It’s no secret that impacts from the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic pose significant challenges.
“What happened to normal? Normal is just gone, right? It’s just gone,” said Paula O’Neil, former clerk and comptroller for Pasco County, and now a private business consultant.
O’Neil’s remarks came during a Zoom meeting of WOW TOO, a women’s networking group that is part of the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.
She reminded participants about Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs — identified as physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
Before COVID-19, the women typically were acting at the self-actualization level of the hierarchy, O’Neil said.
“We’re good problem-solvers, we care about people. We care about our community. We look at the facts and we can make good decisions.
“Now, all of a sudden — the world has turned around,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.
“With COVID-19, there’s a lot of fear of getting the disease. There’s a lot of fear with our economy.
“The biggest problem we have, I think, is uncertainty. Not knowing what’s next.
“The uncertainty — we’ve got to embrace it and see how we can help other people. Because really, you heal yourself by helping other people.
“So, what do we do now? How can we use this situation to help others?”
She reminded the virtual gathering: “Not everybody has the problem-solving skills that you have.”
No doubt, it’s a challenging time.
“This has been a big shock, in income, obviously,” O’Neil said.
“How do we get people to trust us, to let them come to our business, and let them continue to get back to a normal life?” she asked.
O’Neil then cited the work of Elisabeth Kubler Ross, who defined the five stages of grief. Those stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
“We are grieving our normal lives. We’re grieving our normal economy. We’re grieving the stock market — when it was high. We’re grieving teachers that can teach our kids, so we don’t have to.
“We’re grieving our jobs. We’re grieving our co-workers. And, we’re grieving those people who are sick and have gone,” O’Neil said.
Initially, O’Neil said, people, including herself, thought: “That’s not going to happen here.”
There’s been anger, too.
“Are we angry that the governor didn’t close the beaches during Spring Break? Are we angry that the president didn’t do things quicker. Are we angry because we just lost our jobs? What are we angry about?” O’Neil asked.
People are asking: “What can we do to try to get back to some normalcy?”
There have been losses, and that’s taking a toll.
“There’s a lot of depression,” O’Neil said. She talked about a client who told O’Neil that suddenly she “would just burst into tears because all of a sudden, no one is coming in her store.
“These are serious things,” the business consultant said.
Eventually, there’s acceptance.
“I think it’s going to be easier for us, once the economy opens back up, our country opens back up,” O’Neil said.
In the meantime, she reminded the women: “There are a lot of blessings in this challenge and nobody can deny that.
“We have time.
“We have time to ride our bikes.
“We have time to play with our kids.
“We’re cooking more.
“We’re working differently and we’re socializing differently.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
“It’s hard to do that, when you have so many things on your schedule. But, now that your schedule is blank, except for Zoom meetings, you can easily prioritize.
“What things were you doing that were not that important?” she asked.
“Now that you are spending more time with your family — maybe you limit some of those (less important) things, so you can continue to do that (in the future),” O’Neil said.
Published April 29, 2020