2020-04-01 HR Examiner article Jason Lauritsen Whats the Right Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak stock photo img cc0 via pexels board center chalk chalkboard 220066 sq-544px.jpg

“For a moment, I wondered if I was wrong in feeling the way I did. How should I be feeling? There seemed to be a wide array of options based on the responses I’d received.” - Jason Lauritsen

What is the Right Response Right Now?

The past few weeks have felt a little like riding a roller coaster with a blindfold on. A whole lot of ups and downs mixed with moments of both fear and joy while being spun around and flipped upside down without seeing any of it before it happens.

At the very least, it has been unsettling for everyone. For others, the disruption will last forever.

Through it all, I keep coming back to the same question.

What’s the right way to respond to what’s happening?

Two weeks ago, when I really started paying attention to what was happening, it shook me. I believed what the epidemiologists and doctors were saying. And I could see the disruption coming to my family’s lives and to my business. A wave of fear washed over me.

I wrote about how I was feeling on my blog as a way to process my emotions and help others who might be having the same feelings. The reactions to my post surprised me a little.

For many, the response to the blog was appreciation that someone had put into words the anxiety and fear they too were feeling.

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Jason Lauritsen, HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Others, often people who knew me pretty well, responded with, “Are you okay?” Apparently, showing fear is off-brand for me. It had some people legitimately concerned about my wellbeing.

I also had a few friends respond with some combination of “I’m not afraid” or “Fear isn’t the right response.” They were suggesting that I should be more optimistic and positive as a means to get through this.

For a moment, I wondered if I was wrong in feeling the way I did. How should I be feeling? There seemed to be a wide array of options based on the responses I’d received.

Regardless of whether I was feeling the right or wrong way, writing that post helped me move forward in a positive way. It didn’t get me off of the rollercoaster, but it helped me take off the blindfold.

This brings me to another experience I’ve had several times in the past week or so.

The approach I’ve adopted to this crisis is to keep my eyes wide open to what’s happening, and considering the worst-case scenario is very much a part of that. Being grounded in reality is helping me to look forward, trying to identify the opportunities and plan for the difficulties.

As I’ve talked with some friends along the way, I’ve found that not everyone is as interested in having their eyes wide open. They prefer to look away. It’s impossible to avoid some glimpses of what is happening, but there is still a surprising amount of denial and wishful thinking.

Just like fear, these are both natural human responses to a crisis situation. My knee-jerk response has been to force-feed people some reality. I’ve been saying some version of the following a lot: “It’s going to get bad. Probably really bad before it gets better.”

It’s meant to be helpful, but I’m not sure it is. It might reduce denial but increase fear. Is that helpful?

To be clear, all of this always precedes a conversation about how we are going to get through this and what we’re doing to ensure that we all make it out of this safe and sane. But still, I’m left with the same question.

What’s the right way to respond to what’s happening?

I don’t think there is a right answer. I seem to get it right one day and wrong the next.

I do believe I have gained a few insights over the past few weeks. Perhaps they will be helpful as you try to navigate your way through the upcoming months.

  1. Feelings aren’t good or bad. Don’t judge how you feel as good or bad. The way you feel about anything is just how you feel. Feelings can be rational or irrational, fleeting or lasting. The important thing is to pay attention to how you feel because that’s your mind trying to tell you something. Emotions like fear aren’t bad, but if you don’t address them in a constructive way, they will affect you negatively over time. And don’t tell other people how they “should” feel. That’s rarely helpful.
  2. Talking (or writing) about how you feel is helpful. Whether you are afraid, confused, uncertain, or whatever, letting that emotion out through your words will help you move through it. Others might react with concern or judgment at first (as they did with me), particularly if you don’t often talk about emotions, but just keep talking and writing (journaling, blogging, writing letters, etc.). There is going to be plenty to talk about as things continue to change. It helps. I promise you.
  3. Do everything with love. With everything that is happening in the world, we need as much love, compassion, empathy, and forgiveness as we can muster. I am frustrated by those who don’t seem to be taking this crisis as seriously as we are at the Lauritsen house. But then I remind myself that we are lucky and privileged in so many ways. When I see kids outside playing together and want to judge their parents, I pause to remember that despite the virus, those kids might be safer outside with friends than they are at home. Some people don’t have the capacity to fully understand what’s happening. Many don’t have the luxury to decide on lockdown when leadership at your company or in your state won’t make the tough call to make everyone do so. Instead of resorting to judgment or anger, let’s choose love and forgiveness.
  4. Do the next right thing. This week, while out on a run through the neighborhood, I was listening to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Invisibilia. The episode involved the host’s search for an answer to the question (my paraphrase), “What do you do when the future seems bleak and you feel powerless to change it?” His story culminates in this advice: “Do the next right thing.” It is so simple, yet so profound. When we feel overwhelmed by what’s happening or aren’t sure how to move forward, take a breath and do the next right thing. That might be to hug your kids. That might mean reaching out to check on a colleague or family member. It might be to practice a little self-care like taking a nap. One step at a time. That’s how we’ll all get through this.

The right way to respond to this seems to change from day to day. My choice is to lead through this with love, care, and vulnerability. I won’t get it right every day, but I’ll keep trying to do the next right thing. That I can promise. I hope you will too. And maybe if we all choose to look out for each other, maybe it won’t feel as daunting to look out for ourselves.

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