RESILIENCE IN THE MIDST OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS: Easing Anxiety Through Communication

This is the second piece in an ongoing series on topics relating to how we cope personally and collectively in the midst of this health crisis. For questions, topic suggestions, resources, or other, please feel free to reach me at rb@reneebranson.blog

I will also be holding a FB Live each day that I post an update at 3pm EST on my Resilient.Bounty page. This will be a brief 10-15 minute opportunity to discuss the issue, connect with others, and get support. 

Easing Anxiety Through Communication

Fewer things cause anxiety more than lack of information and communication. During a crisis, however, rapidly changing dynamics, fluid situations, and the need to mitigate misinformation creates the need for careful communication. These two facts can sometimes feel at odds, but they don’t have to be. Here are 5 tips to help you communicate with the well-being of your team in mind:

  1. Understand the human stress response. When people lack information, the brain is wired to automatically fill in the gaps. Because the human brain is also wired to protect us, the amygdala (the “fight or flight” part of our brain) fills in those gaps with potential threat. This can lead to anxiety, catastrophizing, and unhealthy coping behaviors. Understanding this creates more sensitivity toward the need for increased communication.
  2. It’s ok not to know. The reality is that during a crisis, you sometimes simply do not have an answer or any new information to share. It is better to say that than nothing at all. Regular communication reduces emotional upset, even if that communication is, “The status has not changed from our last update,” or “There has been a question about X and while we do not know the answer to that right now, here is what we are doing to find out.” When possible, set a regular time for updates each day. Again, this helps to alleviate anxiety and helps to avoid catastrophizing. It signals, “We are on it.” 
  3. Acknowledge the emotion. It might be stating the obvious, but verbalize to your team and colleagues that this is an emotionally and mentally trying time. Acknowledge that nerves are frayed, tempers are short, and fears abound. Normalizing the natural, human response builds both connection and emotional safety. 
  4. Check-in. Whether through one-on-one or group meetings, take time to regularly check in with your team on their well-being. Remember this is impacting them in their personal lives as well as schools close and events cancel. Allow for time and space to discuss how people are coping. This is particularly important as more work teams are working remotely and away from their professional support systems.
  5. Have a larger communication strategy.  Plans help people feel safe. It provides a sense of order and control. This morning, Gina Furia Rubel of Furia Rubel Communications has posted a terrific resource, 10 Tips to Manage Through the Coronavirus Pandemic. I highly recommend it. 

Regular communication, led with compassion and empathy, goes a long way to improve well-being in the current crisis as well as build stronger work relationships beyond the crisis. 

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