, mentor, or consultancy, as well as your team members, friends and family. Ask them for ideas and formulate a posse if need be.
A posse is a small group of people, roughly no more than fifteen, whom you can count on when the going gets tough. You may have known them for years, worked with them, studied with them, and either see them regularly or not very often, particularly if they live in another part of the world. You’ll be able to assemble them quickly when you need to, and they’ll have some of the same expertise in common, so they’ll be able to understand one another and add value.
Pay particular attention to those people who’ve done what you want to do.
How to Get the Best Out of Working Remotely
When it comes to working remotely, here are some tools to help you stay connected or deliver meetings or trainings.
- Zoom purports to being compliant with the GDPR and is providing additional resources in light of the COVID-19. They offer webinar and meeting facilities and this is my video conferencing tool of preference to collaborate effectively with my team members, clients and prospective clients.
- Jitzi is similar to Zoom but many believe it to have a better compliance profile.
- GoToMeeting is offering free Emergency Remote Work Kits to help businesses transition to working remotely so your team stays productive and connected.
- Loom is a tool you can use for training, announcements and communicating via screen share. Loom just announced that they’ve cut their prices, removed limits, and made their tools free for educational purposes.
- Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform that combines persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file storage, and application integration.
- Dropbox is a modern workspace designed to reduce busywork – so you can focus on the things that matter.
- Slack brings team communication and collaboration into one place so you can get more work done, whether you belong to a large enterprise or a small business.
- Asana is a web and mobile application designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work.
How to Cope Outside of Work and with Social Isolation
Social distancing during COVID-19 can be particular tough if you’re an extrovert (you get your energy from being around people) but technology offers numerous ways to help you feel less isolated and lonely.
Tools like Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime and Skype can connect you to your family, friends, and community. And then there’s NextDoor – an app which has quickly become an essential way to connect with others, or check in on your neighbours or the vulnerable in your community.
Netflix Parties, is a fun Chrome plugin that lets you watch your favourite Netflix shows, series or films with friends. Although nothing will replace the real deal, this has to be the next best thing in a crisis!
What Else Can You Do?
At a time like this, you can give, more. So many people and businesses have been affected by this so keeping the vulnerable top of mind, here are some things you can do:
- Volunteer. There are lots of charities that could do with your support right now. In the UK, the NHS has been asking for volunteer responders. This new group will carry out simple, non-medical tasks to support people in England who’ve been asked to shield themselves from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions. They’ll be used by healthcare professionals to make sure people who are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 are able to stay safe and well at home. To be considered, you’ll need to be under 70-years old and healthy.
- Make a donation to a charity (money) or food to your local food bank.
- Keep paying people and as many small businesses that you buy luxuries from you can. If you have the resources, this keeps the money flowing. The knock on effects can be profound.
- Set up a group to help your community. Post a flyer through your neighbour’s doors and let hem know that your group is available to do grocery shopping, for a call, chinwag or natter, or to help them if they fall ill. This is what my hamlet has done but I know many other communities haven’t. Where my parents live, the school that exists on their road or their local church haven’t and it’s pretty poor.
As I wrap things up, remember that you can’t control how things will go over the next few-months. No one has seen anything like COVID-19 before. But what many know is that life will always get in the way of your plans. In fact, there’s even a well-known saying….
“Man plans, God laughs.”
Successful people know that nothing will get in their way. They rise to challenges, set boundaries and understand that some opportunities aren’t really opportunities at all. Instead, they’re there to distract them. Importantly, though, they use their ambition, experience and internal drive to keep them focused.
Life is a roller coaster, and COVID-19 is set to challenge all of us. But your dreams are still yours for the taking, so be ambitious and go make them your reality. Anything is possible and I believe in you!
To download the COVID-19 Crisis Survival Kit go here or click on the image below.