Are you a psychological first aider?

Over the past few months, I have been having a number of coaching and mentoring conversations. Each conversation is different and unique in its own way. The human mind has an amazing ability to internalise the external world. Even for a similar stimulus, responses vary across the scale. This is what makes coaching and mentoring a very inspiring and motivating journey.

The pandemic has however given rise to new concerns and discussion points. None of us were ready for the onslaught of our senses – especially the sense of touch. Losing that and/or being forced to exercise it to the bare minimum and with extreme caution has taken a toll on many of us. Of course, man is also the most adaptable creature on this planet. So, we have reshaped ourselves to fit this new mould and new world order. We have thereby created for ourselves an environment prioritised on hygiene, distance and sanitization.

But this is not an easy-peasy situation. We are witnessing the rumblings everywhere. The cracks are showing up in our struggle to maintain equilibrium and make sense of everything. Sitting for hours on not the best of an upright chair, glued to calls most of the time, strained backs, cramped spaces, balancing home and work chores along with family obligations of children and/or parents and finally dealing with the virus itself when it strikes….all this chips away on our resilience and resolve to find a balance and to stay positive.

We are learning so much about ourselves. The pandemic has been a great teacher in showing us the mirror when it comes to our inner soul. Questions that can leave one haunted vary from issues of trust to resilience, from performance appraisals to managing teams: How do we cope with adversities? How do we manage teams virtually? What does a product launch mean without the trappings of an event? What does trust mean in a situation when you have new joinees/manager and every interaction is via a virtual call? Are performance appraisals authentic anymore in the absence of face-to-face interactions?

The emotions my coaching and mentoring conversations have thrown up range from ‘feeling inadequate’, ‘worried’, ‘anxious’, ‘stressed’, ‘a sense of resignation’, to ‘being overwhelmed’…and so on. This state of mind can weigh heavily on anyone. And it does no good. Mental well-being issues are gaining momentum and there is almost a cry out there for support systems to be set up to help colleagues and employees stay in the positive frame of mind.

Whether you are manager, a leader, or a newbie, we can together create a ring of trust, love and empathy. The need for tender loving care (TLC) has never been felt so forcefully as now. We can all contribute and do our bit to emotionally heal the world and our people.

Just as medical First Aid provided in the initial three minutes of an emergency can save a life, so can your calm mind, willingness to listen and being empathetic to your fellow human-being. This is psychological First Aid and a very integral tool that can provide support and a sense of belongingness to our colleagues and employees.

Begin with being there. Just listen. Often that is the perfect antidote. Not a platitude of words that talk of being cheerful, looking at the bright side, blah, blah, blah…Silences at times are equally powerful tools to calm people down.

Avoid jumping to solutions. Not everyone is looking for a solution. And catch yourself the moment you become aware of getting judgmental or bringing your own experiences into play. Remember, everyone reacts differently. We often make the mistake that we are actually ‘helping people’ by interpretating their situation for them. No! Do not focus on the outcome. Be mindful of the journey and stay aware in the moment and present.

Be a psychological First Aider for someone.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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