By Pamela J. Gallagher
It’s been 18 months since COVID-19 changed everything, and I am exhausted. We have endured tremendous loss as a society: loss of life, finances, jobs, routines, community…and the list goes on. Coping with uncertainty has become “normal.”
In psychology, coping skills are a “set of adaptive tools that we proactively administer to avoid burnout.” In general, people are able to cope with changes best when they are incremental, so what are we to do in a pandemic that brings changes that feel like repeated Band-Aids being ripped off?
Beyond the impact of continuous uncertainty on a personal level, economic theory suggests that uncertainty has a “detrimental effect on economic activity by giving agents the incentive to postpone investment, consumption, and employment decisions until uncertainty is resolved.”
Organizations and individuals are having to learn to deal with ambiguity. As leaders, we strive to make wise decisions on solid information, but that’s hard to come by lately. So, in the absence of that information, do we adapt or hold on? Do we enact temporary measures, or look to make permanent changes? How do we move through this?
We are trying to find a way to move forward while recognizing that the path ahead won’t lead back to the old “normal.” COVID isn’t going away. At both a personal and organizational level, it can be hard to give that up.
I wish I had elegant solutions for this (Do you have any? I’m all ears!), but I don’t. But this is what I am learning in the uncertainty:
We can choose to respond, rather than react. At this point in the pandemic, we must do more than simply cope in whatever way we can to get by. As best as they can, organizations must respond to the “Band-Aids repeatedly being ripped off” and the constant change, firmly rooted in their mission and values. As individuals, this is an essential practice as well. We need to remember what matters most to us.
Assume the best in others. In these times when it seems there is so little that we have control over, we must determine to control one of the few things we can: how we respond to those around us. It is utterly exhausting assuming the worst motives and character in those who disagree with us. Instead, we can be charitable (or at the very least decent) to one another. This can be applied personally, but if applied to your organization, I believe it can be transformative.
Look for the positive. We also have control over the thoughts we choose to dwell on in our own minds. I am not advocating for a toxic positivity. There are deeply difficult things going on in our world, and it is not necessary to minimize it. But being watchful for good things has saved my sanity more than once.
About Pamela J. Gallagher
Pamela J. Gallagher is a senior healthcare finance executive with 20 years of experience balancing the reality of finance with the delivery of excellent patient care. As a consultant she instills financial discipline, streamlines processes to maximize revenue, and reduces expenses for immediate improvements and long-term results. She writes on healthcare, finance, and technology at gallaghersresulting.com.