Mental Mars Bar Anyone?
Could we just take a moment before becoming agile resilient corporate warriors who have already adjusted to the next normal and allow ourselves to pause? If you have been running the gamut of over-exposure to your household, under-exposure to energy-giving social and professional networks and so much Zoom that you have lost the ability to maintain eye-contact let alone focus, then I suggest you take a little time to reset before trying to do it all again in six weeks.
Resilience. Agility. Next Normal. These words are now defining how organisations and those who work in them, will need to tackle life in a Covid/post Covid world. However, I also think they can add cognitive and emotional load to an individual who is already feeling pretty loaded. And based on entirely anecdotal evidence gleaned from coaching sessions over the past two weeks, the time to do this is now, because unless you have already managed to squeak out a day or two of holiday since February, it seems that we are collectively hitting the wall. So, I suggest that we use the final shreds of our sanity to calm ourselves down, re-engage with what is happening now rather than in the still rather opaque future and focus on our purpose. This will act like a mental mars bar give us the energy and clarity to focus on the next bit and help give us back a sense of control.
Here are three simple steps to doing that:
1. Breathe, properly I mean when your exhale is at least as long, if not longer than your inhale to persuade your vagus nerve to tell your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system. You will feel a sense of instant relief as, even if it is for a nano-second, your fight or flight response is calmed. Yoga devotees will recognise this as pranayama breathing. For those of you yet to hit the mat, have a look at the 4-7-8 breathing technique https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/
2. Refresh your Thinking – negative thinking is a common by-product of anxiety but we often mistake the symptoms of anxiety for evidence of a real threat and then we act defensively. By refreshing our thinking to focus on what is really happening we can shift our mindset from bleak to realistic optimism. As each thought drives the next one this also prevents us from spiralling. Try answering some simple questions e.g.:
- What is actually happening right now?
- What are the real issues vs the ‘noise’?
- What are the facts and what are my feelings?
- How much of this problem do I own and how much is owned by others? (i.e. how much control do I have over the outcome?)
- What assumptions am I making when I think about this and my ability to manage it? Are they correct?
- What are the potential outcomes and what can I do to encourage, prevent or mitigate against those outcomes?
- If I accepted this situation rather than fighting it and focused my energy on adapting to it, would my first step be?
- If I knew I would be successful what would I do next?
3. Take Three – to regain a sense of control and enhance your ability to see the positive opportunities take it bit by bit.
- What are the three things I would like to achieve today, regardless of what is going on around me?
- What do I need to do to grant myself permission to take a break before tackling Round 2?
- What would I like to have achieved by the end of the summer?
- What are the principles upon which I would like to make my decisions?
As uncertainty looks to continue and professional and personal pressures pile up, it is tempting to keep on going. However, if you can pause for a moment, to take a breath and gain perspective you will build your resilience and you never know, you might even become agile.