Friday, 20 March 2020

Realistic optimism & supporting our women returners community


With the worries, uncertainty and practical changes resulting from COVID-19, we are developing new ways to support the Women Returners community over the coming months. 

We're planning a series of free short webinars with advice on topics such as coping with uncertainty and virtual interviewing. Watch for announcements on womenreturners.com and we'll put out a summary from each webinar on this blog. In the meantime, here are some initial tips on coping in the current climate.

Pause for Perspective

Given our predisposition to negative thinking, it's easy for our minds to race to the worse possible outcome right now, whether this be our chances of getting back to work after a break, the health of our family or the state of the world economy. You may be feeling anxious and frustrated that your plans are put on hold for an uncertain period of time, and even wondering if you'll now ever get back to work. 

This is the moment we need to pause and to consciously try to regain perspective before accepting the worse case scenario. We're not suggesting ignoring the crisis - we're well aware that these are some of the toughest times many of us will face. However, it is a moment to aim for a mindset of 'realistic optimism', as psychology research has found this can help to boost your resilience and motivation in difficult situations. 

What is Realistic Optimism?

This isn't about putting your head in the sand or blind optimism. Apsychologist Sandra Schneider tells us, optimism and realism are not in conflict - we need both. Realistic optimists are cautiously hopeful that things will work out the way they want and will do everything they can to ensure a good outcome. The realistic optimist finds out the facts and acknowledges the challenges and constraints she faces. Her optimism comes into play in her interpretation of ambiguous events and uncertain situations such as the one we're currently in. She recognises that many situations have a range of possible interpretations and chooses a helpful rather than an unhelpful one. She is aware of the positives as well as the negatives in each situation and actively looks for future opportunities, focusing on what she can control rather than what she has no influence over. 

Find out the Facts

To build this more resilient mindset, and avoid getting into a downward mental spiral, it helps to look out for and consider some positive facts alongside the overwhelmingly negative ones. For example, in the context of returning to work:
  • The hard reality is that many people are facing unemployment and a lot of recruitment is being put on hold. However, a significant number of employers are adopting a 'business as usual' attitude, adapting rapidly to a virtual world. There are still many jobs being advertised and we're finding this is applying to returner programmes as well as regular recruitment. 
  • Some businesses have an upturn of demand in the current climate and are facing skills shortages and increasing recruitment (such as Amazon).
  • There is a widespread call for nurses, midwives, occupational therapists and other healthcare specialists who have left the professional register to return to the NHS to cope with the crisis. 
  • Indications from countries who were affected earlier are that the effects are time-limited and so we can all plan for normality starting to return after the summer.

Ease the Pressure on Yourself

It will help you to gain perspective if you relax the pressure you're putting on yourself. If your family is sick, or you now have children at home all day, your priorities will inevitably shift. That's OK. You don't need to completely abandon your Back to Work To-Do List, but it may be put on hold for a while and you definitely won't make the same progress you were making before. 

Similarly if you do now have school-age children at home, forget perfect parenting and be flexible about adjustments you all need to make. Try to establish a routine that works for everyone and don't put yourself at the bottom of the pile.

You can find more practical tips on maintaining your mental health in this Forbes article: Coronavirus creating stress? And LinkedIn has put out 16 free courses including managing stress for positive change and building resilience .


For those of you with more time on your hands now, you can find advice on upskilling and improving your chance of a successful return to work when normality resumes in our Advice Hub. And Sign up to our free Women Returners Professional Network to receive our emails and updates with more support and advice.





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