Last week I did a remote workshop on the topic of True Colors. (For those who haven’t done True Colors, here’s a quick shorthand: Orange – Energetic, Spontaneous, Charming “Seize the Day”; Gold – Punctual, Precise, Organized “Be Prepared”; Green – Analytical, Intuitive, Visionary “Knowledge is Key”; Blue – Empathetic, Compassionate, Cooperative “I Care”.)
During the workshop when grouped by their predominant color, and asked to talk about the elements of a positive workplace, all four conversations shifted to an alternate topic – why this new situation was difficult. I found it fascinating because each group keyed in on something different thereby living out their dominant color for others to see. For someone whose primary color is Orange, it’s very hard to be at home the entire time. They miss the stimulation and energy of the people and activities of their office and campus. Blues miss the people. Even in a full house, they wish they could be with their colleagues in this difficult time, and hugs are definitely missed. Golds, who are great organizers and planners, are stressed out because the future is so uncertain. It’s hard to plan for the fall when you don’t know what it’s going to look like. Green’s are actually okay with being at home alone, they have a chance to focus on projects and work at their own pace. Unless – they are in a house filled with people and pets in which case they are hiding in the closet to get work done. As leaders, understanding the different ways people experience similar circumstances, as well as the widely varied situations or your staff members and colleagues, is one of the ways to help support them.
We enjoyed exploring this and laughing about how true it felt. But the important message was that it doesn’t really matter what your personality style is this is stressful on its own. When you add in the seemingly endless list of unknowns, the difficult decisions we are having to make, and the stress experienced by the students we work with it’s no wonder people are struggling. And the reality is that we can’t relieve most, maybe any of these conditions in the short term. And the longer-term really is filled with unknowns.
And now that I’ve added to your stress, take a deep breath. And remember to exhale – that’s the de-stressing part. Now, taking a deep breath won’t make the to-do list smaller, the list of unknowns go away, or the challenges of working remotely easier. But it does help stop the hamster-wheel-running of our brains and nervous systems. And one of our most important challenges right now is finding ways to manage our energy and supporting others as they manage theirs. From lethargy to hyper-activity, we are each experiencing the stress of this time in different ways. Trying different strategies that may be new to you may help you find a way through the ups and downs.
Yoga teaches us simple ways to change our energy when the stress is too much. Maybe a deep forward bend to help your heart relax. Or perhaps a small backbend to increase our energy. Something as simple as that can help us get through the day. For the near future, the external stresses won’t go away. Our leadership challenge, therefore, is to manage our energy flow for the long haul, not the short run. A bit of breathing, a moment of self-care (even if it means hiding in the closet) is critical to our ability to make it through this, and to be ready for want comes next which will bring its own challenges.
Please work to take care of yourself as you are taking care of so many around you. And remember to breathe!