𝐓𝐢𝐩𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬?
In a previous post a few months ago, I reflected on stress in the work place and how I like to frame it into three categories
• 𝐈𝐧𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 - stress that is part and parcel of the job.
• 𝐀𝐝𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 - stress that is temporary, occasional and most often due to unforeseen circumstances.
• 𝐔𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 - stress that is manufactured, created, and almost always attributed to person or personalities.
These frames can be expanded beyond the workplace and applied to life in general. Stress is part and parcel of our lives and it ebbs and it flows depending on situations and people we experience.
Over the past few weeks, the level of 𝐀𝐝𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 and the subsequent mental and emotional toll has skyrocketed especially for those who are directly impacted by the atrocities unfolding in Gaza. Although the level of intensity, and the degree of impact on individual psyches, may vary based on one’s proximity to those who are affected by the war on Gaza, there is no doubt that the shocking brutality is weighing heavy on the hearts and minds of many, many people.
Being a Palestinian whose parents have been forced into diasporic existence sinxe the first Nakba and being one who is witnessing, with unfathomable shock and astonishment, a second, bigger Nakba 75 years later, I am often asked how I have been dealing with it all.
Thinking through and reflecting on the question, I acknowledge the fact that it certainly is not easy to deal with all that is taking place and I don’t claim to have the best handle on things but I have figured out a few practical steps that have helped me along the way. I share these with you in hopes that any of them may be of help to you as you navigate these, and other, tough times.
I would view these as a collective, interrelated practical steps that build on each other
First and foremost 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒊𝒔 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒘𝒉𝒚 𝒊𝒕’𝒔 𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒔𝒖𝒄𝒉 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔. Knowing that helps you frame it and framing it gives it definition and, to an extent, makes it manageable. It becomes something that you can see an end to and therefor can overcome, it’s less abstract, less overwhelming and in time surmountable.
𝑩𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒖𝒏𝒆 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒔𝒆𝒍𝒇 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒍𝒊𝒎𝒊𝒕𝒔. Know your zones from “comfort zone” to “staring into the abyss zone” and know the breadth and depth of each. Know how far you can push yourself without getting to a point of no return. For example, I personally cannot look at any of the videos or pictures of the destruction and vicious damage to human life. I have not watched a single video. I simply can’t. I know that if I watch a child in pain or a father in agony or a mother in despair that I will completely lose my capacity to function and be completely consumed by an indescribable feeling of utter despair so I avoid it.
𝑲𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒓𝒆𝒅 𝒇𝒍𝒂𝒈𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒚𝒐𝒖’𝒓𝒆 𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒐 𝒈𝒆𝒕 𝒂 𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒕𝒍𝒆 𝒕𝒐𝒐 𝒄𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒆𝒅𝒈𝒆. Once these red flags start going in your head, step back and take a break. Unplug and do something different. There is no shame in saying this is too much and I need a break because if you push through and ignore these flags you will end up getting burned out that is not healthy for you or for your loved ones around you
𝑫𝒐𝒏’𝒕 𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒔𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒊𝒄𝒉 𝒃𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒋𝒐𝒚. I know experiencing joy during these times is often accompanied with guilt but experiencing joy is a necessary counterbalance to the stress. We’re made to experience a whole range of emotions and we must experience them to be whole and wholesome
𝑫𝒐𝒏’𝒕 𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒔𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒊𝒄𝒉 𝒃𝒚 𝒅𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒑𝒍𝒆𝒕𝒆𝒍𝒚 𝒔𝒉𝒖𝒕 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒆𝒍𝒔𝒆 𝒐𝒇𝒇 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒐𝒍𝒆𝒍𝒚 𝒇𝒐𝒄𝒖𝒔 𝒐𝒏 𝒊𝒕 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 𝒊𝒇 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒂 𝒃𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒇 𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒐𝒅 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆.. For me it’s physical activity, soccer in particular. I have been consistent with playing soccer, or riding my bike, at least once a week for years and I do my absolute best not to let anything take that away from me. Even if I’m dragging or not in the mood to play or feeling sluggish or whatever tricks my mind tries to play on me to keep me stuck in my low, I push myself and do it because I know that within five minutes of being on the pitch I’m in a different zone, a nothing else but the ball matters zone, and my mind can take a much needed break
𝑫𝒐 𝒔𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒅𝒖𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒗𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒍𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕’𝒔 𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔. You define what “productive” means to you because it varies from one person to the next. This is about managing your stress not managing others expectations which will only add to your stress. For me personally and as it relates to the current situation in my homeland, I try and be productive by writing more, by engaging in educational activities, by engaging in conversations. That’s what works for me. Find what works for you
But perhaps the most important point for me is 𝒇𝒂𝒊𝒕𝒉 . My faith manifests itself in an unshakable belief in a just God, a God whose wisdom I seek to understand, a God who I experience as Most Gracious and Most merciful. If you’re not inclined towards the divine then have faith in the human experience that, although at times ugly, has taught us that injustice never lasts.
Don’t ignore your stress.
Don’t push it to the side.
Identify it and work on managing it.
Those are my tips and tricks, what are yours?
Have you ever wondered, what have I done to deserve this?
Have you ever looked towards the divine and asked, why me?
I’m at home, safe and secure
Surrounded by family, love, comfort and more
At times, I’m in the company of people whose intelligence leaves me struck with awe
other times I’m in the company of those whose faith makes me feel closer to the divine
rich people, powerful people, influential people…people who make me wonder what I have done to deserve this? Why me?
I could’ve never been, but my grandparents escaped the ethnic cleansing of their hometown with my parents who were then a mere 8 and 5 years old
I could’ve been buried under the rubbles of my parents’ house had they not left Rafah (Gaza) in the early 60s
I could’ve been carrying the dead bodies of my friends, neighbors, children had we not been able to stay as refugees in Qatar and went back to Gaza
I could’ve lived the war, I could’ve perhaps survived it physically but been emotionally and psychologically scarred
But I’m here at home, safe and secure
Surrounded by family, love, comfort and more
In the company of intellectuals, spirituals, change makers and more
Thankful and praising God for sure
But still wondering, what have I done to deserve this?
What am I meant for?
Change is difficult and, regardless of how stoic one might think they are, emotional. So how do you make sure that those emotions are as positive as possible?
I have lived in 10 different places ever since I left my country of birth 26 years ago. Here is what has worked for me so far, on both the professional and personal levels
𝐀𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞
Nothing profound here. We all know and, to varying degrees, accept it. Easier to accept on the professional level, less so on the personal one. We like routine and predictability and our tendency is to try and stop or minimize change. In some instances status quo is good but in most cases staying put, especially in our everchanging world, could be detrimental. We often resist change in deference to comfort but if we accept change as normal and accept the periods of challenge that come with it we may become better versions of ourselves.
𝐈𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐚 𝐩𝐮𝐫𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞, 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐝 𝐮𝐩𝐨𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮
Having said the above, haphazard change or change without a purpose or a plan will result in failure. If you see the need for change then identify a purpose that can be articulated and can get your stakeholders, whoever they may be, behind it. If dynamics change and the environment around you shift, deal with the fires but don't lose focus. Keep asking "𝘸𝘩𝘺 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨?" It helps identify cause but more importantly, it helps identify purpose
𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐢𝐭.....𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 𝒊𝒇 𝒊𝒕 𝒔𝒖𝒄𝒌𝒔
This one is perhaps that most difficult. I was let go from an institution I helped build and served for 10 years. Then went back to practice which was a difficult adjustment and, although I am a pharmacist through and through and love my profession, was not the ideal setting for my talent set. On top of that, with limited opportunities, I couldn't stay in the state I called home for 10 years and had to relocate.
H̳a̳r̳d̳ ̳t̳o̳ ̳s̳e̳e̳ ̳a̳ ̳p̳u̳r̳p̳o̳s̳e̳ ̳i̳n̳ ̳a̳l̳l̳ ̳o̳f̳ ̳t̳h̳a̳t̳.!
But I kept asking myself this question "why is this happening?" but not in a negative tone. I am a man of faith, a faith that teaches that everything happens for a reason, and so I leaned into that. Spiritual or otherwise, find a way to ask that question positively. Apply a SWOT analysis of sorts to it, identify your role in it and keep trying to figure out the answer. It'll give you an immediate purpose, help you get through it and, eventually, set you on your new course.
The year in between my academic jobs I went back to work for CVS. I understood my purpose in that period to be the calm during the pandemic storm, to be patient and passionate with folks who are confused, frustrated and scared, to be on the frontlines of vaccinating the vulnerable. Each little step was a purpose that kept me going but each one also built towards the bigger purpose, confirming what I identified as my true calling
𝐁𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐭, 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐛𝐞 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐬𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞
Change is not easy. Don't be hard on yourself
Change is not easy. Don't be hard on those who will get you through it
Change is not easy
𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮?
“You can. End of story”
These few simple words were on the desk of one of our program’s administrative assistants and they made me stop and think.
To her, these are motivating words. She’s telling herself that she can overcome whatever mental block, doubtful inside voice or obstacle that is preventing her from achieving her goals (whether work related or not). They are beautiful and motivating.
What made me stop and think however is how these words would come across if I was the one saying them to her.
Think about it for a quick second. I’m her boss’s boss (just giving you perspective here, not being arrogant or boastful). If I were to say to her:
“You can. End of story”
How would she receive it?
The answer to that depends on the kind of leader one is, the context in which the words are spoken and the tone and body language by which they are delivered.
I can say them with authoritative vigor and she’d feel stressed and belittled.
I can say them with a nurturing tone and supportive candor and she’d feel valued
The words are the same but their weight and impact varies drastically
Have a blessed Friday
“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” -Aldous Huxley
I have been trying to live by this quote ever since I read it over 10 years ago.
It's hard; Especially when you account for the emotional toll of an experience (positive or negative) and for the continual unfolding of hidden, nuanced and missed meanings that we only gain with time and further experience. I still revisit experiences from years ago and if I am being truly honest and introspective with myself, I find a lot more meaning than what I had originally thought. And that is the beauty and the brilliance of this quote.
We may experience something and file it away
We may experience something and ride that high we got from it until we no longer can
But true growth come from revisiting, not re-experiencing, such milestones in our lives and trying to understand the layers upon layers of meaning they may entail.
Grief is a funny thing.
The breadth of its intensity;
The randomness of how, when and in what way it materializes;
The absolute lack of respect it has to one’s state of heart or mind.
Sometimes I’d be washing dishes and my call to my siblings letting them know our dad has passed plays in my head.
Other times, the smell of heat and humidity brings me back to a nostalgic moment in my childhood and leaves me with a sense of sorrow over simpler times
And then many times it belies the smile I wear throughout my day
It has no rhyme,
abides by no law and
is in full control of how brief or how long it decides to visit
We all react to it differently,
deal with it differently,
express it differently,
but it remains the same;
An invader that pillages one’s heart and mind
Failure is often talked about in past tense. Meaning, the person has already experienced failure, processed it and learned from it. Hindsight however overlooks a very important aspect of failure, the fact that it sucks.
We don’t talk much about going through failure, how it impacts us negatively and clouds our outlook on life. Rather we reminisce on it, speak of its benefits, sometimes with nostalgia, and paint, again in hindsight, a picture that is to an extent rosy. Yes, important lessons are learned from failure but to the one experiencing it, talking about how things will be much better in the success that will supposedly follow can come across as tone deaf.
We need to get comfortable discussing failure in the present tense. The raw emotions that come with it, the darkness that hangs over the one experiencing it and the sense of hopelessness that often time accompanies it. That, in my opinion, is an essential skill for leaders to develop as they help others navigate and eventually achieve their own personal success.
“If you are complacent, you ARE complicit”
This is something that I have been saying for a while but please allow me to elaborate as the recent events of storming our capitol makes this statement pertinent and timely.
The storming of the halls of congress, desecration of American symbols of democracy and the siege of our capitol was done by citizens of the United States not outsiders. This is homegrown, organic, hate that came as no surprise to many who find themselves on the receiving end to such hate. But the problem is not the people who stormed the capitol. Yes they are a problem, but they are not “the” problem.
The problem is the vast majority who allows such vitriol to fester despite clear warning signs. And no, I am not talking about politicians, who are now conveniently jumping Trump’s sinking ship and calling foul. Don’t hang your coat on that convenient hook.
I am talking about YOU!
You who lets a family members remark about how the black family that moved down the street has brought down the value of houses in the neighborhood
You who lets a coworker/colleague talk about how that dude with an accent that no one understands has stolen a job a real American could’ve had
You who feels sorry for the woman proudly wearing her religious garb
You who is intrigued enough by someone’s different viewpoints on life yet don’t engage in meaningful conversation
You who puts up a defensive shield once one points out how your behavior and thought process, as benign as it may seem to you, hurts those on the receiving end of it
You who does not acknowledge the privilege from which they look down upon the rest
You who wants change but cowers at the thought of deep introspection and full personal accountability
It is YOU, the complacent, who is fully complicit in where we are today
I said my piece
The other day while working at s pharmacy, a young black man of maybe 15-16 years of age, came to the counter and asked where he can find the athletic tape. I showed him where it was and he walked back to the pharmacy counter with me and paid for it there.
After he turned to leave and took a couple of steps, he stopped in his tracks and asked for the receipt. Realizing that it was still sitting by the cash register, I apologized then handed it to him. He smiled and said “just in case”
That “just in case” has been playing in mind since.
It could’ve been a “just in case I need to return it” but I read it completely differently.
I read it as “I’m a young black man you see, and that receipt is proof that I bought this box of athletic tape I’m walking out the store with”
Now I know, there is no way for me to know what he meant by “just in case” and so I’ve been wondering over the past few days as to why I thought of the second scenario?
And then it hit. I’ve seen, we’ve seen, many a time where someone’s blackness was enough of an indictment and that many of them have been taught to take the extra step “just in case”
I developed this graphic a few months ago as a visual representation of how diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity are often viewed from a systemic/organizational viewpoint. The other day a friend asked me what is the difference between equality and equity and I find myself going back to this graphic again.
If you view this graphic as a linear evolution of a system/organization with regards to concepts of
Diversity (we have representation of various demographics-however still isolated and not part of the whole) to
Inclusion (we have representation of various demographics with some overlap) to
Belonging (we have representation of various groups across the levels of the system/organization and are not isolated)
Then I would view Belonging and Equality with the same lens. Opportunities exist for all, but as you can see in the graphic, not at the same level nor the same time. Let me elaborate, the white figures, representative of dominant group, have stayed the same from start of graphic to end! While other figures, which represent minoritized groups, have had to overcome obstacles to get to the point of belonging/equality but even then, they are not at the same level. They still need to overcome other challenges, systemic and otherwise, to be on the same level as the dominant group (e.g. men vs women pay)
The ideal we all seek is equity. Where we are all afforded the same access to opportunities at the same level. That’s what minoritized groups are fighting for !
So when you ask yourself, why are “insert minoritized group”, asking for this when we all have the same opportunities then think of the first three circles in the graphic below.
Palestinian, Muslim, American, Husband, Father, Academic, Pharmacist, Coffee Addict, Nutella phene, Pseudo writer, Soccer player, former Canadian, Community servant, Pinch hitter imam, interfaith ninja, Intellectual vigilante, and the undisputed KING of snark