5 min read.Updated: 24 Sep 2020, 08:30 PM ISTHarish Bhat
Take five minutes to meditate. Try to quiet the judgmental voice in your head. Call your family and friends. Compliment a colleague’s work. To beat the blues and the uncertainty brought on by this virus, be kind to yourself, to those around you and to strangers
We are now several months into the pandemic. While most of us continue to work from home, some are toggling between office and home and many are at the frontlines. Most of us are doing our best to work hard and smart, and be as productive as we can.
Yet buried deep within us is the continuing stress of living through a pandemic—from the uncertainty of how long this madness will last, to the constant fear of job loss and the surreality of trying to get through a normal workday when very few things around us are actually normal. The best antidote to all this stress is kindness.
As David Hamilton highlights in his book, The Five Side Effects Of Kindness, kindness makes us happier because it elevates the levels of dopamine in our brains. And I think that when we are happy, we are able to breathe freely, think creatively, and make the most of what is available to us. This is true at all times, but particularly important during this unusual period.
If kindness is the best stress buster, what can we do to be kind to ourselves and to the people around us every single day? I am not talking here of large acts of kindness or generosity, which are, of course, welcome, but of everyday kindness, which each of us can practice. Here are some thought starters on this subject.
Home vacation, anyone?
Being kind to oneself is the first stop because if you are not kind to yourself then it is unlikely you can be genuinely kind to others.
The most important type of self-kindness is to recharge one’s body and mind on a regular basis, so that we are not constantly struggling to get through the day. This requires you to eat and sleep well. Take an hour off every afternoon for a good lunch break, dwelling on the pleasures of eating a nice meal.
Take a walk outdoors each evening to feel the spring in your steps. Give yourself a firm time to start and end work each working day, even though you may be working from home. Take a “home-vacation" break occasionally.
We owe it to our co-workers to work hard and contribute well during this difficult time. But equally, we also owe it to ourselves to recharge ourselves, else we there’s a strong possibility that we may burn out before the pandemic does.
Creativity has its perks
One of the easiest forms of kindness that you can show yourself is to make time for your creative passions, regularly enough. Given the constraints of this pandemic, try to focus on a passion that you can indulge in within the four walls of your home. If you are keen on nature and gardening, nurture a small balcony garden in your home. If you love painting, there is no better time than now to dabble around with your canvases and paintbrushes. If you enjoy baking or experimenting with new foods, why not start right away? If you enjoy writing, take a few minutes to write a personal diary each day.
Being creative gives us the feeling of being free. This freedom releases us, at least momentarily, from the shackles of all our corona-stress.
It’s okay, say no
One of the best ways to be kind to your work and team is to meet your work commitments. Make only the commitments that you can keep, given the multiple demands of the pandemic. Prioritize ruthlessly. Wherever possible (and this may not always be possible), say no to work that you don’t have the clear bandwidth to take up.
But do remember that once you commit, one or more of your colleagues will soon be awaiting your concluding the task, which you have agreed to take up, because their own work is perhaps dependent on it. When you complete your task on time, you take away their stress, and you are, therefore, being kind to them. This is particularly important when people are isolated in their remote workplaces.
Make a ‘human’ call
People are going through various unusual events and situations in their lives right now. On the other hand, transactional Zoom calls, for all their technological brilliance and attractive backdrops, are unlikely to tell us what exactly is happening in our colleagues’ lives.
Given that we do not meet each other regularly in office these days, we may never know that a teammate has lost a close relative, or that her spouse has lost his job. Perhaps the best way to be kind, in this context, is to engage in human conversations with one or two colleagues every day, talking not about work, but about our lives in general. Receiving such a “human" call from our boss, or our colleague, makes us feel valued as human beings. And knowing our colleagues’ life context also then enables us to display genuine empathy, in our everyday work. Kindness is really just a phone call away.
Surprise works too
When we wake up every morning, a good question to ask is, how can I be kind to someone, including myself, today?
Sometimes, kindness is at its best when it is unplanned. Be kind to yourself by taking out five minutes in the morning or evening to meditate. Or decide to drive out with your partner, family or friends, with some nice packed food, for a surprise picnic in that beautiful park you like so much. Reach out to a few elderly colleagues or relatives, and speak to them about their day, particularly if you sense they are experiencing loneliness. Call a team member, and tell them how proud you are of the work they did the previous week. Share an appropriate inspirational quote or story with a friend who is recovering from illness or just like that.
Every random act of kindness is a win-win event, it makes both you and the person on other side of the phone feel good during this difficult time, and we go back to our work desks with happiness in our hearts.
Harish Bhat works with the Tata Group. His colleague, Suparna Mitra of Titan, helped provide valuable inputs for this article.