By Dr. Bruce A. Johnson
A new year and a new decade began in January, and at first it seemed there was so much hope and potential. Little did anyone know the full extent of what was to come, or how life would change, especially within the workplace. Many employees work from home, for those who still remain employed, and remote work may remain a viable option for some time. There are people who feel the weight of being locked down, even after shelter-in-place orders were lifted, simply as a result of still working from home and facing an uncertain future.
Whether you work from home, you remained in the office during the pandemic, or you are soon to return to work, the reality of how you work has likely changed in some manner. The stress of these changes, coupled with the unrelenting negative news every day, can drain the stamina of even the most well-equipped and well-adjusted people. Even hearing the phrase “the new normal” can become irritating, as it is a reminder that the comfortable routines and habits of earlier this year are now becoming a distant memory.
It’s during a time like this when a motivational boost is needed, or a return to feeling some sense of hopefulness. When daily thoughts are over-shadowed by negative feelings, it can be challenging to perform at maximum capacity or your best, especially if there is fear of downsizing and job loss. The type of boost I’m referring to is not just a matter of thinking better thoughts, but becoming productive in a manner so that you start to ignore the negative thoughts. It’s about changing your perspective, at least long enough so that you can work, allowing you to feel energized once again.
From Feeling Happy to Restrained
When the year began and you were going about your work in a regular routine, there could have been good days, marginal days, and everything in between. Once a pandemic occurred, something no one could have ever predicted or ever thought possible, it changed how people thought about life. A shift to working at home became mandatory for most industries that could send workers home. Feelings of happiness seemed to be transformed almost overnight to a sense of restraint and confinement. When you cannot leave your home, except for essentials, this can induce feelings of anxiety and even at time panic. Even when restrictions are lifted, the impact of the months of stress will still linger.
Reaching a Creative Sticking Point
While you may face challenges throughout your career, what has been experienced this year is likely to be the most daunting of all obstacles to overcome. Where it shows up in your work is in areas such as productivity and the ability to develop new ideas or solve problems. The reason why is when you are asked to complete a task or project, and it requires new ideas or an in-depth solution, you will need a clear mind to proceed. If your mental acuity is diminished because of thoughts of the world around you, and other related worries, the result may be a creative sticking point.
Reaching a point of being creatively stuck doesn’t necessarily occur all at once, but as a process of time and a reaction to events around you. Think of it as a pipe that gradually becomes clogged over time and eventually does not allow water to flow. That’s how your mind and the thoughts you want to produce can become sidelined through negativity. For example, when the pandemic occurred, there were many natural thoughts that came up. If you dwelled upon them, this could have distracted you. Then if you needed to problem solve or develop new ideas, and you became frustrated because of a lack of ideas, it could cause even further mental barriers.
How to Become Energized Once Again
There are going to be varying degrees of creative blockage, reduced mental acuity, and loss of focus during a time when circumstances are extremely unusual. From noticing you feel different, or you are aware of mental barriers, to reduced progress and performance, there will be some adverse effects for continuing to experience a negative mindset. What’s needed at this time is more than a quick fix, but a combination of short-term and long-term strategies to help start a process of re-energization. The following are strategies you can choose from to start this process for you right now.
Energized Strategy: Create a Habit that Feels Familiar
What began the process of disrupting your mindset was the seemingly rapid change which occurred in life. Your work routine was likely changed, along with habits that support how you perform. Now that you are aware of the existence of mental barriers, it’s time to re-establish at least one habit again that feels familiar to you.
Perhaps this involves how you begin your day and organize your work. Or it could be the manner in which you develop ideas. This may be time to try brainstorming, collaborating with others, or involving others in teamwork. The purpose is to return to an established habit that feels familiar to you, and when possible, build upon it to help break any existing mental barriers which may be slowing down your performance.
Energized Strategy: Re-Evaluate Your Career Goals
During this stressful time, you have likely been focused solely on survival and how you will make it through this current crisis. To help you regain focus, and think beyond this time, it would helpful to re-examine your short-term and long-term career goals. If you haven’t yet developed or evaluated these goals in some time, taking time to create them will give you a renewed sense of purpose.
Short-term career goals can be focused on the skills you utilize right now, including the knowledge needed to perform the required tasks. In the short-term, you can work to assess, refine, improve, enhance, and build upon these skills and your knowledge base. Long-term goals can include projects and anything else you would like to complete that will require more of your time and attention. Both types of goals will help provide a transformed feeling of drive.
Energized Strategy: Find a Source of Inspiration
What can help you to regain your energy is to find inspirational materials. There are many sources to use and include inspirational websites, magazines, and books you can find that will help you become focused and empowered, especially inspirational autobiographies and historical biographies about famous people such as presidents. Inspiration can also come from hobbies, such as working in a garden or cooking something for you and/or your family.
Energized Strategy: Find Your Balance
It’s during a stressful time that your sense of well-being and balance can be adversely affected. Take time to monitor how you feel and react to circumstances, and give yourself downtime. Perhaps you can allot time to engage in hobbies, go outside to enjoy the fresh air, or anything else that promotes a work/life balance. You may also want to become more involved with your family and now is an opportunity to examine how you spend your week and your time.
Become Mentally Free, Even While Locked Down
No matter what conditions around you may be, and how you may work, it is always possible for you to be mentally free. It begins with the next thought you think and continues with the thought that follows. You can allow the anxiety and worry to continue to hold your thoughts hostage, and create mental barriers that restrict how you perform, or you can decide now is the time to break free and start a new routine. It’s a matter of developing a proactive mindset that is independent of circumstances, as a means of performing your best at all times.
When you have energized yourself once again, perhaps you will then find a way to keep yourself calm and focused, even if you find circumstances are uncertain. Then as mental barriers are removed and new habits established, you will find yourself better able to develop productive routines and habits. Even if you find yourself locked down and restricted to working from home, it is still possible to perform your best. There is nothing that can restrict your mind, unless you give it power to take hold. Never forget, you have ultimate control of what you think, how you respond, and the manner in which you perform. Not even a crisis can or will change this mental control.