Yoh….!!!! as they say here in Durban, what a week we have had in South Africa. The large majority of us find ourselves in states of silent trauma, our brains battling to process the events just passed and the uncertain futures ahead. How can this be? What is next? The cherry on the top of the already unstable covid cake. Our lives already shaken, masked faces, loved ones still in foreign countries, the end not in sight and then this… to rock our very foundations of sense making.
The greed, the ignorance, the anger, the sadness and the empty destruction?
Working with conscious leaders, especially to those who reside in South African, I’d like to offer a few suggestions on how to best lead when working through your own personal trauma.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED A DEGREE OF TRAUMA
Often, as leaders the natural tendency is to enter into an action orientated mode, go in and fix, support, help and most importantly show up strong. Although important, this can be used as a defence mechanism to ignore our own processing requirements. Sublimation, projection and denial become our best friends, not allowing our psyche’s to process and work through the trauma, causing long term negative fallout on our own anxiety levels with sustained sadness, depression, poor appetite, a short fuse temper and impaired functioning in daily easy tasks.
DEAL WITH YOUR OWN STUFF AND MAKE IT A PRIORITY
Acknowledge that you have experienced something real and be more heightened aware of your own needs. Nourish and listen to your body, eat healthily, take extra supplements, exercise and rest.
Switch off the media, and become more selective on how much dialogue you allow yourself to be a part of and choose words that don’t alarm, avoid magnified story telling and ensure you operate in a space of truth & transparency. Your brain is on high alert and will pick up on every sign of danger. Social media will re ignite the trauma often on an initial unconscious level.
FIND YOUR OWN UNIQUE COPING MECHANISMS
We are all wired differently, there is not right way to cope. Choose healthy options and avoid the urge to self-medicate or to binge watch Netflix for extended periods. Pray, connect with friends, seek doses of normality, be in nature and most importantly, take extra me time.
ASK FOR HELP
Now more than ever is the time to lean on trained specialists so that you can show up as the leader you want to be. Asking for help, whether it be a friend, a psychologists, a coach or a counsellor is not weak, on the contrary it shows incredible self awareness and foresight.
There is no shame in acknowledging you need to process a trauma.
ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO FOCUS ON SELF CARE
Now more than ever is the time to switch to a humanistic approach and have a heightened awareness of your teams needs, encouraging them to also follow the above suggestions.
Be aware of adding to their pressures with unnecessary dead lines and take the pressure off where ever possible. Do not allow your own needs for “normality” to push you to leadership blindness. Keep an open mind, and have a greater awareness of others needs by increasing healthy communication & reach out more. Take your foot off the accelerator if necessary and show as a leader you care first and foremost for the psychological safety of your teams.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
“I never lose. I either win or learn”. the great Nelson Mandela