Page 18 - London Business Matters May 2020
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 18 Your business   May 2020 Using hostage survival techniques to cope with the lockdown     by Sue Williams All across the world, we are enduring extreme social dis- tancing and isolation as our governments and health services fight Covid-19. I have been work- ing for many years with people who have been kidnapped, people who have been held hostage, who have had to learn to adapt to survive. There are similarities with where we find ourselves now – vast num- bers of us forced to stay at home. So, what are the lessons to be learnt from ‘conduct after capture’ tech- niques and the parallels that could help us survive this ordeal? If you are unlucky enough to be kidnapped and held hostage, you can expect to feel a combination of the following: • An almost paralysing fear of be- ing harmed or death • Continuing panic, loneliness and disbelief • Depression occasioned by the knowledge that you have no con- trol over this situation, and you do not know when it is going to end • Internal stress created by the uncertainty of regular food and drink • Desperate longing to be back with your family and friends • An obsessive reflection on the normal and routine aspects of your life, things you have so often taken for granted. The extraordinary times of this vi- rus do have some stark similarities to a hostage situation. In all proba- bility, you may be experiencing one or more of the above. Although our isolation is to a certain extent voluntary, and is happening for our own good, and the good of our so- ciety, human beings are social crea- tures. This is especially in times of crisis so it is natural to crave for the company of our friends and family. That urge to be together makes us who we are. Let me stress these are normal reactions to an abnormal temporary situation. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. You are not weak. You are you. Everyone experiences, if not all these things, then some of them. What you feel is an honest response in a difficult time. Don’t beat your- self up. In this case, your mission is to acknowledge where you are and then adapt and survive. Diffuse tension To give yourself the best chance of surviving, be kind to yourself. Each one of us responds different- ly. Your reaction will not be the same reaction as your partners, or your friends on WhatsApp, or a colleague on the phone. Be kind to them too, diffuse tension, don’t escalate it. Recognise what you are feeling from the list above. This recognition will help you come to grips with what is, without doubt, difficult for everyone. Realise that you are hav- ing a natural reaction to an unnatu- ral situation. The most important thing is to remember to be who you are. Nev- er lose sight of this. Your normal life has routines, standards. Be that person. Do not slip into a dishevelled, sloppy person who has used the situation to give up in some way, someone you don’t recognise. Plan a structure, a daily routine. This must include: • Personal hygiene – start each day in your normal way • Appearance – look in the mirror and see who you usually see • Keep mentally active – don’t slump in front of daytime TV. Find a way to challenge yourself • Stay up to date with medication • Make sure you have adequate food and drink at usual meal- times – if you are on your own, really try to make a special effort with this • Communicate with your friends and relatives. We are all so busy. Use this extra time to reach out to people with whom you may have lost touch • Exercise, a lot can be achieved in an hour. Plan out a routine for yourself, or if you’re online, and most of us are, join a live stream class, something most hostages don’t have access to • Maintain a sense of purpose and value. It’s hard for us to plan for the future, when we don’t know when things will get back to nor- mal. But we do know they will, so this time may be useful to evalu- ate how you feel about what gives you purpose and value. Try and use those values to how you ap- proach this difficult time • Knowledge is power, so keep well informed. Read outside your own comfort zone. Look at what is happening in other countries. In- stead of waiting to have the news interpreted for you, compare and contrast stories from different news organisations yourself. “The most important thing is to remember to be who you are. Never lose sight of this. Your normal life has routines, standards. Be that person.” Long haul It is also important to plan for the long haul. If you think this will be over in two weeks and it drifts on for two months, or longer, this will add to your own psychological strain. So, lower your expectations to avoid disappointment. Expect months and you’ll be happy when it’s weeks. Many former hostages I know adopted a combination of different coping mechanisms. Some wrote plays, music, or played chess with discarded objects. People are amaz- ing. They can achieve great things in very restricted and most arduous of circumstances. So many people say, I never have the time to... Well, now you do. Use that time to fo- cus the mind and learn something different. Come out of this better, stronger. How could this apply to you? What could you do? Hold that thought. Write it down. Look at the words you’ve put on the paper. Look at them again tomorrow morning. And one more thing, don’t forget, the longer your period in captivity, the more opportunities arise for a safe res- olution and your return to freedom. Repeat that to yourself. The longer this goes on, the more likely it is that you will avoid the virus yourself and will survive. Outside, other people are working hard to fix this, to help you, to help us all return to a normal life. Trust this because it is true. This time will pass. This is all temporary. You have not been forgotten. Stay calm, stay safe. Adapt. Survive. Sue Williams QPM is Associate Fellow at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford and travel security educator at Maiden Voyage to whom many thanks are due for this article      

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