In May 2020, Happy Brain Science presented a free virtual keynote titled “Managing Transitions During Crisis.” During the session, we received a great question from one of our attendees:
“What has emerged for the folks at Happy Brain Science as applicable tips & techniques on the home front? Likely similar to how these concepts apply at work, but curious if there are any refinements when helping family/kids going through the 3 phases (of transition)?“
Managing Transitions During Crisis: At Home
We wanted to share our responses here—and launch a wider conversation about applying the science at home. Here are 3 approaches that have helped Scott, Kim, and me cope during this current phase of tough transitions:
“Empathetic listening and lots of communication apply to family as well as colleagues. Helping my girls process the ending of the normal they knew has been important. As with employees, the keys are to listen without judgment and help them know that whatever they are feeling is OK.” —Scott Crabtree, Chief Happiness Officer
Scott’s daughters have (understandably) been missing school and friends. Truly listening and just empathizing with them—without trying to “fix” their feelings—has helped them better accept the situation and turn their focus toward online education.
Listening with empathy is a critical skill in the workplace, and it’s also powerful at home. It involves:
- Paying attention to body language
- Refraining from giving solutions
- Taking the time to truly listen
Do you know how to respond with empathy? You might want to give this short quiz from LeadershipIQ a try (if you’re willing provide an email address to see the results) or check out this general empathy quiz from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
“What we’re experiencing right now is intense. My biggest speaking engagement has been postponed a full year, my husband took a 20% pay cut, and my kids haven’t been out of the house since lockdown started in the Philippines. But if I take a step back and look at what I have versus what I don’t have, there is always something that I can be grateful for. There will be other workshops I can present for Happy Brain Science, we have emergency funds that can tide us over, and most importantly, my family members are all safe and healthy.” —Cathy Jimenez, Happiness Facilitator and Speaker
I realized that when I focus on the things that are going right in my life, it helps me develop a more positive outlook. And when I practice positivity, it helps lessen my stress and allows me to think of possible solutions, rather than dwell on problems.
What are some ways to access gratitude during this time? One way is to keep a “gratitude journal,” where you think back over the past day or week and write down 2-3 things you’re thankful for. In a study by Emmons and McCullough, the participants who did so exhibited heightened well-being across multiple life dimensions. Another option is to share specific gratitude with others. Especially at a time when so many of us are feeling low, offering authentic appreciation can make a real difference, while also lifting our own mood.
The practice of gratitude not only affects our emotions—it also has a lasting positive impact on our brain. It helps reduce cortisol levels, toxic emotions, and stress. Although our inherent negativity bias makes it difficult, when we focus on expressing gratitude for things that are going right, it helps us get through difficult times with resilience.
“There’s a famous quote by Kurt Vonnegut: ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?’ Most experiences during the pandemic don’t remotely fall in that category. But a few of them do—and I’m trying to really notice and savor those moments, especially when they represent progress toward something meaningful. For example, my partner recently acted on a goal to launch a recurring virtual gathering. When it started to become clear that people were interested in attending—even before the first event happened—I made a point to share my excitement about that initial milestone. At a time when the future is full of unknowns, it’s more important than ever to recognize and celebrate small wins.” —Kim Menig, Coach & Coordinator
We’re not living in a normal time—and it’s normal for our productivity to go down. For parents working with kids at home, challenges include frequent interruptions, noisy distractions, and trying to manage children’s distance learning. For others, social isolation may be a significant issue. In the midst of these circumstances, how can we still create a sense of progress and forward motion?
One strategy that has helped me stay motivated during this time is setting small daily goals. By working toward “bite-sized” goals, I’m able to make gradual, steady progress towards our major targets. A regular check-in with the Happy Brain Science team via video chat also provides an opportunity to discuss solutions to get back on track as needed. And when we hit our targets, we celebrate our progress together as a team!
Small wins can help us boost engagement, resilience, and well-being, so we’re more able to keep going. During tough times like this, bits of progress can be the difference between getting stuck and taking action.
How Are You Managing Transitions?
Since we’re nowhere near the end of the current crisis, it’s important to acknowledge the situation we’re in, prepare for additional changes to come, and balance optimism with realism. We hope these tips help you support yourself and others through change—both at work and in your personal life.
Do you have any questions or comments to share? Would you like to learn more? Don’t hesitate to reach out; we’d love to hear your thoughts, and we’d be more than happy to help! Please comment below, connect with us through any of our social media channels, or contact us here.