As a professor, associate certified coach and the executive director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, I have provided guidance and support to a wide variety of people who have been struggling emotionally and financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have counseled college students who are having difficulty making the transition to online classes. I have provided advice and support to small business owners who do not know if their business can survive the economic shutdown. I have coached individuals who feel that their entire life has fallen apart because of the crisis. These people each have their own unique challenges. However, given the many problems the world is currently facing, every one of us needs to do some serious reflection on our emotional state during the pandemic.
The tragic suicide of 49-year-old Dr. Lorna Breen convinced me that we all need to check on our own mental health and the well-being of the people we love every day. Breen was the medical director of the emergency department at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital. She was responsible for the treatment of hundreds of patients suffering from coronavirus-related illness. She saved the lives of many other people only to take her own life. Breen was not only a talented physician and leader, she was a survivor of COVID-19 who was recovering in Charlottesville, Va. with her family when she committed suicide. She had an amazing future and seemingly had everything to live for. However, her death convinced me that the “invisible wounds” of this pandemic can affect all of us in ways that go unnoticed without serious self-reflection.
I encourage people who are dealing with severe mental and emotional problems to seek the help of a trained professional. However, to help others, I developed the “Self-Reflection Map” to encourage everybody to do a check-in on their emotional state on a regular basis. My hope is that when people first look at the map they will be encouraged to ask themselves the question, “What ‘Zone’ am I in today?”
The purpose of this question is to motivate them to think about their current state of mind. I want them to begin the exercise by reflecting on whether they are in a “Panic Zone” where they are fearful about their future. To facilitate that self-assessment I have included six “I” statements which include “I am worried about my future” and “I do selfish or self-destructive” things. People in this zone are struggling at the moment and should strive to develop greater awareness of what they need to do to move out of the Panic Zone. These statements will clearly resonate with some people but not others.
I then encourage people looking at the Self-Reflection Map to determine whether or not they are in an “Awareness Zone” where they are conscious of the stress they are feeling and are attempting to deal with it. The six “I” statements in this zone include “I am aware of my unhealthy emotions” and “I try to develop solutions to my problems.” In this zone, people are aware of their challenges but have not been successful in addressing them.
Finally, I want them to think about the things they have to do to enter the “Success Zone” where they are positively dealing with their own emotional, mental and physical state. The eight “I” statements found in this zone include “I implement solutions to my problems” and “I seek out positive information.” People in the Success Zone are more likely to have the positive attitude and perspective needed to be successful when the pandemic is over.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the large number of people who have found that this Self-Reflection Map helps them deal with the many different challenges that they are facing related to the COVID-19 crisis. Even though many people can see aspects of themselves in all three zones, they have found that the self-reflection this map inspires has helped them become more hopeful about their future. This map will not replace the mental and emotional health expertise of a certified professional. However, it may be helpful to those people who are feeling stressed and sad because of the many challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dale G. Caldwell is a professor and the executive director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which has organized the New Jersey Family Business Awards for 27 years. He teaches Family Business Management and is the host of the TV show Family Business World.