This crisis is more personal than professional

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As communicators, being prepared for handling a crisis is drilled into us. We have these long crisis manuals that list out each and every inevitable thing that can go wrong with a product or manufacturing line or the brand. PR consultancies, in their pitch briefs for potential clients, spend a considerable time explaining their modus operandi of handling a crisis. Quite a few even supplement this section with real examples from past clients!

The amount of attention and detailing we pay to handling professional crisis is crazy. Scenario planning. Training the spokesperson, leadership and first point of contact in how to handle the media during a crisis. And when a new product is to be launched, the first thing we do is debate on managing a potential crisis should the product fail to perform.

This pandemic has given rise to a crisis of a different nature. Many of us are going through a personal crisis. Unbearable pain of loosing a loved one. The trauma of having to search for oxygen, something that is so taken for granted. The cries of help for want of a bed. The virus is ruthless – it does not discriminate between genders, has scant regard for geographic boundaries, snoots its nose on age and dives in straight into the lungs and other organs.

And guess what – all that learning and understanding of how to handle a professional crisis, just flew out of the window. We have not been taught how to deal with a personal crisis of this magnitude. It continues to lay bare its fangs and gnaws at our very heart and core. It leaves us breathless as we try to understand and decipher it. Yet, deal we must.

Having mentally struggled to make sense of all the mayhem around and going through some days like a yo-yo; swinging from one extreme emotion to another, I am sharing what has helped me retain my sanity:

  • Taking a step back

Oh, not easy, not easy. Detachment and developing an objective perspective, however, has its advantages. When we do that, we are able to separate situations that are in our control from those that are not. Once we have done that, as a next step, bring in the question of – can the controllable situation be changed/reversed? If so, what is stopping you from changing that? When we question our self and seek answers from within, we can take solace from the fact that things can change, and that we can do it. Remember, every day we get to choose the lens with which to see the world. What are you choosing?

  • Looking inside in

A lot has already been written on the importance of maintaining a positive attitude. This attitude does not mean we brush away all that negativity that is currently surrounding us. Instead, it is all about creating a shift in how we view things. It also helps if we can dip into our bank of memories and pull out those events wherein, we have showcased resilience and come out as winners. True examples of our own adaptability and resilience can boost our mental immune system and help us cope with the current crisis.

  • Sharing our good and bad

As human beings we are fortunate that we can talk and share our pain and sorrow. Reaching out to a support group in this pandemic can actually benefit many of us. We can identify with our deep hurt and the emotions that can otherwise overwhelm us. A sense of connection is formed. Grief is the common underlying thread binding everyone together. Not only do we realize that we are not alone, the support group can throw up new resources on coping and dealing with a difficult situation.

When the pandemic abates, it will have left behind deep emotional scars that will take a long time to heal. If we start working towards that healing today, hopefully, we will be able to recover faster.

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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