Those of us in the United States began our pandemic journey in March of 2020. Here we are in 2021, and we continue to be socially distanced (or arguing about its necessity) and awaiting the disbursement of the vaccine (or arguing about its safety). Life is far from back to normal for most people, and the six-month wall is a memory. For the friends and families of hundreds of thousands of people who’ve lost their lives or have lingering health effects due to COVID-19, life has forever shifted.

Even the announcement of impending vaccines against COVID-19 have served to illustrate the pain of the last many months. Paraphrasing Kate McKinnon from SNL, “The light at the end of the tunnel shows us how stinky and bad the tunnel is.”

How can we find and sustain hope in the midst of long-term crisis? How do we share that hope with others, while remaining honest about our own struggles?

  1. Prepare yourself and your people for the reality that this marathon of loss, change and grief is far from over, and people may be feeling more disillusioned than ever. “The disillusionment we experience from these deep and negative changes to our reality often has crippling effects on our motivation, mental health, and energy. Compounding this disillusionment is the grief from what we’ve lost, which for some has been deeply profound. In addition to losing loved ones, our informal social fabric has been stripped from us, at least in part. These feelings of isolation and uncertainty are a major source of our exhaustion.” Please read this McKinsey article for more on long-term crises. Once you understand the brutal reality, take the following steps to help people battle pandemic fatigue.
  2. Be authentic and hopeful. Acknowledge where you are personally and/or as an organization AND recognize that there is a brighter future ahead. “OK, we acknowledge where our starting point is. Now what can we actually do about it?”
  3. Get and stay connected on a personal level. If you ask a colleague, “How are you?” you’re more likely to get an honest response if you have a connection already. Otherwise, the answer will be “great” and that won’t necessarily represent the truth.
  4. Listen. Used to being the fixer? Well, you can’t fix a pandemic. Lean into listening instead, showing empathy for both the struggles and small victories inherent in a long-term difficulty.
  5. Teach resilience skills throughout the organization. The ability to learn, adapt and thrive can and should be taught. If you’re not doing that as a part of people’s development, it’s time to start.

While it’s true that the crisis is not yet over, we can take heart and control that which is in our ability to control. Other things we simply must accept. ”Hope is a beautiful thing. It gives us peace and strength, and keeps us going when all seems lost. Accepting what you cannot change doesn’t mean you have given up on hope. It just means you have to focus your hope on more humanely tangible and attainable goals.” – Julie Donner Andersen

What are you doing to sustain yourself and others for the long haul? Comment below or send us a message. In the meantime, we wish you health and hope.

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash