Responding and Adjusting to a New Reality
Professor Witte Hoogendijk is head of the Psychiatry Department at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam and an expert on stress and burn-out. In this talk he outlines the normal response to stress; the particularity of the pandemic and its effect on our stress response; and offers some potential adaptation strategies to the new reality.
The effect of the COVID-19 crisis can be seen in stages: The initial stage is the acute response. For healthcare workers, for instance, it was fear – what if hospitals are over flooded and decisions have to be made about who will and who will not be admitted. For others it was acute stress over finances. Openly airing these, and other, worries and anxieties is crucial.
The second stage is the in-between, ‘awaiting new danger’ zone: We wait for ‘operating instructions’ from management or government on how to go about things, but, in view of the many unknown variables, such instructions are not available. We no longer experience the signals of acute stress, but we remain ‘hanging in the air’, in a constant state of high alert. This state lasts from days to weeks.
If we hang too long in the ‘awaiting new danger’ zone, it could turn into depression: What was an effective, short term coping strategy, until the stressor disappears, could now risk turning into depression, because the stressor, COVID-19, is not likely to disappear any time soon. To continue minimizing our activity in the long term to preserve our energy in the face of threat, means to suppress our drive and initiatives, in other words, to suppress ourselves.
In the third stage, we learn to cope with the new reality: By adapting the structure of our daily routines; for example, meetings become virtual and so do chats with friends..Organisational mission statements may need to be changed, too, to conform with the new reality; this would be a collective task initiated by the company’s leadership.
Leaders can help their teams in three ways: They can openly express insecurity – after all, the situation we are facing is unprecedented, so there is no clear manual to follow. Second, they can adapt the familiar structure to the current situation, for example, ensure a ‘buddy system’ within the team and find long-distance alternatives to daily office life. Lastly, they can reinforce purpose – why do we do the work we do – and from there set clear goals and ambitions.
Setting new milestones – goals, targets, endeavors – can be challenging as they will be different from before: When setting these goals it is crucial to involve everyone. When you feel involved and engaged as a team member, your resilience levels and ability to cope with further stressors increase.
Can you do what Martin can?
To help you keep your energy levels high and stay positive throughout your day it is essential to take breaks regularly. To help you get more out of your downtime, Martin Pet, a seasoned sport and performance psychologist and physiologist, will challenge you to perform a wide range of exercises that will do just that.
About the crew member
Witte Hoogendijk • Professor of Psychiatry
Professor Witte J.G. Hoogendijk, MD, PhD is head of the Psychiatry Department at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. He is a member of the Research Council of the Dutch Brain Foundation and specializes in the study and treatment of depression, anxiety and burn-out. His research focuses on biological aspects of depression. Prof. Hoogendijk co-authored two books, Live Like a Beast and From Big Bang to Burn Out (available in Dutch), calling for a radical shift in thinking about stress-related conditions.
Your journey until now
Responding and Adjusting to a New Reality
Professor Witte Hoogendijk on responding and adapting to an unprecedented stressorYou are here
Decent jobs for everybody = collective resilience
Professor of Public Health Lex Burdorf on collective resilience and wellbeing
Change Your Mindset, Change Your World
Commercial excellence and mindset coach Mark Nicholson about growing through your mindset
Teen Parenting During the Pandemic
Psychotherapist Amanda Hunt on supporting parent and teen during the pandemic
Motivation in Moderation
Former submarine Captain Berend van de Kraats on encouraging without discouraging
Reflect, Adjust and Perform – the Three Pillars of Self-Management
Prof. Dr. Annet de Lange on the inner drive for personal progress
The Biological Dance of Immunity and Anxiety
Immunologist and Professor Emeritus Dr. Pierre Capel on undermining vs. improving immune response
Connection and Communication - with a Smile!
Former International and Olympic team coach Sandra le Poole on connection and communication
Coping with Anxiety and Uncertainty
Psychiatrist and best-selling author Bram Bakker on anxiety, control and connection
Staying Engaged in Challenging Times
World renowned Engagement expert Prof. Wilmar Schaufeli on the key job engagement drivers
Solitude, Sleep and Structure - Lessons from a Solo Sailor
Former solo ocean racer Lucas Schröder on coping with loneliness
Food Sense in Senseless Times
Nutrition expert Vardit Kohn on eating in support of your immune system
Former submarine captain Berend van de Kraats shares his underwater experience