Seriously, take this Pandemic. The Covid-19 health crisis has brought chaos, upheaval, and a caustic level of transparency that has upended millions of lives. Yet, even in the middle of chaos, governments, industries, and individuals are taking a deep look at the way they operate and creatively finding solutions to complex problems so that they build the resiliency needed to emerge better.

Going into the initial phase of lockdown, I thought that I would be fine. In fact, in February I erroneously prided myself on how far I had come with my anxiety. I had not had an episode or reverted to tics in years; that thought should have been a recognizable red flag. As the months dragged, seemingly only punctuated by difficult events, the lockdown and the forced stillness required to protect the most vulnerable has laid me bare. I found myself becoming hesitant, stressed, and anxious to the point of paralysis. Those tics, yeah, those came back.

Blessedly, my second current rotation was with a department dedicated to learning. Every team meeting left space to address the major themes affecting the organization, employees, and the communities we serve. Leadership particularly set the tone by publicly communicating concern and vulnerability. Months of consistently communicating care, concern and alignment with the Department’s mission and values eventually created a community. That community made it easier to navigate the disruptiveness of 2020.

With the public and professional aspects of my life comfortably settled. I felt it necessary to address the personal. For me, this meant:

  • Tapping into the frequently mentioned health resources provided by the Commonwealth
  • Reading (Newport’s Deep Work, Dr. Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score, Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow)
  • Acknowledging that this is bigger than any single event and rewriting the underlying systemic issues

In essence, I am taking a page out of my Department’s playbook, intentionally addressing the issues and transforming the way I operate. It is uncertain what the future will hold or what progress I will make, but identifying that there is a problem and working towards fixing it can only improve the present situation. I can confidently assume that the chaos created by this crisis is going to retool my ability to adapt, react, and compete moving forward.

Jessica C. Gaines is a Virginia Management Fellow currently serving in the Department of Housing and Community Development.