Coping in a crisis – one size does not fit all

Now that we’re in week four, the reality of living and working in lockdown is more a new normal and much less of a novelty. And coping over the long term brings with it a different set of challenges to those required to deal with a short-term crisis.

When reflecting on stress within the workplace, the Job Demands-Resources model by Bakker and Demerouti (JD-R Model) suggests that our job provides many demands and resources that affect our state of wellbeing. And an imbalance between the two can result in stress. Both demands and resources can be derived from physical, psychological, social, or organisational aspects of the job, such as workload on the demand front or, perhaps, autonomy as a resource.

In this time of crisis, whilst people are trying to adapt to working at home, juggling childcare duties or caring for the elderly/vulnerable, our demands and resources may have changed quite drastically. It might be that what one person considers a demand at this time, is a resource for someone else. Some of us are enjoying baking alongside small children and lockdown to master new skills (not just TikTok challenges). Whilst others are exhausted from the strain of balancing working from home with schooling children and/or caring for elderly or vulnerable relatives.  If one thing is clear, there’s no right or wrong way to cope in a global pandemic. But, there are two things worth remembering to help us all through:

Acknowledge diversity

We will all be using a range of coping strategies during this crisis to manage competing demands on our time and minimise feelings of stress and anxiety.  Lots has been written about the need to get up and dressed in work(ish) clothes to start the day as we used to.  And for some that will be beneficial.  But others might find that an early couple of hours at the computer in PJs before the rest of the house wakes up enables them to cope better with the demands of the day and fit round housemates or family.  So not jumping out of bed and straight into getting ready is now a resource  and not a symptom of a poor attitude.  During this time of stress, some of us will respond well to scheduling and planning our time, while others will prefer to keep that restriction to a minimum.  We each must find what works for our circumstances.  And respect that our colleagues will find other solutions and cope in different ways.

Share strategies (mindfully)

There is lots of material available on coping strategies for this difficult time.  We should draw on those we can identify with and incorporate them in our own way/context.  Whilst remembering that they are just ideas.  Not a blueprint for how we should all be ‘doing it’.  Equally, when we share our own resources we should be mindful that others may need different approaches or have alternative needs to accommodate.  So, parenting and exercising successes are great but potentially guilt inducing for those struggling to balance work and family.  And using a break from the screen to eat lunch quietly or a make a quick call to a family member is just as valuable a use of time.

But above all, be kind to yourselves and others and stay safe.