This Eid has been unlike any that I have experienced in my life. I said my Eid prayers at home; did not visit any relatives or meet any friends though the virtual meetings on Zoom did provide a quantum of solace (pun intended). I think everyone had mixed feelings during this Eid. It was a happy occasion mired by a pall of gloom on account of the continuing pandemic. A reader of my blog sent me a message asking how he should deal with the looming threat of losing his job. I gave this matter some thought and decided to write this article for the benefit of so many people who are suffering mental anguish during these uncertain times. This pandemic and the related lockdown has not just effected the employees; the owners of businesses are also very badly affected both financially and psychologically. A friend of mine who owns several garment factories recently called me and said that he had gone into a state of depression. An effervescent personality by nature, he said that he does not feel like speaking to anyone let alone meeting anyone. He has withdrawn into a room in his house where he sits quietly and stares out of the window smoking one after another cigarette. Versions of this scene have been playing across the world during the past few months as Covid-19 cases rise and economies crash. Business owners, managers and employees have seen how fragile everything they have built has become – almost overnight.
The medical term for such a condition is “Anxiety”. Depression can also be caused by anxiety. The challenge for the leader whether he is the family’s breadwinner or a business owner or a line manager is to convince his family and or his work team that everything will be fine when he himself is stricken by anxiety. And if he keeps this pressure bottled up inside him putting up a façade of calm then he may himself suffer severe psychological and physiological harm.
If one is suffering from anxiety then the first thing is to accept it. Anxiety is our response to a perceived danger or uncertainty about our health or our future. It is similar to the fight or flight response of our forebears when they were confronted by some predator in the jungle. This stress or anxiety prompted them to react appropriately to save their lives. In modern times our anxiety can be our call to action in facing the present day threat or uncertainty about our future. In a way people who suffer from anxiety are better suited to handle crises than others; they react quicker to the situation and if channeled effectively, anxiety makes people more resourceful in finding solutions to the problem. But if we fail to understand or accept our relationship with anxiety, it can be extremely debilitating. Like fire, anxiety is a useful slave but a bad master. Use it effectively but do not let it control you.
A common phenomenon with people suffering from anxiety is that they immediately conjure up the worst possible outcomes from any crisis. Remember that the worst is of course possible but it is not necessarily probable. For example, it is possible that you might lose your job and never find another good job but that is not necessarily a probability. It is also possible that you will get infected with the coronavirus but considering that to date not even 6million people in the world out of a population of 8 billion have been infected, the probability of you getting infected is pretty low (0.00075%). Separating the possible from the probable brings a much needed calm to be able to effectively deal with anxiety. The probable scenario is much more reassuring than the possible scenario.
Having accepted the presence of anxiety and having realized that we have to learn to live with it, we can turn our attention to the leadership role while afflicted with anxiety. Leadership can be at work or at home. Unless we manage our anxiety, it can have detrimental effects on the work team as well as the family members. Anxiety is infectious; if we are suffering from anxiety and displaying the adverse signs of affliction then the people around us can sense it and also be negatively affected by it. While it is important to be genuine in your interactions with people around you; to let them know that you are also human and therefore have human frailties, it is also necessary as a leader to provide that moral support to your team and your family. You need to assure them that while you will do everything in your power to overcome this crisis, bad things may still happen. Here again the possibility and the probability need to be separated so that everyone has a more realistic perspective of the situation. It is almost never as bad as it seems. But remember that while being positive is important to prevent emotional distress amongst those who you lead you should not give a false hope to anyone. If you get asked a question like “Is my job safe?” You do not have to answer that question because you do not have a preview into the future. All you can say is what you know to be true at this moment.
Anxiety being an illness also requires a treatment plan. I am personally averse to taking medicines so I do not recommend running to the doctor for a prescription of toxic drugs. While medicines are a necessary evil in our lives, I feel that for most ailments they are best avoided because they only provide a temporary relief and hardly ever manage to cure. In the long run their side effects are also severe. There are of course exceptions; for many serious illnesses, medicines are the only known recourse and experimenting with alternatives can be dangerous. For most of the non fatal ailments I think naturopathy is a far better option. It may be slow in showing results but it does offer a cure rather than just relief. For anxiety, naturopathic treatment is now accepted as a very effective alternative.
In naturopathy a lot of importance is given to improving the health of the mitochondria which is the powerhouse of your cells responsible for 90 percent of the energy being produced in your body. If your mitochondria is not performing well then nothing else will either. Ensuring mitochondria health requires a good diet, regular exercise and good sleep. Healthy mitochondria is the sine qua non for good health and wellbeing. I do not want to get into too much detail here but I would recommend that you find out more on naturopathic treatments on the internet. http://drbenkim.com/ is a useful source of information.
Spirituality does wonders for the distressed soul. Ibadat has always provided me with immense solace and relief in times of trouble but for those who have a different belief system, meditation can also be very helpful. For dealing with psychological maladies, the “Emotional Freedom Technique” (EFT) is one of the therapies that has shown positive results. Here is a link to get more information on EFT. https://eft.mercola.com/
And last but not the least, we must never forget the immense benefit of having a good dependable circle of friends. Friendship can be the greatest source of pleasure and in dark days it is friends who share our pain and give comfort to our wounds. To quote Marcus Cicero, “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery by doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.”