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Allostatic Overload Amidst the Month of “Wait and See”

Lead Star, May 4, 2020

One of our brain’s critical functions is to connect dots, recognize patterns, and predict what’s next – all in an effort to reduce uncertainty.  As humans, we actually don’t like feeling surprised (aside from birthdays or other festive occasions).  Yet for the past several weeks, we’ve all been living in a state of deep uncertainty and consistent surprises, as the coronavirus sets the pace for when our lives could return to something resembling normal.   
This persistent level of uncertainty contributes to allostatic overload, the scientific term for “the wear and tear on the body” brought on by consistent exposure to uncertain outcomes and loss of an ability to plan for the future on clear, self-directed timelines.  The effects of allostatic overload include feeling tired, sad, anxious, and/or un-motivated to perform tasks that you used to find enjoyment in.  Sound familiar?   
We are all susceptible to allostatic overload right now.  The remedy?  Rest, healthy choices, and space away from productivity.  Don’t dismiss how you feel.  Instead, understand how you’re doing and choose relief when you can.  
Your ability to lead yourself during this period will prepare you for the long road of recovery and rebound.  The better you take care of you, the stronger you can be for others.

The Office Return: Support and Accommodate, Versus Convince and Persuade
We’ve heard from many clients in the last week that they are planning to re-open offices and bring workers back during the coming weeks.  In the process, they’re realizing that many employees are not yet ready to return to their previous workplaces, schedules, commutes or routines.  Perhaps they have childcare concerns or have a family member with health conditions that put them at a higher risk for coronavirus, so they don’t want to take actions that will increase the likelihood of exposure and bring the virus home.  The best practices we’ve seen are in organizations that ask for employee input, checking in to see where people are with the logistics, emotions and realities of returning to workplaces.  Then, they allow that input to influence their strategic return, supporting and accommodating needs.  On the flip side, we’ve seen some employers who are trying to force a return to the office with a mandate and deadline—we don’t recommend this approach as it’s clear the backfire potential is high.  This isn’t a time for convincing and persuading, this is a time for agility and leadership.   

The Ultimate Wait and See Month
March was shock and awe.  April was about working hard to shift and respond.  May is shaping up to be the ultimate wait and see month.  As our country begins to transition towards a new normal with re-openings, timelines are uncertain and a rolling start is the only accurate way to describe the economic reboot.  May already seems different.  It will test our ability to use a “wait and see” approach to the max.  While not the preferred style of action-oriented achievers, learning to match pace with the world around us can be an extremely valuable lesson that contributes to the greater awareness and understanding that will allow you to lead best going forward.

May Webinars
As the world begins to transition to a new phase in response to COVID-19, Lead Star will transition as well.  In May, we will shift to hosting webinars every other week, instead of weekly.  Stay tuned for details on our May 13th and May 27th events.  We’ll share them in future Monday morning moments.  And, Crisis Cohort members*, we’ll be reaching out to you later this week to gather your insights on a few key topics. 
Forward we go,
Angie and Courtney
*Our Crisis Cohort is comprised of leaders across diverse industries who’ve agreed to share with us insights during the Coronavirus pandemic.  If you would like to join the cohort, which is a minimal time commitment, sign up here.

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