Moving Toward Workforce Optimism in 2022

The last two years (and, unfortunately, counting…) have been brutal on all of us emotionally. And, among the various ups and downs, we’re gradually realizing that this pandemic may never fully go away. It’s all very taxing on our mental, physical, and emotional currency. We’re weighted by a blanket of pessimism because we’ve been conditioned to believe in the light at the end of the tunnel. In this instance, though, every time we think we’re getting closer to the light the tunnel just seems to get longer. 

Biotech, biopharma, and other life science professionals are no exception.

The project managers who are trying to keep their team of scientists organized as they race toward their deadlines, all while also managing their household in the face of unexpected COVID-related school closures. The young biomanufacturing associate who is working tirelessly to meet demands while trying to overcome their feelings of depression and isolation from staying at home. The jobseeker who is interested in switching careers and pursuing biotech but feels lost, not knowing where to start to get their foot in the door.

No matter the scenario, the additional requirements of managing work and life in a pandemic can lead to burnout, and for many already has.

So with the start of a new year, exactly HOW do we start to feel optimistic when we aren’t sure when or if this will ever end?

The key is radical acceptance of the situation and finding relief in the moment. 

Whether we are faced with a global pandemic or any number of other personal crises we go through as human beings, we can use the tools below to move the needle towards feeling optimistic again. 

Take a look at the emotional guidance scale pictured below. This scale is often used by mindfulness coaches to help people visualize the different emotions they can experience.

Image depicting the emotional spiral

Notice the heavier unwanted emotions on the bottom half of the spiral – this is where we can often dwell when we are stressed or uncertain about the future. 

What we need to practice is to bring ourselves back to the present moment, and slowly climb up the different emotions on the scale back towards the top. Below are the steps you can take to do this:

Note: If you find yourself in the bottom part of the spiral for prolonged periods of time and need some extra guidance, please consider talking to a licensed therapist who can help you. 

  1. Assess where you currently are on this scale. Become aware of what you’re feeling, and what thoughts are running through your mind.
  2. Acknowledge and accept that you’re feeling these emotions and thoughts. Acceptance is a big part of letting an emotion live out its lifecycle. When you resist, suppress, or deny it, it tends to stay for a much longer period of time, only to come out in a big way when you least expect it.  
  3. When you’re feeling ready, take an inspired action to get you to one of the higher emotions on this scale. This action can be something that grounds you, or just makes you feel good in the moment. Take a note of which grounding activities work for you, and keep these in your toolbelt for whenever you find yourself in the bottom half of the emotional scale. These actions can include:
    • Laying on the ground for some time – it might sound silly, but give it a try!
    • Being outside – whether it’s taking a walk with your dog, going on a hike, or driving with the windows down. This connects you in some way to the earth and the elements and can start to move your emotions upwards.
    • Losing yourself in an activity that you love doing. When you’re ‘in your zone’ doing something you thoroughly enjoy, this can feel very grounding.
    • Setting up time to have coffee with a colleague, mentor, or friend.
    • Anything else that makes you feel more connected to what makes you feel good in the moment.
  4. After you’ve spent some time being grounded, assess where you are again on the emotions scale. Do you feel a bit more relief than you did previously? 
  5. Repeat the process as you need. There is no pressure to climb to the top of the scale, but when you are able to find relief in the moment, this is where dopamine kicks in and wants us to continue feeling relief for longer.
  6. Don’t beat yourself up. This may be a new practice for you, and if you slip up it’s no big deal. Just start over when you can. 

If you are interested in learning more tools and skills to shift into optimism or receiving 1:1 coaching to guide you to a transformed life, please contact me at deepa@deepavidyakumar.com – send me a note to say hi, and let’s see how I can help you get there!