by Lisa Krizek, NRTA President

Upheaval. Isolation. Forced remote work. Medical quarantines. Shortages. Homeschooling. And why the heck do these pets and people insist on being underfoot while I’m busy just trying to function? Many people are still asking themselves that, months into dealing with the stress and uncertainty of abrupt transitions from “Life as we know it,” to “Will I still have my health and a job after this?”

Move over and share the virtual couch—you’re not alone. I mean that in the most supportive way: you are not alone. Many of us are right here with you, despite not being able to physically sit beside you.

Now, let’s talk about the elephants in the room. Seems like there’s a circus of them in those opening lines, doesn’t it? And if we don’t pay the right kind of attention to them, they turn unruly and cause problems. So, let’s break all that chaos down and see what we’re dealing with.

Stress left unchecked can lead to feelings of fear. Then negative energy can build, and if left uncontrolled or unmanaged, it can lead to behavioral disruption and become a performance-inhibiting roadblock. Left to itself, this uneasiness can often become a feeling of helplessness. Not only as an employee but as a family member.

Sometimes this behavior manifests as playing loud music to drown out the mind and thoughts. Or, folks jump into the rabbit hole of negative media. People—like you and me—may rebel or be unkind.

As one professional observer noted, “Our emotions are so caught up in who we are at work and who we think we might be, that when those are removed or you’re put into isolation, like now, everything gets thrown in the air.”

Cue the flying monkeys and the meme. You know which one I’m talking about. Except, this is your circus, and those are your monkeys. Time to step into the ringmaster’s position and take control of the show.

First, please remember that you’re a good person. Your goals and dreams are attainable, even in this shifting reality, and how you manage the way you treat others—and yourself—will have a positive effect upon them as well as you. You can be accountable without beating yourself up. You can be nice and still get things done. They’re not mutually exclusive.

With all that’s happening around us, it’s natural to experience a sense of never moving forward. How can you combat that, especially if your world has shifted to virtual work and isolation? There are several ways.

Videoconferencing or chatting is a great way to reconnect with your work team and your extended family. Miss those water cooler chats or the weekly lunches you and a couple of coworkers used to have? Do them virtually. Hop on Facetime, Zoom, Messenger video, or another favorite app and connect. Air hugs all around, and pass the pizza, would you?

Can’t travel to see your nearest and dearest? Same thing—go face-to-face on your phone or computer. Try not to laugh too hard at the glittery rainbow unicorn onesie someone will inevitably be wearing, though. Or, laugh until you cry…whatever works. The whole point is to connect and feel good about it.

That leads me to my next point. Please take the time to see how you are important to your professional team, and also to your family team. This could mean a one-on-one video chat with your manager to address pain points or affirm that you’re on the right path, or setting up a regular check-in time to address issues and celebrate successes with coworkers and/or family. Recognizing your worth is one of the best ways to curb that feeling of helplessness. Publicly recognizing others’ worth does the same for them. Now you’ve set up a win for everyone.

It’s your decision. I encourage you to grab hold of hope and build upon it for yourself and others. Here’s a virtual hug for you right now!