Why you (and your employees) might not be okay – and how to cope
Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral is today. Fifteen countries around the world will lay their monarch to rest. For some of us, today will feel hard. Others might simply feel a bit drained and not know why. And, for some of you, this day will be just another day that you happen to get a holiday (if living in the UK). As a leader, you may notice some of your employees seem disengaged today or in the coming days. Let us explore why you (or your employees) feel this way and what can you do about it.
- Public figures are often symbolic for us. Although you may not personally know the Queen yourself, her likeness may have come to be synonymous with something you value. For me, she was often a symbol of stability. Queen Elizabeth II came into power while Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union, stood with us through World War II, shook hands with leaders from Winston Churchill to Jimmy Carter to Malala Yousafzai. If she represents stability to me, then her death is unconsciously signaling to my amygdala that my stability and safety are at risk. This can often trigger a fight or flight response (and emotions) while our more logical centers of the brain try to catch up and absorb what’s happening.
- A death or funeral may trigger a memory of a personal loss for you. It’s natural that someone’s death will cause your brain to dig through that filing cabinet of memories to other experiences you may have had with death. Often a visual cue or sound will unlock unconscious feelings and memories in a stronger way than if you simply try to remember facts.
- You start to consider your own mortality. When someone dies, it may very well take you to a place of considering your own life span and contributions to the world. Depending on how you look at your life today and your feelings on death, this may stir up a lot of emotions in you.
- You are deeply empathetic. Some people have empathetic superpowers. If this is you, you might feel the heaviness of loss right through the images on the television or the soulful eyes of the people you pass on your walk to work.
If you or someone you know has feelings of self-harm, please do text or call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or visit 988lifeline.org.
- Stop. Often, our first instinct is to just keep going. The logical parts of your brain have likely been trained to tell you “you’re fine” and may even tell you it’s “silly” to feel sad about someone you did not personally know. Give yourself a little time and space to pull back the curtains and see what’s going on backstage. Take a walk or rest to see what comes up.
- Let yourself feel the emotions. Be mindful of where you are emotionally in particular if you have experienced trauma and if you are not ready for this, that’s okay. However, if you feel ready, a great method to access unconscious emotions is to take a few deep breaths and slowly scan your body from the tips of your toes all the way to the top of your head. Take notice of what parts of your body are holding extra weight, tension, and any other sensations. Then try to take a few minutes to breathe and feel into that location and see what comes up. It’s okay to cry, laugh, yell and anything in between.
- Share. Another method to explore and process what’s happening for you is to share what’s going on. This could be an actual conversation with a friend or family member, or it might mean simply writing it down and getting it out of your head. The act of letting the information release to another person or even a piece of paper is often helpful to process what’s happening.
- Listen to yourself. Based on what you discover, trust your instincts. Your health always comes first. You will be surprised how often just taking a few minutes to acknowledge the emotions allows you to release them and move forward. Other times, you may need to consider an alternative plan and ask for more time or space to process.
- Communicate. I know… I know… but what about productivity? What about that deadline? Communicate openly and as early as you can about what you need and how others can help you. What do you need to design with you manager or team to make this work? As a leader, consider how you can normalize this behavior by talking about it with your employees – and demonstrating it yourself.
Today, we mourn the death of a monarch who has been a staple in our lives for the last seventy plus years. Thank you Queen Elizabeth II for the stability and hope you provided to many during your life. In your memory, let’s take this opportunity today to lead with heart, empathy, and authenticity.
If you as a leader, team, or organization want additional support in modeling behavior that allows for psychological and physical safety – while still getting the job done, do not hesitate to contact Livthentic for an exploratory discussion or schedule directly on calendly. I see your spark and want to help you grow it into a flame. You can also join our mailing list to stay in touch or follow us on Linkedin, Facebook, or Instagram.