Some coping advice from one ROC leader to another
The pandemic arrived early in 2020, lingered over the summer, and now we’re back in the thick of it. I don’t know about you, but I thought we would be back to normal plans by now. I never gave much thought to the possibility of this virus lasting through the holidays, but here we are, recovering from planning socially distanced holidays.
On top of that, the ROC business needs to operate. We have board meetings to plan, neighbors to care for, park maintenance to be done, financial worries of people not being able to pay the rent, winter plow contracts, etc. In my community, the Board of Directors was able to meet outdoors over this summer and early fall, which thankfully worked out well, but now we are shifting to a virtual meeting, which is challenging for some and seems to limit the engagement we seek from our residents.
Being a ROC leader is hard work to begin with. Throw a pandemic in the midst and you’re likely to feel a bit overwhelmed, or even a bit frustrated, and challenged to stay active in this volunteer role.
You are not alone, you are not selfish, and you may have not even have realized that you are an essential worker in this pandemic! If you are feeling overwhelmed, tired, unorganized, along with many other emotions, you may likely be experiencing pandemic fatigue.
Pandemic fatigue is more than just “being tired of this pandemic.” It is all of those mental and sometimes physical symptoms that many of us are experiencing. Sleepless nights, lack of attention span, lack of willingness to do things that aren’t essential. Yeah, these are true and very real symptoms of pandemic fatigue.
It’s OK not to be OK
Hey! Guess what, ROC leader? It is OK to NOT be OK. It is also OK to say NO and it is also OK to speak up and get support wherever you can. As leaders, it’s natural for us to want to solve it all now and find better and more effective ways to do “business as usual,” but you know what? Now─more than ever—leaders need to be OK and to prioritize self-care over everything else.
The practice of accepting that you simply cannot perform at your best might take some real effort. If you are reading this, it’s likely because you feel your community is your responsibility (which it is!) and you are likely nodding your head at much of what you just read.
So what can you do to take care of you while you take care of your community? Take care of yourself first. Then, think about the business as also being in a state of pandemic fatigue and tackle three simple things:
- It is OK to do only essential business. Paying the ROC’s bills, making sure income is coming in, and dealing with urgent compliance and maintenance are good places to start. When you are creating project plans and agendas, ask yourself: “can this wait?” Having smaller or fewer projects and minimal agendas may help you feel less stressed and make things seem more manageable. Major projects can likely wait until the spring or later!
- Take a break when you need to. Maybe you can sit out one board meeting or not say “yes” to things that people are asking you to do. In some cases, helping out with a project or helping a neighbor might be welcome distractions, but make sure you are OK first. Are you getting the rest you need before you offer to take on more? If not, take that break! Annual meeting coming up? It is OK to suggest putting off certain things to a later time. Talk it out with the board and see if you can do a short ballot agenda or even maybe put the annual meeting off for a few months.
- Put your own wellness before the wellness of your neighbor. Have you ever heard the phrase “put on your own oxygen mask first”? Well, the masks have dropped, and it’s time to strap yours on so you can help others at some point. That some point can be whenever you think you have enough oxygen. Set good boundaries with neighbors and fellow leaders—let people know you are practicing self-care. You may inspire them to do the same. Don’t worry about what people think about your saying “no” or setting limits!
That’s a lot to think about, I know. So let’s condense it into an easy-to-remember practice: Stop, Drop and Roll!
- Stop feeling bad/insufficient or apologetic during this time of pandemic fatigue. Stop thinking about what you are not able to do and focus on what you are doing, even if it is simply breathing day to day.
- Drop the things that are not critical and deal only with the basic necessities. If you aren’t sure what those things are, talk it out with your inner circle, board members, or even your partners like your ROC TA. It’s great to have a support system while you practice setting limits.
- Roll with the flow however you are feeling and be OK to feel emotional, tired, and frustrated. Find someone to confide in and be as candid as you need to be! Made it through the day? Nice job!
For what it’s worth, you are all my heroes right now. I know how much effort you put into your community and I personally understand how hard it is to step up during this time. I do know that we will eventually look back at this time and feel accomplished. I also know we will relish seeing each other in person again and will eventually have a lot more energy to tackle community challenges and projects together!
Jeanee Wright is a ROC-NH Senior Housing Cooperative Specialist and a leader in her own resident-owned community. This blog originally appeared on the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund’s website.