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Note - dark season references the winter season when days are shorter and nights are longer, but may also give reference to a melancholic and sad state of mind.

In this article Øyvind Sæther, Director of People & Organisation in RSM Norway, shares some post-pandemic reflections. What lessons have we learned from our reactions to such a situation over time and to the absence of social interaction? Furthermore, how can we best prepare ourselves for the times to come?

 

When the darkness now has descended,
I walk silently across the room.
feelings are wearing me down,
What will the future bring?...

 

It was hardly the coronavirus pandemic or the wear and tear of lockdown that Åge Aleksandersen, a Norwegian musician, had in mind when he wrote the lyrics to "Light and warmth" in 1984. Although Åge is not the most frequently played on my Spotify, it is precisely these words that are tactfully trotting through my mind when entering the dark season.

Because we, who live in the northern part of the world, are now sliding into the dark season. We are still weary after long periods without social replenishment at the workplace, with social restrictions towards family and friends, and with a home office that little by little blurred the fine line between working hours and leisure time. I'm anxious to see how strongly the darkness sneaks into the thousands of home offices, and colours us from the inside. I wonder - what are the actual long-term consequences of isolation, the lack of closeness, and the small everyday meetings we were robbed of during the pandemic?

I have great respect for how the authorities handled the pandemic. At the same time, I believe that the measures that were taken represent the biggest social psychological experiment of our lifetime. Living and leading took on a whole new dimension during the uncertainty.

Life is indeed an uncertain project, and the vast majority of decisions are made with uncertainty. The pandemic has severely challenged our working life (and the world in general) with difficulties we have no previous experience with. But are we ready and equipped to handle them?

As humans, we are all “wired” differently to each other. We differ in how sensitive and receptive we are towards negative feelings and thoughts. We are also different in terms of our ability to recover from challenging experiences and periods. Because our ability to handle experiences and challenging times in life is partly biologically conditioned, are we then reduced to passengers in our own lives who hope for the best (whilst fearing the worst)? Or do we have latitude for action, where we can influence and make a difference?

I choose to believe the latter. I believe that there are some precautions that we can all take to prepare ourselves better for the dark season. It is important to remember that even if we work more in isolation, the individual should not carry the load alone.

Be gentle with yourself - It is common to have negative thoughts during stressful periods in life. Accept that you get negative thoughts and feelings without judging yourself for them. After all, they are just thoughts, so let the thoughts come and go without letting them consume you.

Focus on what you can influence - Don't waste energy on things you can't do anything about, it just drains you of energy and doesn't bring anything positive with it.

Fool your brain with language - Start by redefining your negative thoughts into solution-oriented language. Instead of thinking “I can’t do it” or “I am so stressed”, say “how can I do it” or “what do I need do to reduce stress”. It’s simple, nearly too simple – but it works.

Be empathetic - Try to see things from other people's perspective and be curious about those around you. See yourself in the other person's situation in order to gain a better understanding of their point of view. Few of us consciously decide to think or act in a negative manner, and we don't burn out on purpose. We all have our own battles and react differently to the same problems. That is precisely why we should take Brad Meltzer's quote with us at all times; "Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. So be kind. Always”.
 

«Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. So be kind. Always.»