Let’s Talk About Gratitude, Loneliness & Resilience
Lying on the wickedly cold pavement on January 14, listening to first responders assess how they were going to transfer my body to a spinal board—not yet knowing if I fractured my pelvis, I recall darting thoughts of “I have the tools to get through this.”
I was angry at the driver who hit me right off my bike. I was in excruciating pain. And, I distinctly remember self-talk that the accident wasn’t going to break me. Perhaps it was my entrepreneurial mindset, having tons of practice managing uncertainty, but I knew that whatever the outcome, this wasn’t going to break me.
Somehow in those initial minutes, I felt gratitude that I didn’t lose consciousness and when asked if I could wiggle all of my toes, I did. I was scared and yes, screaming in pain, yet digging deep to focus on the positives.
I was grateful that so many bystanders immediately rushed to assist me. Considering we were under COVID-19 lockdown orders, the compassion and kindness of so many strangers helping me amidst COVID risks, was stunning. Indeed, the quiet, calming voice of the woman stabilizing my head was an off-duty nurse. More gratitude. It felt like the universe was on my side.
The Practice of Gratitude
Practicing gratitude is not fluff. It can build mental health reserves and play a central role in COVID mental health management. Now is a great day to start your practice. Can you come up with three things that you are grateful for today?
It is all too easy these days to focus on what is not going well; how devastating the impact of COVID has been on the economy, our businesses, our relationships, our physical health, our mental wellbeing. In parallel, amidst all of this uncertainty, we get stuck in our cycles of reporting and management of our virtual realities.
Harvard Business Review published an article last October entitled: “Use Gratitude to Counter Social Isolation and Uncertainty.” The title popped amidst my LinkedIn scrolling. In my opinion, the following phrase from the article best describes our current COVID uncertainty, “it can feel like making a puzzle without a reference picture.”
That’s it. The author nailed it.
Similarly, there are few reference pictures in our venture and PE industries. We don’t navigate by paint by numbers or formulas. We operate in a constant state of uncertainty.
Perhaps today is the perfect day to reach out to entrepreneurs in your portfolio and tell them why you appreciate them. If you can’t muster up a gratitude declaration, I am certain you can find a reason to call and simply connect without it being a reporting request. After all, we are in the business of relationships with a collective mission to succeed. And LP’s, I can share from personal experience as a GP, when I receive a good old-fashioned phone call from LP’s checking in on me it is a difference-maker in my day. It isn’t a query about the latest NAV report, but a genuine connection.
Feeling grateful makes us happier. Showing gratitude makes others happier.
The Loneliness Creep
Loneliness is defined by people’s levels of satisfaction with their connectedness.
This is a tough business, the business of venture capital; the uncertainty, the risk, the burden of having so many depend on a successful outcome can often feel utterly unbearable.
The absence of in-the-flesh community can compound the formidable feelings. Social media engagement can only pinch-hit so much in our day.
The longer various degrees of lockdown and uncertainty persists, the more time we have with our own thoughts. Easy to spiral when routines are disrupted, and connections are broken. The loneliness that comes with social isolation due to COVID can sneak up on you. We all feel some degree of it.
Research links even perceived social isolation, let alone actual COVID lockdown enforced social isolation, with adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity.
Have you made an intentional outreach lately, simply to minimize some of the sting of loneliness? There is no shame in reaching out for help. Deepening loneliness in and of itself can lead to depression. Disrupt the spiral today.
At the Relentless Venture Fund, we invest in a basket of the most common chronic conditions, including mental health disorders. The joy of being an investor in digital health at this time is that I can confirm, unequivocally, there has never been a better time than now to access both proactive and preventative mental health care. The pandemic has accelerated adoption of digital tools that support remote patient monitoring and telehealth – virtual care is no longer niche. It is essential, and it is accessible.
In addition to external tech options, we can all use this extra time with ourselves to work on self-care and develop self-directed mental health management tactics.
Resilience is the ability to adapt to difficult situations.
Whether you are the GP, the LP, the employee, the entrepreneur, the spouse, the parent, the investor, or the woman on her bike t-boned by a car, we all need to build our personal resilience reserves to journey through the months ahead.
Here are five tips to get started on building your mental health resilience, adapted from the Mayo Clinic’s resilience training:
Pursue, Nurture and Maintain your connections. Even if you have let many slide these past months, get back on it.
Make every day meaningful. Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment every day. Whether you go classic paper and pen ‘to do list’, whiteboard or knock off items digitally, set goals to help you look toward each new day with a sense of purpose.
Remain hopeful. We cannot pretend that COVID doesn’t exist. We can look toward the future accepting change and new challenges.
Be proactive. Don’t ignore your problems, thoughts or feelings. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan, and take action.
Take care of yourself. As per recommendations prior to any airplane departure, always put on your oxygen mask first to be most helpful to others. Tend to your own needs; include daily activity, plenty of sleep and consume a healthy diet.
And finally, a personal suggestion. Identify a mental health buddy. Someone in your professional network who understands your ‘day job’. Just like so many of us have gym buddies to keep us on track, now is the time, more than ever to identify that support person who will recognize the difference between healthy and concerning and provide helpful feedback.
It is time to embrace mental health buddies.
It is time to talk. So, why not start with a friend. Let’s talk.