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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #67

Some (Very Practical) Tools to Manage Employee Stress/Anxiety During COVID-19

Most ... no ... ALL organizations have had significant aspects of their business or mission disrupted in some way as a result of the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus. Yes, we are now in the midst of a pandemic and during these tumultuous times employees are under tremendous stress, both personally and professionally.

But I'm not sure that stress, in and of itself, is problematic. Stress is a normal physiological response to an abnormal situation; it enables our body to adapt to the multitude of positive and negative events that we experience in life.

My bigger concern—and the rationale for this week's CORE Bites topic—is, unlike fear, which is a biological response to a well-defined and very real threat, anxiety is a (largely) psychological response to a vague or unknown threat. And there are few things we've dealt with in the recent past as uncertain as this contagion. Anxiety manifests itself—at both a conscious and subconscious level—when we expect or believe that a dangerous or catastrophic event may take place. Anxiety can interfere with daily life and can contribute to somatic symptom disorders with a wide variety of seemingly unrelated physical symptoms.

There are basically only two options when dealing with anxiety. The first is to reduce or remove the source of the anxiety. Unfortunately, the uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus eliminate that possibility. The second option is to increase our body's ability to deal with the anxieties we face. Everyone can—and everyone should—do this.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

The vast majority of us—as managers and leaders—are not medical doctors trained in affective disorders. However, what we are good at (or should be!) are keen observational skills that may help us detect the early warning signs of anxiety in our employees. The HVAs listed below can help in this identification and help in reducing the harmful effects. [Note: This information should not replace a referral to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and/or to a qualified medical practitioner, if warranted.]

Common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms: One of the biggest pluses in knowing your people well, is it becomes very obvious when there is a demonstrable change in behavior, demeanor, and/or physical symptoms. Here are a few of the common anxiety symptoms you should watch out for. [Note: Even though you may not be with your employees in-person, you can look for clues for many of these in your telephone calls, video conferencing, and electronic communications.]

  • Flatness in voice
  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Increased heart rate/Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating/Trembling/Jitteriness
  • Feeling weak or fatigued
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking
  • Exaggerated reactions
  • Dry mouth/Lump in throat

Healthy (Physical/Mental) Activities During Stressful Times: As a result of Work-from-Home (WFH) restrictions, people are feeling very isolated right now. I had one individual tell me, "I feel like I'm on house arrest because I can't go out!" Here are several positive and healthy (even 'therapeutic') activities that you can recommend to your employees (and you can even do yourself!) that are still in line with "social distancing" recommendations:

  • Limit exposure to the media and provide age-appropriate information to your children. [Note: The main question children want answered is that they're safe so provide them contextually appropriate information to help provide comfort.]
  • Catch up on your "enjoyable" reading (fiction, history, adventure).
  • Get back to (or finally take up) a hobby that interests you.
  • Start/continue a fitness/wellness routine. [Note: While most gyms and workout spots are closed, several organizations like Jazzercise have online videos that provide a great exercise routine for WFH individuals. One of my favorite leaders (and a committed fitness guru), Ken Hughes, told me in a recent conversation (and I paraphrase), "No excuses! There are ample isometric and isotonic exercises that can be done literally anywhere that still provide an excellent workout."]
  • Spend solid quality time with your immediate family. [Note: Children benefit from structure and routines around studying and homework and fun activities. Schedule time with them throughout the day.]
  • Catch up with extended family and/or friends. [Note: While we might not be able to meet with them in person, our modern electronic conveniences allow ample opportunities to stay connected.]
  • Try a new or different recipe in the kitchen. [Note: Be mindful that stress can adversely affect both your eating habits and your metabolism so maintain a healthy diet loaded with fruits and veggies and minimal snack food.]
  • Organize and de-clutter (using the 'Keep/Donate/Discard' organizing system).
  • Get outside for a walk/hike in the fresh air. [Note: Continue to practice social distancing.]
  • Start planning for social activities once the pandemic is behind us!
  • Start a "Gratitude Journal" and say thanks to those around you who have made a difference in your life (you know who they are!).

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers."

— Fred Rogers —