Personal recovery in the shadows of Covid-19 — and how to get back to work

Overwhelmed by a world still in flux, here are some tips on how to deal with the remnants of emotions.


Written by: Phumza Dyani


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Phumza Dyani
Photo by: Sigmund

Recovery from traumatic events can be daunting. Oftentimes, we are required to recover while we are still overwhelmed by what just transpired, having to deal with the remnants of emotions.

In this time of a pandemic, recovery is required when many have been hanging by the thread, yet there is an expectation to pick up from where we left off. Life often tells us that time heals. We often do not have that time as we are required, as mothers and career women, to not only take care of ourselves but for our children, spouses and employees.

Back into the swing of things 

Getting back on track can almost feel like learning to ride a bicycle again. There is a sense of knowing what ‘balance’ feels like, but because of all that has happened, there is fear of all the dangers that are possible. What is important to remember is that we pedal slowly at first, and then we regain the confidence, only thereafter can we apply speed.

In a work context, priorities may have changed. If you have been affected, there may be a bit of brain-fog as something significant has affected your life. In the meantime, life has moved on and you may need to catch up, oftentimes losing touch with reality and what needs to be achieved. There is a great challenge with adaptability. What is important to consider at this time is the following:

  • Acceptance and acknowledgement that something significant happened and really be patient with yourself.

Whilst the demands of life come like waves of a rough sea, it is important to acknowledge from a human experience perspective that something happened. There is every desire and a form of vindication in wanting to get back on track. It is important to acknowledge that some things will not be recovered and we therefore need to carve a new path or decide on a new strategy for achieving certain goals. What is important is to be patient with yourself and the process you are embarking on. 

Secondly, no one will know the extent of your struggle. In a work set up, it is important to communicate with people you feel comfortable with your current challenges so that they are considerate of what you are going through. It is ok to be overwhelmed. Additionally, we as humanity, have experienced collective trauma which has affected us in many ways. Compassion for others as well as patience with ourselves and others is crucial to overall healing. Patience is a greatest gift we can give to others and as leaders, it will require bringing out humane leadership, supporting people to recover. 

  • Understand that this too shall pass.

It is always important to view things from a context. No matter how big life’s events may be, they do eventually pass. They may leave us completely different people, lessons will be taken, changes to certain aspects of our lives will be made. More than anything, we will get used to the ‘new normal’. There are also silver linings that we need to celebrate with these.

For instance, the Covid-19 period has opened an amazing networks for many (both locally and globally) and access to opportunities we would not have accessed in the past. There are also new skills we have acquired which can be integrated into our new ways of work. Corporates have for the longest time resisted implementing Work from Home policies, and Covid-19 jolted us to understand that we can still be productive from our homes. We developed trust and an amazing support system for each other as colleagues.

The other side of the spectrum is true, we have lost loved ones who will never return. There has been collective pain we will need to work through as humanity for a long time. The comfort is in that, the human species is resilient and has overcome extreme atrocities. We will survive this and it shall pass.

  • What is the most productive thing I can do at this moment?

In Africa particularly—and perhaps many other countries of the developing world—it is still very premature to think about recovery. At this point, we are at the pinnacle of fighting for our lives, in hope that the vaccine will reach us in time. Many have survived Covid-19 but we are still affected through family or people that we know who have not made it.  

Oftentimes, just thinking straight is an effort. Focus becomes difficult and you can almost feel time slowly slipping away without much productivity. At the same time, it can cause anxiety as one realises the need to get back to some form of normality and productivity, but emotionally and physically we are still wounded and this can be extremely hard. It is very tempting to just curl up and allow the mind to wonder to infinity.

At these times, what we can do is to ask ourselves at intervals, ‘what is the most productive thing I can do at the moment’. I have found this to work extremely well, achieving mammoth tasks like eating an elephant, in bite sizes. Firstly, it enables one to tackle smaller tasks that are achievable. It also helps one to get into a swing of things and create momentum for getting back on track.

  • What are the things I started that can continue?

After a tragic event, we often reflect on our lives and reassess things that are important. Sometimes, it is often easier to look at things we had started that still have meaning in our lives. These are easier to pick up and at least, can build momentum and some form of us getting back on track. Make no mistake, this may not be as easy as it sounds. The important thing is to start.

The encouraging thing is that there is an almost an improved or deeper lens of understanding or viewing things after significant Events. You may find that how you apply thinking on some matters may be heightened. 

  • You are recovering, say ‘no’.

Some things will no longer be important to you. Right at the beginning of Covid-19, there were so many online events with the world’s greatest speakers. It was so easy to accept invites to many platforms and to participate. Right now, after almost a year, it is important to sift and only get involved in what is aligned to my vision.

We will get through this, as humanity. We will continue living and thriving. We can view life as a timeline. We have just gone through the deepest dip on the timeline and are striving to come up again. We shall overcome.

  • Continue the good habits that have been formed.

There are amazing habits we have developed at this time as well. For me personally, I have developed an amazing bond with my extended family  and that is something I would like to keep and always maintain.

I wish each and every one of you an easier recovery process. May you always remember, you will make it. •