Since the first quarter of 2020, the world has gone through some unique times. Ironically, the year began with businesses and individuals alike espousing “2020 Vision,” while conversely the world has since been enveloped in confusion and panic!
This is not to say that there have not been such crises in the past, but the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in terms of the scale and span of impact. Prior such events as the Spanish Flu, which happened over a century ago, or more recent pandemics such as SARS and MERS tended to be national, or at the most regional in terms of impact. However, given the interconnected world we live in today, the impact of COVID-19 is truly global and no country nor any segment of the population has been spared its implications, the only variable being how huge.
It goes without saying that the pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health. There are challenges and concerns about the pandemic itself, as well the changes in work and lifestyles that have resulted as contagion outcomes. This is too wide a subject, so here I shall restrict myself to mental health issues from a professional perspective and particularly in the context of men, although many of these principles can be applied generally.
Let’s talk about change
Change is a constant feature of life, and especially so in recent years. Technology is a major enabler of change, but humans and particularly men have increasingly become slaves to technology. If anything, COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of change even further and brought forward certain quantum changes which were deemed to be on the drawing board and perhaps a few years away in terms of being implemented.
For example, remote working or Working from Home (“WFH”), which was talked about as a developing phenomenon in recent years has swiftly become the norm and is likely to continue to be the new normal for many people going forward.
WFH has introduced several changes as well as challenges to people’s lives. And this is the case for men in particular, where their career and its trappings tend to become intertwined with their being. The corporate life image and routine is how they conduct much of their life and often it defines their self-worth. This mindset and routine are often also used as a shield to avoid being a full partner where a man is also a husband and father. Many men are struggling with the new concept of working from home as it also means that they can’t avoid contributing and working at home!
Work-life balance as a concept has been under challenge for some time as these facets increasingly overlapped. In my view, the concept is inherently flawed as it puts work ahead of life while it should be the other way round. It would be better to view this concept as Life-Work Integration.
If a man has a fulfilled life, then he will be successful at work. As success at work does not offset a messed-up life, a key success factor in life is for a man is first take care of himself. This is not being selfish but rather making oneself better equipped to help oneself and others. A common analogy, if one can remember in the WFH era, is the flight safety demonstration prior to air-flights take-off. Passengers are always advised, that in the event of an emergency, to put on the Oxygen Mask themselves first before attending to others even if it is their own minor child.
WFH has resulted in moving the increasingly shaky concept of work-life balance to a state where there are no boundaries, whether these be physical, mental, or emotional, between personal life and professional work. Now that we are over a year into the COVID-19 Pandemic impacted world, the fatigue is starting to tell, and mental health is even more of a priority than ever before.
Pace yourself for the life marathon
As we live through the COVID-19 crisis, here are some focus areas and guidelines for men to better manage the challenges that will continue to surface as this state prolongs and the pandemic continues to surprise us with new variants to stretch its presence in the world we live in:
Take care of yourself as life is a marathon and not a sprint.
Taking better care of yourself on life matters will better equip you to manage professional matters and help others too.
Improve your physical condition via an exercise regime of your choice.
Take care of your mental and emotional health via meditation, yoga, listening to music, reading a favourite book, or any other preferred mode of relaxation.
If you have others in the home who are also in WFH mode, if practical and possible, have physical separation between you and others.
Take time-outs during the day as you would when in the office for meal and coffee/tea breaks.
Do not ignore social interactions: even if in lockdown contact family and friends.
Avoid multi-tasking as this leads to stress. WFH has resulted this morphing into “multi-roling” (i.e. multiple roles). Research shows that men in particular are not adept at multi-tasking. Hence, conscious thought and planning should be exercised to avoid taking on too many tasks or obligations particularly in an environment that is ever-changing.
Learn to become adaptable given that change is constant. Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School has highlighted the need to adapt or risk becoming obsolete. In her view, it is the breakneck speed of workplace change that will make the Adaptability Quotient (“AQ”) more important than Intelligence Quotient “IQ”) and Emotional Quotient (“EQ”). We can also draw lessons from the animal kingdom, where it is not the strongest such as the dinosaurs that survived but rather the more adaptable species such as the tortoise that survived in the longer term.
Remember you are not alone nor unique in dealing with this world: be open to sharing your concerns and challenges with family and friends whose views you trust and value.
Last but not least, consider working with an Executive Coach. Coaches can guide you in finding your true self and seeing life with its challenges from a different perspective. This will enable you to manage these more effectively to lead a more positive and fulfilled life.
About Munir Hasan
Munir Hasan is an Executive Coach and Mentor at Authentic Vision, based in Singapore. He trained with Co-Active Training Institute (CTI), and is a member of International Coach Federation (ICF). Prior to formally commencing coaching and mentoring, Munir was associated for 23 years with Cargill Inc (a leading US multi-national corporation), and has held senior Finance roles as well as Directorship roles in various countries in Asia, including a listed company in Indonesia. He is a member of the Singapore institute of Directors. Earlier he was associated with KPMG for 13 years in external auditing and business consulting while based in London, UK and Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Find out more about Authentic Vision Life and Executive Coaching www.theauthenticvision.com
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