We are in a period of prolonged stress and uncertainty due to COVID-19. In most parts of the world we are through the first wave of the virus. Some communities have begun to open up, and in some locations this opening up has led to a rise in the number of infections and a resulting return to the locked down state. There is lots of speculation about what the next phase of this virus will look like. Will it be a large spike or a series of contained outbreaks? Can we manage it and still remain open?
In Atlantic Canada there has been some gradual re-opening. Many service businesses (restaurants, stores) are open with changes to the way they are doing business. Most office workers have remained working from home. Employers are in various stages of designing plans for what the new workplace will look like. School is opening in most places in Canada this fall. There are huge changes and loads of uncertainty. And it is not going to be ‘over’ anytime soon.
Well-being as the #1 concern
Starting in mid-April 2020, many of my clients completed a quick, two-question survey on the challenges related to employee engagement they encountered during COVID-19. The number one concerns were the well-being of their teams, including: Phasing in an approach to the transition; Making sure to comply with public health guidelines; and safe distancing. For full results of this survey see this link.
This means we need to build ways to cope with the continued stress. When we are stressed it is difficult to make decisions, to think clearly. Our productivity suffers. We need to build resilience, to find ways of moving out of the ongoing stress and into a state of well-being, even if it is only for short periods of time.
Creativity and resilience
Engaging in a creative practice has been shown to reduce stress and prevent burnout. Creativity is the practice of thinking outside the box and then taking action. We use creativity in many ways. For example, when we design a new piece of art and then make it; when we learn to play a new instrument; when we put together a fabulous recipe and prepare it; when we design and build a new deck; when we solve a technical problem at work.
Engaging in a creative practice can take our mind off of the stress and uncertainty for a brief moment. That is helpful, as it gives our body and mind a break from the tension. But I think it does more than that. When we engage in a creative practice we start to tap into feelings of pleasure. Our shoulders relax, our stomach unclenches and we feel good. By doing something creative and getting ourselves into this state I think we are training our brain and body to recognize positive sensations. In this way when we are stressed we can learn to return to that state of well-being.
Creativity & engagement
Research shows that when employees are given the chance to be creative, they are more engaged in their work. Also that engaged employees are more creative. And we know that there are links between engagement and productivity and innovation in the workplace.
Since COVID-19 I have been delivering Creative Journaling for Well-Being virtual workshops to my corporate clients. These workshops use journaling and sketching to reduce stress and to build resilience. My clients have noticed that not only do their team members report feeling much less stressed at the end of a session, but people are feeling more engaged and connected with each other. I think being able to come together to share an experience of exploring what we need right now to lean into joy, to build resilience through sketching and journaling is a breath of fresh air. Teams tell me they are tired of talking and being on Zoom as passive listeners. Having a creative practice that builds skill in self-care while getting the team together, keeping their hands busy and minds engaged is just what is needed.
Looking for a fresh and creative approach?
I can help with this. If you are concerned about the mental health and well-being of your team members and are looking for a fresh and creative approach I’m your person. I’d be happy to design a customized, creative program to meet the needs of your group. Contact me and let’s get started.