Beyond the curtain walls. Diana Vasile, on the silent pandemic and the art of living well in an unwell world

Beyond the curtain walls. Diana Vasile, on the silent pandemic and the art of living well in an unwell world

A carousel in which, willingly or forced by circumstances, we spun ever more dizzyingly. This was our life two and a half years ago. In a rush for results, positions, goals, or money, and in a constant time crunch, the work-life balance had become a priority. But then came the pandemic, and we all experienced feelings, behaviors, and situations unimaginable just days before. And then… the war came.

Globally, specialized research shows that a third of humanity considers the pandemic to be the most stressful period of their life. Faced with a landslide of restrictions and fears, entirely out of the ordinary, stress was essentially the internal response to an external, complicated, and unexpected situation that suddenly took us out of everything we knew to be normal.

Incomplete in our “recovery” physically and stabilized emotionally, the war intensified our fears, exacerbated worries, made us vulnerable, and opened new, deep wounds which (not long ago) we believed to be impossible or at least not so close and profound.

An unexplored subject

“You see, trauma was associated with war. And the specialist literature focused a lot on trauma as a physically life-threatening event. People saw it concretely. Very few thought about trauma that hits you psychologically. Of course, domestic violence is still a major phenomenon, silent suffering, neglect trauma, unhappiness of all kinds were and still are high on our list of psychologists. But they were not a general concern. They were considered personal traumas and rather stigmatizing,” psychologist Diana Vasile introduces us to the tangled “story of the mind”.

Social support, the best protection factor

But that requires change. It’s not hard. We just need to boost our capacities and resources, learn to work with each other, and see this personal good at the same time as the general good, “i.e. to be good for me while being good for the other”, to develop leadership and team skills at the same time. “That is, to stop thinking that the leaders are there and we are here, but each of us, regardless of position, to find a capacity to promote our good and generate good at the same time. And that will always be a good protection. Social support has always been the best protection against mental health, to create groups that collaborate and evolve together.”

A different mirror of the business environment

Stress levels doubled during the pandemic and are still high, research shows. A study by Ginger in 2021, for example, concludes that 7 out of 10 employees reported the pandemic as the most stressful period of their entire career. 88% of respondents reported moderate or extreme stress, and 62% that they lost at least one hour of productivity due to stress. On the other hand, the World Health Organisation has officially confirmed that 264 million people suffer from depression. And that costs the world’s economies a trillion dollars a year in lost productivity.

What companies need

Companies have understood better than ever, the psychologist points out, that the well-being of employees is no longer just a sub-item somewhere on their strategic agenda, but a business necessity: “We have received demands that we used to only dream about, we wondered when, in what society, we will have new demands aimed at mental development and mental health, not just at achieving performance indicators!”. The pandemic has brought teams to a critical point, so more and more organizations have asked for specialized support.

Advice for Leaders

Moreover, for enhancing creativity, engagement, productivity, and business success, Diana Vasile has a recommendation, a piece of advice for today’s and tomorrow’s leaders: to prioritize people, but not as a resource to be utilized. Instead, they should see them as individuals to collaborate with, develop, and build relationships that generate resources.

“I don’t think it’s good to think in terms of human resources anymore, but in terms of building fruitful relationships, between leaders and employees, so that these relationships are characterized by security. Relationships that allow employees to develop and offer their best, to have the courage to communicate any mistakes, limitations, shortcomings, and complications quickly and honestly, precisely to find solutions as soon as possible. I believe this pandemic has taken us out of the position of being slaves, subordinates to profit, ideas, KPIs, principles, control, and routines. The workplace is changing, and it’s a good thing it’s changing,” she believes.

The Pandemic in the Clinic

The clinical activity also recorded a substantial increase in the number of requests. According to the psychologist, the largest increase is felt in the area of anxiety and adjustment disorders: “meaning there was a rise in restlessness, emotional instability, and the psychological pressure people felt in order to cope with tasks and responsibilities.”

Cariere Magazine, Cover Story, edition no. 279 [RO]

Read the full article here

About Diana Vasile

Diana Vasile is a psychotherapist, lead clinical psychologist, and university lecturer. She is the President and founding member of the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Trauma, an interdisciplinary professional association, non-governmental, established in 2013.

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