Product Management Resilience – Coping Through COVID "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs August 08 2020 True Business Strategy, COVID-19, Psychology, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 1407 working from home shutterstock_1672542787 Product Management 5.628

Product Management Resilience – Coping Through COVID

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As COVID-19 continues to impact life, work and everything in between, we’re sharing some advice, from Silja Litvin, a Psychologist, CEO and Founder of PsycApp and developer of multi-award-winning Emotional Fitness Game, eQuoo.

Read on for Silja’s thoughts on boosting resilience, embracing positive change in challenging situations, and for her unique three-week isolation resilience challenge.

working from home shutterstock_1672542787
For everyone, this is unchartered territory. How do we effectively isolate and continue business as usual? (Photo: Shutterstock)

 

Coping Through COVID

The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected almost all parts of the world. Millions of people around the globe have experienced severe lifestyle changes over the past few weeks.

Both social distancing and self-isolation are essential in protecting yourself and the people around you from the coronavirus infection. In fact, limiting social contact and your whereabouts are believed to be the most effective measures against the spread of this disease.

The problem is, most of us aren’t used to sitting at home 24/7. For many people, self-isolation is one of the greatest challenges they have ever faced.

Boosting Resilience

How to boost your resilience and stay sane while in self-isolation? And what is resilience anyway?

Resilience represents the ability to manage stress and quickly bounce back after a crisis. Being resilient doesn’t mean that you don’t experience any stress, it’s about being able to quickly recover from life challenges.

Building a resilient mindset while in isolation will help you to manage your boundaries, alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, and keep up good mental health.

Yes, some people are more resilient than others. However, resiliency is a skill that you can practice and develop. An important part of raising resilience is cognitive flexibility or flexible thinking.

Flexible Thinking

Cognitive flexibility, also known as elastic thinking, is your ability to think differently about the challenges that you are facing. In other words, thinking flexibility represents the ability to consider different understandings of the problem, taking a different viewpoint, and asking yourself how else you can approach the problem. Elastic thinking nudges you to develop different strategies to tackle the problem.

Silja’s Isolation Resilience Challenge

So, as we’re currently on lockdown with our inner demons (and only have Netflix to combat them!) here are some tips on how to face your challenges and raise your resilience while in self-isolation.

Week 1

Keep a micro journal you fill out every evening at a set time (set your timer now):

  • 3 things you were grateful for that day
  • 3 things you found difficult/challenging/painful/worrisome
  • 1 thing you learned about yourself or a loved one
write a journal (Shutterstock)
Make a list of things you’re grateful for, things that are challenging and things you’ve learned about yourself (Photo: Shutterstock)

Keeping a journal is a great way to keep track of situations that trigger stress and emotional responses. This will help you understand how effective your behavior is in stressful situations, so you can work on learning better stress-coping mechanisms. However, journaling can also spark gratitude, inspiring you to think of all good things in your life.

Week 2

After a week, highlight the words that repeat themselves – if not exactly, then in meaning.  For example:

Gratitude: You will find that certain things repeatedly bring you joy. Choose 3 of them.

Challenges: You will find that you struggle with the same type of things over and over again. Maybe even the story of your life? Again, choose 3 things that you struggle with.

Things you learned: Group the things you’ve learned into 2 groups:

  1. Things you are happy with
  2. Things you are not so happy discovering

Exercises

At the end of week 2, try these simple exercises.

Exercise 1. Add a Layer

From the list of things you’re grateful for, choose 3 then add a small layer to them.

For example: You liked that your cat was extra cuddly? Tinker a new toy for your cat out of things you have in your home.

In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), this is a strategy known as behavioural activation. Behavioural activation is based on a mutual influence that our feelings and behaviours have on each other and it is one of the main goals of CBT. This behaviour skill aims to help you engage more often in enjoyable activities and improve your problem-solving skills.

Exercise 2. Find Exemptions

Look at the 3 things you found difficult or challenging and find 2 exemptions where the opposite was true.

For example: You found it terrifying to be by yourself? What about that time you were in the bathtub for over an hour happily soaking away without even THINKING of being alone?

In CBT, selective attention is based on biases in thinking that lock you into persistent negative thinking patterns and attention that are difficult to control. These patterns contribute to anxiety and depression and can significantly interfere with your normal day-to-day life.

However, selective attention also involves the act of simply focusing on a particular object or a situation while ignoring irrelevant information that is simultaneously occurring. Practising to focus your attention on positive aspects of any given situation can boost resilience and help manage isolation anxiety.

A great way to exercise your attention is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness involves focusing on what is happening in the present moment, without judgment and self-evaluation. In this way, you become the observer of whatever you are experiencing, which allows you to notice when your attention has drifted away from the here and now and then redirecting your attention back to the present.

Exercise 3. Challenge your Evaluations

Of the things you learned, look at the 2 groups, which one is bigger?

  • Look at the list of positives and write a short paragraph on how that changes the way you used to see yourself
  • Look at the negatives and write a short paragraph on why you think these are negatives

Emotional evaluation involves how you evaluate yourself when experiencing various emotions. It includes self-assessment strategies such as:

  • Examining your feelings (What am I feeling? Where in my body am I feeling it?)
  • Understanding why (Why am I feeling this emotion? What’s my contribution to this feeling?)
  • Examining the frequency (How often I’ve been having this feeling?)
  • Separating feelings from thoughts (Take time to process your emotions before you respond to them)
  • Achieving better self-awareness and emotional control. Emotional and physical sensations are intertwined. The different areas in your body “feel” different emotions and those sensations correlate to each of those emotions. The technique known as body scan provides better awareness of the physical sensations that arise when you are experiencing a certain emotion. It also allows you to spot emotions that arise faster and become more mindful of them. In turn, emotional awareness allows you to choose how you will respond to those emotions consciously. In other words, body scanning improves emotional control

Week 3

In week 3, go back to the micro journal every evening at a set time (set your timer now). Again, write down the following things each day:

  • 3 things you were grateful for that day
  • 3 things you found difficult/challenging/painful/worrisome
  • 1 thing you learned about yourself or a loved one

At the end of week 3, compare the lists of week 1 and week 3 and see how far you’ve come.

Embrace Positive Change

Positive change in challenging situations can be a life-saver. Accept that there is no such thing as failure. Difficulties are the catalysts of change and setbacks are just feedback to help you succeed in the future.

Life challenges open up new chapters and possibilities. There are times in life when our old habits and patterns are not appropriate anymore. So, instead of feeling like a failure, explore new ways of thinking and behavior patterns.

Cognitive restructuring can help you to reframe and redirect your mind to change cognitive distortions and approach situations from a more positive stance. Employ flexible thinking to help you think differently about what you are facing. Building a resilience mindset can help you manage your life challenges better, experience less stress and anxiety, achieve your goals, and be happy.

Disclaimer: If you have flagged yourself some real issues, especially repetitive ones, please speak to a trusted person, your GP or seek a therapist. Times like these can unearth deep-seated issues that we bury under layers of actions and distractions. Don’t be afraid: if you flag them, it means you’re ready to deal with them, even if they’re scary.

Rinse and repeat.