COVID Brain

Got less energy than you used to before COVID? Feeling rudderless, unfocused? Having trouble sleeping well? You’re not alone. We, as a society, are basically suffering from PTSD, except the trauma keeps occurring, so we are unable to move forward. And this has been exacerbated by four factors:

  1. The loss of human touch and face-to-face connection. This is especially traumatic for extraverts, whose psyches are centered around physically being with others. Zoom is a lousy substitute for a hug!
  2. Financial uncertainty and stress for those who have lost their jobs because of COVID, especially since the $600/week federal payments have stopped. People are losing their homes, their cars, and their self-respect, again adding to their trauma, and again multiplying the PTSD.
  3. The increasingly shrill divisiveness of our election season, which is reaching fever pitch. So many different “truths”. Is there anybody or anything we can trust?
  4. The worst aspect of this entire experience is that the primary cause of our PTSD just keeps on keeping on, adding more uncertainty and stress.

A recent Insead Knowledge article explains: “In times like these, our brains tend to work differently. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for complex planning, working memory, and analytical thinking, is swamped with ambiguous signals, impacting our decision-making abilities. Meanwhile, the brain scours its long-term memory systems for comparable experiences. Finding few precedents for this pandemic, it looks intently outward for guidance on what to do next.

The combination of impaired analytical thinking and heightened external sensitivity creates what can be called "Covid-19 brain"–a fragile, frazzled state that keeps our thoughts simultaneously on edge and unfocused.”*

What can we do about this? The frustrating answer, which is the underlying cause, is that we can’t “cure” it. The best we can do is to understand it and cope with it. Some ways to cope include:

  • Be gentle with ourselves. View this the same way that we would view recovering from a broken leg. Expect that we will be less effective than before. And forgive ourselves for being that way.
  • Find ways to bring ourselves joy, within the new boundaries. Intentionally find and partake of activities that soothe our frazzled souls.
  • Be gentle with others. Each person deals with COVID brain differently. Some people become aggressive; others withdraw; still others become hyper focused on something (even something very minor in the grand scheme of things). Call people. Be a friend. Many people are hungry for affirmation that they still matter.

* https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/battling-covid-19-brain-14626

Hang in there.

Gary

Let Us Redeem the Soul of our Nation

Here is John Lewis’s writing. It asks us each to become the best we can be, and to help each other do that also. I share his vision for our country and our world.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/opinion/john-lewis-civil-rights-america.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage&fbclid=IwAR0BJWOANT7ma4UXpkLbVSKDNq5uhJrvppV_qyUrDxFslFIohAiNj17DQCE

Together, we can, and we must, redeem the soul of our nation.

Gary

Does Being Kind Pay Off?

Science says that acts of kindness pay off by making us feel better and healthier. This is hardwired into our social DNA because it stems from way back when humans were living in tribes. Being kind to others in the tribe increased the odds of survival for the tribe.

Recent research at the University of California Riverside has shown that people who were kind to others became happier and more connected than those who were kind to themselves. In another study several years ago, a researcher divided college students into two groups and gave each student $100. He told one group to buy presents for themselves, and the other group to buy presents for others, including people they did not know. The second group felt better about themselves and was much more socially connected.

I invite you to test this for yourself. For two weeks, do three acts of kindness per week for yourself. Then for the next two weeks, do three acts of kindness per week for others.

If this is indeed true, how can you use this in your organization? What would happen if staff meetings or team meetings started by explaining this research and encouraging each person to do acts of kindness for others, both inside and outside the workplace? What would happen to employee engagement? What would happen to creativity? What would happen to productivity? What might happen to the dynamics in meetings – would people be more willing to work together instead of disagreeing and digging into their positions?

You can read the Associated Press article at https://apnews.com/f487b63befb2f4c3181404bcc87be1c1.

I welcome your feedback

Gary Langenwalter

Avoiding the Worst Outcomes of COVID-19

COVID has cost us dearly. Approximately 132,000 people have died in the USA, with almost 3 million confirmed cases, and our economy is in the tank. As painful as these are, the potentially the worst and longest-lasting cost of COVID is a social recession, because it weakens our social fabric so that we are no longer a country with common ideals but a collection of fractious factions. A social recession is caused by physical distancing, which leads to social distancing, causing us to feel increasingly disconnected from the people in our lives. This is confirmed by a recent (May 21-29) survey by the University of Chicago* in which 50% of respondents said they had sometimes or often felt isolated in the past 4 weeks, more than double the number (23%) in 2018. This results in reduced health, reduced learning on the part of children, and reduced workplace productivity.

Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, says, “Typically, in moments of stress, we reach out to people. We spend time with people we love. And now we’re being asked not to do that, at least in physical terms.” He cites recent research from Wharton, “If we want our kids to do well, if we want workers to do better in the workplace, if we all want to be more fulfilled and healthy, …human connection is at the center of it all.”

He encourages us “to build our lives around people, and to make the case for creating a people-centered society, … putting ourselves on the path to creating a society that is healthier and stronger, but also more resilient, than before the pandemic began.” The 4-page conversation is at: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/avoiding-a-social-recession-a-conversation-with-vivek-murthy.

I invite your comments and your ideas about how we might do that. We owe it to our children and their children.

*https://www.norc.org/PDFs/COVID%20Response%20Tracking%20Study/NSF_COVID_Topline.pdf

Gary Langenwalter

Your Values Are On the Line

Who you are, matters. Right Now! What you stand for, matters. Right now! What you do matters. Right Now! What you say matters. Right Now!

If what is going on makes you uncomfortable, the time to speak out is NOW! Even though speaking out is uncomfortable. Even though you might “do it wrong” or upset someone. If you are silent, you tacitly support the status quo. It is time to let your true values shine. For many years to come, you will be remembered and judged for what you do and what you say RIGHT NOW. The picture is my public stance in McMinnville, Sunday, May 31, on highway 99W. I could no longer sit safely and silently on the sidelines.

Whatever your sphere of influence, people respect you and will listen to what you say and how you say it. And they will watch what you do and how you do it. Where do you invest your organization’s resources? Where do you invest your time? How do you treat others who have different ethnicities?

Think about the leaders whom we admire. Each of them took a stand, knowing that their stand would make some people uncomfortable. That’s the price of being a leader who makes a difference. They spoke truth to power. And they did so with deep respect and compassion for the people whose lives were being affected. It’s time for each of us to do the same.

I cannot do great things. But I can do small things with great love. And when others do the same, we collectively build a better future for our children and their children.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Gary Langenwalter

Masks Make Good Neighbors

Like many people, I used to assume that wearing a mask would protect me from the COVID virus. Unfortunately, masks do NOT protect the wearer from germs that other people are spreading. Instead, MASKS PROTECT OTHERS by limiting the spread of germs by the mask-wearer, keeping the majority of those germs in the mask or very close to the wearer rather than being broadcast at face level. And because people can be spreading the virus without knowing they have it, asking them to wear a mask to prevent them from infecting others seems to be in the same vein as restricting smoking inside buildings. As my Dad used to say, “Your right to swing your fist stops just before it hits my nose.”

Rephrased, the people who choose to not wear masks in public are increasing the probability that they will (unknowingly) infect others. So I wear a mask when I am in public, and I intentionally steer clear of people who are not wearing masks. I will even encourage them to wear masks.

Finally, I applaud and support those organizations (including Costco) who are now requiring that ALL people wear masks.

I invite you to join me.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Gary Langenwalter

Forget Your GPS – Use Your IGS

The problem with a GPS is that it needs you to put in your specific destination. Saying “I want to get gas” is not enough; you need to specify one particular gas station. Unfortunately, nobody knows what the new “normal” will look like, or how our organizations will be functioning then. Thus, we can’t use our personal and corporate GPSs as guidance systems to get to the new destination – we don’t know what it is!

Instead, we need to rely on our IGS – Internal Guidance System. What is that? It’s not our left brain. Not our ego. Instead, it is our inner sense, our “who we are”. It tells us the next turn, and that’s all. It is VERY tactical! It doesn’t tell us our final destination. Why not? Because it can’t. Because our final destination is being co-created, by us and many others. All our IGS can tell us is our next step, from the myriad of choices of next steps. And sometimes, it doesn’t even do that! That might be because any of several next steps is equally valid, equally appropriate. What route do you want to take to get to the grocery store? Unless something unusual is going on, it really doesn’t matter – they’ll all get you there in about the same time and with about the same distance. One major difference between a GPS and an IGS – for a GPS to work, we have to be in motion. Sometimes, our IGS wants us to sit for a bit and be still, to get clearer about what is real for us and how that might lead us forward. Remember, not all who wander (or sit) are lost. Methinks we’re in the middle of a major “wander.” And I “wander” how it’s going to turn out. (Pun intended)

For people who are goal-oriented, this process is particularly frustrating, because we need to know the ultimate goal so we can constantly monitor our progress and make the mid-course corrections to ensure that we arrive at our intended destination – e.g. the gas station. My wife and I took a drive into the Coast Range Sunday afternoon just to be out in nature. Our objective – take a drive in the Coast Range. Perfectly legal, because we weren’t going to be within 100 feet of anyone. So each time we came to an intersection, we’d decide which direction to go. We found a really neat wedding venue, in a meadow above a small river. Beautiful! We also found a horse ranch that provides trail rides, which we will try in the near future. We didn’t even know they were there until we were driving up a road we hadn’t taken before. And then we used our GPS to get home, and it brought us home by a different route.

Let’s share experiences of using our IGSs. I look forward to hearing from you.

Acknowledgement – I learned about IGS from a very wise woman, Elaine Cornick, of Cultural Butterfly Project. www.culturalbutterflyproject.com/ She also happens to be my older sister.

Gary Langenwalter

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