EDITOR’S NOTE: A Different Kind of Recovery

In tough times, we tend to move through distinct phases of coping before learning to move ahead.

Experience Life editor in chief Jamie Martin

You might remember that I wrote about being a bit distracted in the last issue of Experience Life. (No?! You can read about it at “Attending to Distraction”.) It turns out, there’s likely a psychological reason for it — and it is part of a common cycle during challenging times (hello, global pandemic and social upheaval).

A few days after the July/August issue went to the printer, I came across a Facebook post from author and social psychologist Amy Cuddy, PhD, about the phases of psychological crises. On a whiteboard, Cuddy had jotted down the following notes — based on a Harvard Business Review article by organizational psychologist Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg, PhD — and then shared them with her followers:

Crises Have 3 Psychological Phases:

  1. Emergency: Shared, clear goals and urgency make us feel energized, focused, and even productive.
  2. Regression: We realize the future is uncertain; lose sense of purpose; get tired, irritable, withdrawn, and less productive.
  3. Recovery: We begin to reorient; revise our goals, expectations, and roles; and begin to focus on moving beyond vs. just getting by.

All of this is normal reaction to abnormal situation.

Next to “regression,” Cuddy had written, “Most of us are here right now.”

The post stopped me mid-scroll. This explains it, I remember thinking. This is why my mind is everywhere and nowhere.

The first few months of working through the pandemic were nonstop. As the Experience Life team figured out how to virtually produce a physical magazine, I also worked on some additional projects for Life Time, our parent company.

In that initial “emergency” phase, the energy and productivity were high as we fast-tracked episodes of the Life Time Talks podcast, along with the launch of a new website (check out all the great healthy-way-of-life content at thesource.lifetime.life). Every day brought new challenges, as well as new opportunities for engaging and connecting with our audiences.

The pace, however — on top of pandemic worries and major changes in our way of life — set us up for burnout. By late May, many of us were feeling the wear and tear of going nonstop. I could only imagine how those on the frontlines of the pandemic were managing.

So when I read Cuddy’s post, I felt relieved to discover that the “regression” many of us were experiencing was normal.

Even more, I felt optimistic about “recovery” — because that is where the real growth and change happen. It’s where we begin to adapt to the circumstances in a more sustainable way. It’s also where we become less reactive and more proactive. It’s where the opportunities for innovation and experimentation occur.

Though we’re still early on in the pandemic, I’m personally starting to feel a shift toward this third phase. As I begin to reorient, I’m trying new ways of working and setting better boundaries. I’m finding space for self-discovery, learning, and unlearning. I’m being more purposeful in my leadership, my parenting, and my partnerships.

Whichever phase you’re in right now, know that it’s not permanent and you’re not alone. Every day, there’s new information and inspiration to move you forward, whether it’s a Facebook post, an article, or a role model. We all have the capacity to grow and adapt — and that’s what this issue of Experience Life is all about.

is Experience Life’s editor in chief. Follow her on Instagram @jamiemartinel.

Photography by Sara Rubinstein

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