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Stress and resilience 

Personal stress

The effects of stress are often underestimated and can still be perceived as weakness by the sufferers themselves, not to mention their employees, stoical family members or unsympathetic friends. Phrases such as: “Don’t panic, it’ll all work out in the end” or “What good is worrying about it going to do?” are not always helpful in these troubled times when people’s worlds have been flipped and there is no ‘normal routine’ anymore.

Stress and anxiety can cause very real physiological problems so it is important that the two states are given their due attention, especially because people who already have a lot of stress to deal with in their lives might find the present Covid-19 situation overwhelming.

There are many institutions that offer guidance and resources. For example, the Mesothelioma Center, based in Florida, is a free health site dedicated to providing up-to-date information for cancer patients and family members. It has published a guide on dealing with anxiety related to the coronavirus and how patients and caregivers can manage their levels of stress during this difficult time ].

People who suffer from PTSD and their close friends and families might also find this website helpful. A charity called PTSD Resolution has published a guide to coping with self-isolation.

Exploring individuals’ resilience

On March 27, the consultancy firm Tricordant held a webinar entitled ‘Recovery and Resilience’ with 34 participants from a diverse background of organisations, from public sector at national and local levels, to transport, pharmaceuticals and retail in the commercial sector, to not-for-profits from the third sector. The aim of the webinar was to share reflections on common themes and insights when dealing with Covid-19.

In a summary by Roger Greene, Director of Tricordant, some interesting observations were offered by the participants when they were asked: “What experiences (individually and organisationally) have caught you by surprise?”

In their responses, participants said that they had noticed that polarised behaviours can come to the surface under pressure, “from beautiful to extreme/dark”. The massive and unscheduled disruption of normal working life has brought out both remarkable resourcefulness and improvisation from the majority of staff in re-orientating their activities, but also a minority of surprising behavioural withdrawals.

Participants observed the unintended separation or segmentation of staff into front-line service delivery (those at immediate risk and in danger of infection) and those able to work from home who could self-isolate and observe social distancing more readily.

Reassuringly, it was also noted how quickly groups of people had changed their behaviours and adapted to ways of working where they may have previously been resistant, eg remote working or videoconferencing.

A reflection on the senior leaders that was made is that there are many across the country, both political and organisational, who are trying to hold anxiety safely on our collective behalf and for their people. The question is: Who is looking after them?

More insights from the webinar will be published in a subsequent blog about response and recovery processes. 

Claire Sanders, 01/01/2016
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