Diving into personal leadership requires we become more aware of ourselves – our strengths, weaknesses, values, identities, experiences, behaviors – and how these interact to form our unique leadership style. What does personal leadership look like in the face of a global pandemic? Put simply, it’s self care. It’s learning to be more in tune with ourselves by making a deliberate effort to recognize our emotions, be mindful of what we consume, and remain attentive to our needs throughout the day.
A few weeks ago, our lives were jam-packed with school, responsibilities, and social activities. Almost overnight, our lives shifted online as we sheltered in place. It’s important that we recognize the profound changes we’re all experiencing and extend ourselves some grace as we adapt during this period of uncertainty.
Unlike any other time in history, today we are able to fully harness the power of technology and connect with others. Whether it’s FaceTime, Snapchat, Instagram, or an old-fashioned phone call, we have the resources to maintain relationships even while social distancing. Check in on your loved ones, friends, classmates, colleagues as we all try to adapt to the uncertainty posed by COVID19. Let this be the opportunity to reach out to those with whom you’ve lost touch or grown distant. We all need a little extra love and support these days!
Despite the positive benefits of technology, it can be harmful at times, so be sure to put limits on your use. Be mindful of what you’re consuming, especially when engaging social media and the news. Social media enables us to connect, but it can also create false illusions. The way others present themselves on social media is not always reality. Pay attention to the impact it has on you when scrolling through social media. It’s certainly important to be fully up-to-date on the latest COVID19 happenings, but spending too much time reading updates or watching the news can be overwhelming and harmful to your mental health. Consider allowing yourself three 15-minute opportunities per day to read and/or watch the news, and use any other time consuming positive content of any kind, be it inspiring podcasts, uplifting music, or maybe even take up subscribing to Positive News.
Journaling enables you to process, while also maintaining a written record of your thoughts and feelings. It can be enlightening to reread your journal entries to see how your thoughts and feelings have evolved over time. Consider allocating 10 minutes before going to sleep to journal about what you did for the day, your goals for the next day, and your emotional state. It will serve as a valuable record for the day when social distancing ends and COVID19 becomes a distant memory. Don’t let what you now consider normal and mundane escape without being recorded.
It’s perfectly normal to be angry about the experiences that were cut short or the things you had planned that won’t happen because of COVID19. Allow yourself to fully grieve these losses. You have a right to feel the way you do. But, also remember the positive things in your life, whether that’s your family, the extra time you have to spend on your passions, or even your pets. Record the things you are grateful for. When fears and worries arise, remember the difficulties and hardships you’ve faced in the past. You overcame them before, and you will overcome this, too.
Remember the basics.
Exercise in whatever form works for you. If you don’t already have an exercise practice, start small, set realistic goals, and build overtime. Get some sunshine on your face! Take a walk around the block or sit on your front steps and read a book. The sun will do wonders for your mood. Eat food that gives you energy and drink water all throughout the day. SLEEP! If you don’t get enough sleep, your mind will be foggy and you’ll be more irritable. When we sleep, our minds process information from the day, solve complex problems, and often produce our most creative works. Breathe. Just breathe. Meditation and mindfulness practices are proven to reduce stress and anxiety, while increasing focus, mental resilience, and overall life satisfaction. Anxiety lives in the future. Depression lives in the past. Mindfulness helps us learn how to foster contentment in the present moment.
At the end of the day, remember…
We are all in this together. Everybody, and I mean everybody, has been impacted in one way or another by COVID19. Despite social distancing, cancelled classes, and closed venues, we all still have responsibilities. As leaders, difficult seasons of life are inevitable. Let’s use this time to strengthen our ability to cope and develop healthy life skills. When this chapter of uncertainty ends and life resumes, you just might emerge from this situation a stronger, more confident, more empathetic leader than ever before.
About the author: Alexandra Helfgott is a 2013 Georgia HOBY and World Leadership Congress alumna. She is a 2019 graduate of the Honors College at the College of Charleston and a 2019-2020 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Mexico City. In mid-March, her Fulbright grant came to an abrupt end as a result of COVID19. Alexandra is now social distancing with her family in South Carolina as she ponders what comes next in life.