Understanding the Emotional Roller Coaster of COVID-19

Pause for a Moment

Reflect on how we are going to navigate the emotional roller coaster of COVID-19.

Of course, that assumes it will be a roller coaster. However, if my conversations with clients and colleagues this week are any guide, then they are pointing towards a lift in emotional intensity amongst people at work, in families and across the community.

The ebb and flow of feelings seems faster and more pointed. Of course there is some joy and fun, but there is a rising tone of fear, worry and frustration.

Loss in many forms is with us, and it is spreading ahead of the virus.

  • Loss of daily routines & pleasures
  • Loss of social contact
  • Loss of time with loved ones
  • Loss of jobs
  • Loss of safety & security
  • Loss of hopes & plans

Grief Response

Loss creates a grief response with which we are all somewhat familiar, although grief is usually associated with an event, not a series of events and experiences such as loss of freedom and routine, which then give way to loss of security and potentially loss of life.

The grief model of Kübler-Ross E & Kessler D (2014). On grief & grieving : finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. New York, tells us to expect five stages (and not in a linear form).

The Experience

Grief reveals itself in different ways. Anger, sadness, loss of appetite, more alcohol, guilt, broken sleep patterns and depression are just a few but no one really knows what the ebb and flow will be for them, but we do know that grief has to be experienced not avoided for it to leave us so we can move on.

Leaders of teams aren't trained to deal with grief and neither should they be expected to play a role of counsellor, but awareness of your own emotional journey, and a few simple actions can help sustain the well-being of your team through this inevitable roller coaster.

Simple Steps

Over the past week my team and I have facilitated a number of virtual team get together's on the topic of The Grief Response. For some that has meant a brief discussion, and for others we've created short videos that people have watched in their houses across Australia, and then paired up on phones and video conference to share three items

  1. The losses they have experienced or are thinking about
  2. Their emotional journey through COVID-19
  3. How they can support each other to tell their stories

In each case the Team Leader has created the safe environment where people can be vulnerable in their fears for elderly parents, for lost hopes and for the security of home and job.

Take Action

There is a moment now to get teams together, as the new ways of working are being embedded, to instill the openness and the rhythm of conversations.

If you have or see serious concerns, then organisations such as Lifeline 13 11 14 are the immediate source of support.

If time permits, join our free course on Leading Through Disruption, and let me know if you need support in facilitating or coaching your team to have the conversations that will help prepare them to navigate the roller coaster of emotions that accompany the COVID-19 pandemic.

Take Care, Graham Winter