How to keep it together when everything is falling apart

In the face of the coronavirus, keep perspective. Focus on what matters and what you can control. Strive for a sense of well-being. And stay busy

Rebecca SchalmI remember writing about personal and leadership resilience during the financial crisis. I guess the good news is, until now, we haven’t had an event so universally significant and impactful to test us.

But here we are again.

Unlike the financial crisis, where it was (just) about money, this time it will be – at least for some of us – actually life and death as we face the coronavirus pandemic.

We’re very likely at the beginning of something that will get much, much worse. It’s time to dust off all those strategies for coping with turmoil. Here are five suggestions for working on maintaining resilience through this pandemic:

Read the Stoics

I’m a longtime adherent of Stoic philosophy. The Stoics are all about facing the reality of how little we actually control. They advise us to regularly imagine worst-case scenarios and anticipate how we might respond.

Taking a Stoic view has helped me maintain equilibrium during times of stress.

Stoicism has grown in popularity the past few years. If you haven’t bumped into them by now, the writings of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Ryan Holiday are a few good places to start. We all need to invest in those things that help us maintain a bigger perspective.

Focus on what matters

As our stress elevates, it’s easy to lose perspective. It’s important to step back and get really clear on where we need to put our attention right now.

What are the priorities? What are the key issues and problems we need to solve?

What made sense last week or last month may not make sense now.

At work, regroup and get agreement around priorities. At home, rewrite the to-do list. This is the time to double-down on those things that really do matter.

It will probably be insightful for each of us to see how much of what consumes our attention and mind-share doesn’t really matter, in the scheme of things.

Focus on what you can control

That sense of helplessness and lack of control can be devastating. But, as Viktor Frankl so astutely articulated, we always have a choice in how we respond to events confronting us. We can spend our time spinning around the unknowns and worrying about things we have no control over or we can turn our attention to those things where we can exercise control.

The question to ask ourselves is: ‘What can we think, say and do that will be a positive response to this crisis?’


We must attack the coronavirus at its root by Roslyn Kunin


In terms of helping to contain the coronavirus, the advice coming from our health experts is wonderfully practical and salient. These are all things we can do.

What else can you do right now to keep yourself safe, and how can you prepare for tougher times ahead?

This is the time to empower ourselves and focus on what we can do to make a difference.

Strive for a sense of well-being

We can’t be blamed for feeling like the sky is falling, and it’s easy to give in to worry and fear.

Our sense of well-being, physical and emotional, is critically important during this time. Well-being springs from doing things that make us feel good. Part of being resilient is recognizing and embracing the fullness of our lives, the good as well as the bad.

We need to create space for happiness, pleasure and joy, and allow ourselves the opportunity to experience these as often as possible.

Stay busy

We need to stay balanced and keep our lives and interests going. It’s hard not to get sucked into the Internet, which is a bottomless pit of information and conjecture. Social media has had a profound impact on how our reaction and response to this crisis has evolved.

Somehow we need to find the balance between staying informed and vigilant, and being obsessed. There are a lot of things we can do with our time that are more productive than reading or listening to one more analyst or oracle. I, for one, have a feeling my house and garage are in for a very thorough spring cleaning.

With crisis always comes opportunity for personal growth. This is a chance for each of us to hone our ability to cope with uncertainty and risk. Because while this too shall pass, there’s a pretty good chance something else will pop up to test us again.

Rebecca Schalm, PhD, is founder and CEO of Strategic Talent Advisors Inc., a consultancy that provides organizations with advice and talent management solutions.

© Troy Media


crisis response coronavirus

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login