Nearly seven months in, you’d think we’d have a handle on dealing with this never-ending pandemic. Sure, we’re used to wearing masks and staying our distance, but what we thought would be a temporary interruption to business as usual has now become an indefinite state of suckiness.
Your job was challenging enough before this mess and now new challenges are piled up on top of old challenges. Overwhelming demands on your time are stressing you out, never mind the fact that we’re in fall conference season, budget season, and, yeah, election season, which doesn’t help.
You hear about people getting furloughed and laid off at other associations and wonder how secure your job is. Home and work have blended into one. Your social life is still stunted, your kids’ schooling is a mess, and just when things seem to be feeling a bit “normal,” the headlines tell us otherwise.
You’re emotionally exhausted, burnt out, and anxious. Your morale is sagging. You miss your co-workers. You miss the security guard, the bus driver, the sandwich shop workers. You could live the rest of your life happily without ever seeing Zoom again. You want your old life back.
Sorry to be such a downer, but here’s the thing: if you want to bring your best self to the challenges lying ahead, you need to get your association mojo back.
9 ways to get back your association mojo
That litany of depressing facts about our shared reality shows why you have every right to be in a funk. But not for long! Here’s how to get your association mojo back.
#1: Reflect upon and reaffirm your core values
What do values have to do with finding a solution for burnout and stress? Values help you figure out what to prioritize. They help you navigate tough situations and decisions. They remind you about the right thing to do. Don’t cause yourself more stress by compromising your values.
One way to stay connected to a value is by keeping a “tangible anchor” nearby—an object that reminds you of the value. This useful article from Harvard Business Review explains how an antique clock serves as a reminder of reliability.
#2: Recognize energy drains
Self-awareness is extremely important during stressful times. You must understand what situations, tasks, and people deplete your energy. Minimize the time you spend around anything or anyone that drains your emotional resources. For example, stop doomscrolling—the habit of scrolling through bad or stressful news.
Know what energizes you too so you can turn to those activities when you’re feeling low.
#3: Make time for learning
Write down your professional goals, for example:
• Skills to learn
• Experiences to have
• People to meet
• Credentials to achieve
Research ways to accomplish these goals. Cultivate a growth mindset—a willingness to stretch your comfort zone.
Learning provides a sense of satisfaction and purpose. You many think you don’t have time for professional development right now, but you should really make the time. Its positive impact will help you cope with everything else on your plate.
Or, you could learn something unrelated to work, like a new language, cooking technique, craft, or musical instrument. It’s motivating to make progress and inch toward mastery.
#4: Reconnect with or cultivate a network
Everyone’s feeling a loss of camaraderie while working from home. It’s too easy to become isolated from your professional community.
You’ll feel better if you can find positive, “going-places” people, especially if your co-workers look at work as a J.O.B., not as a career. But you’ll have to be intentional about networking since you can’t just serendipitously run into people these days.
Keep an eye out for virtual events that offer a networking component. Look for Facebook groups (like Association Chat) and get more active on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Make a list of people you want to know better or connect with again. Schedule time to contact them and arrange a virtual meetup or phone call. Organize your own Zoom coffee chats, lunchbreaks, happy hours, or book club.
Belonging to a professional community does wonders for the soul. You’ll have a network of people around who can expose you to new ideas, lessons learned, and doable solutions. Plus, a network better positions you for whatever the future brings—it’s a wise investment in your career.
#5: Ask for what you need
The not knowing is the problem right now. There’s too much uncertainty in our lives. If you’re stressing out about a potential problem at work, don’t allow it to make you crazy. Instead, ask for information that will clarify the situation.
Ask for what you need. Speak up if you need to adjust your schedule to get your kids set up for online school each morning. Or if you need time off to recharge. Maybe you’d like the budget or time off to attend a virtual conference. Say something if you need uninterrupted time during the day to focus on a project—or just one day without Zoom.
#6: Refill your well
Everyone needs more rest and recovery right now. Start by taking microbreaks during the day. At the office, these little breaks occurred whenever we stopped by someone’s desk, chatted in the hall, lingered in the kitchen, or got to a meeting early.
Many people relied on their commute for time alone. If you’re surrounded by people at home all the time, you need to figure out a way to replace that quiet time.
Creative pursuits can replenish the tank, for example:
• Online museum visits
• Watching movies
• Listening to music
• Diving into a hobby or craft
Getting outside in nature is great for mental health, as is exercise too.
#7: Focus inward
We spoke about self-awareness earlier, specifically knowing what drains your energy and saps your spirit. One way to become more self-aware is by journaling. Simply open a Word doc in the morning and do a brain dump. Write about challenges, accomplishments, frustrations, and wishes. It’s a healthy way to vent, see what’s really bothering you, make connections, and set intentions for the day.
Mindfulness has been all the rage for the past decade for good reason. It helps you stay in the moment and not let your mind spiral out of control with speculations and worst case scenarios. Meditation or mindfulness improves your ability to pause and take a breath before reacting emotionally. It’s an easy superpower to develop.
#8: Stop trying to do it all
But there’s so much to do! Yup, demands keep increasing, while your capacity remains fixed. Let go of the idea of getting it all done, you won’t. Choose something to neglect so you can focus on something more important. Do the best you can and be satisfied with that.
Working in an office, you had boundaries around your workday. You need to establish boundaries at home too.
#9: Reframe your thoughts
The stress, anxiety, sadness… it’s all normal. But, you can make it easier on yourself by reframing some of the negative thoughts that come your way.
Perspective is everything. What looks like a scary situation when you’re in a dark mood becomes an opportunity when you’re thinking positively—the old glass-half-full mindset.
Looking at the bigger picture helps to put things in context. You’re not alone in this situation. Everyone is dealing with this lame new normal. The loss of control is freaking out millions of people just like you.
Try to see uncertainty as an opportunity, not just a stressor. We’ve pointed out some of the silver linings of this pandemic before, for example:
• How many more members can participate in conferences now that they’re virtual.
• How associations have been forced to take a new more sustainable and lucrative approach to sponsorships.
• How your boss (or their boss) now sees that you can in fact work effectively from home.
Make a choice to be positive. An easy way to jumpstart that mindset is by writing down three things you’re grateful for every morning. This exercise helps to build resilience.
Resilience helps you get your association mojo back
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after life sets you back or knocks you down. You need resilience to thrive in a time like this, in fact, a recent Associations Now article described how employers want to “build a more agile and resilient workforce with the capacity to adapt quickly to new business needs and disruptions.”
Thankfully, resilience is a skill and capacity you can develop by following the nine tactics above. Resilience will help you recapture your association mojo—that positive outlook, spark, and confidence to do your best.