Retaining your vitality and optimism at home and at work

The last two months have given us a second encounter with our bubbles, those people we are closest to, or live with.

In the early days of COVID-19, Dr Tristram Ingham came up with the concept of “bubbles” while advising the Ministry of Health early on in the pandemic response for the disability sector. This concept, which limits the number of close contacts with whom an individual can reside, captured the imagination of the Prime Minister, made pragmatic sense to health officials, and most New Zealanders.

With a few days’ notice of the first national level 4 lockdown, people travelled home to be with those close to their hearts. What was astonishing to any observer was that people rapidly knew who those people were.

Just as Steve Jobs and his team had done in introducing the iPhone and General Motors CEO Mary Barra who slimmed down the company’s ten-page dress policy to simply “Dress appropriately,” Ingham and his colleagues established a powerful concept which resonated with the population.

Dr Ingham and his colleagues’ expertise with disrupted social structures, together with their astute reading of the New Zealand population’s negative attitude to compliance, hit the jackpot with the term “bubbles.”

There is a longer-term effect of people living in their bubbles which is dramatic and painful. An allied psychosocial concept of the social atom shines light on why this is. This social structure was identified by Jacob Moreno in the 1930s. He described this phenomenon as the smallest number of people you need around you to remain learning and alive. 

What many of us have learned during this lockdown, that our bubbles do not include enough people or the right people on two criteria:

  • that we have an emotional connection
  • that they are important to us.

Usually, these people come from a mix of family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours, and social connections. The criterion of ‘who you live with’ doesn’t work for many.

When people become isolated from these psycho-socially important others, their vitality and creativity are dramatically reduced. They may feel they have lost their mojo, become cynical or pessimistic, and find it hard to motivate themselves. This often causes people to draw in further and isolate themselves from others, thinking something is wrong with them. There is nothing wrong with them. They are missing their important people and need to reconnect emotionally.

The good news is that these connections can be easily regenerated electronically or in person. Don’t underestimate the power of staying connected, reconnecting, and making it easy for people to connect with you.

If there is one thing all of us have learned during this pandemic, that is how to let people know we care when we can’t physically be with them. Do this more.

Who are the three, five or seven people you are reconnecting with to ensure you retain your vitality and optimism at home, and at work?

© Diana Jones

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