Right now, we are all experiencing something unprecedented. Although this is a collective human experience, how we respond to these changes varies wildly.
There is no road map for navigating these uncertain times, but there are things we can do that science, research and experience tell us can help.
Before we talk about what we can do, it’s worth spending some time understanding why it’s so easy to find ourselves feeling like we’re not coping.
Humans have developed extraordinary ways of coping in crisis, and not all of them are particularly helpful.
We are hard wired to remember the bad stuff more vividly
It’s just the way our brains work. We store bad, scary and stressful experiences more vividly. This is simply because the emotions we feel in these times are so strong. We often react without thinking; it’s unconscious.
Fear is persistent
Right now, there are so many things to be frightened of. We are being bombarded with expert opinion, data and personal experiences that tell us this is scary stuff.
Added to that are our own personal fears: how will I cope if I lose my job? How do I work from home and take care of my children? What if…?
When we don’t have hard facts, we simply fill in the gaps, and this is where the true potential lies.
A Resilient Mindset
Practicing resilience starts with our own thinking and the story we choose to create and fill those gaps with.
You give power to what you give your attention to.
This starts with our thinking. Resilience is not about avoiding the scary stuff, it’s about coping with it in a healthier way.
So, what does healthy look like?
Focusing on what you can do really helps. Dr Carole Dweck is the leading authority on mindset. For every experience, we choose how we respond.
A Growth mindset is all about finding the positives, whereas a Fixed mindset is when we believe we have little or no control over our destiny.
It’s easy to understand why, in times like these, many of us feel out of control. Developing a Growth mindset is a habit we have to practice.
Developing Resilient Habits
A habit is simply something we repeat. It has a trigger that we respond to and there is a reward for the action we take. We drink coffee when we wake up to feel ready for the day. We grab a glass of wine or a beer when we want to reward ourselves for surviving a busy or hard day.
The resilience habits
We have already established that we give power to the things we give our attention. Habits are simply the things we choose to give our attention to.
We have established eight habits that, when we give them our attention, help us to cope better in difficult times. These are not exclusive to our work or personal lives, it’s about the choices you make every minute of the day.
The eight healthy habits:
- Ask for help
This can be a tough when we are being asked to work in different ways. The things that make us feel safe might have been removed – the colleague we sit next to, access to systems and even our own desk. Being vulnerable and asking for help is not only healthy for us, but it makes it easier for others to do the same.
- Accept imperfection
When we are anxious about things it is often paralysing and we feel the need to get things absolutely right. In reality, resilience is all about trying things to see what works, so perfect just isn’t helpful.
- Choose healthy
We cope better with what the world throws at us when we are fueled up, hydrated and have energy – what are you doing to keep healthy? Think small and consistent – remember we don’t need perfect.
- Find laughter
This is an art that takes conscious practice. Whether it’s looking at cat videos on YouTube or setting yourself a challenge to learn a new joke a day, do something that makes you smile and ideally get others involved.
- Be kind
Acts of kindness work wonders on our nervous system – you literally get a high from doing good things. Again, start small, say thank you more and mean it. To mean it, really think about what you are saying thank you for.
- Act before you are ready
This is a close partner of accepting imperfection – plan for failure, it makes it easier to pick yourself up. Resilient people don’t make fewer mistakes, they just don’t dwell on them.
- Look for the silver lining
You are stuck at home with the kids. That means their memory of this will be having you home more! You can’t go to work, so you get that commute time back to do something for you! It’s all about looking for the good stuff.
- Learn from mistakes
Failure can really help when you get your head around it. Take time to think about what happened and what you can do differently. That customer didn’t understand why we need to do this and that’s fine, so now how do we change the explanation for next time?
Resilience is our biggest weapon against stress, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. Pick a habit, give it a go and feel better.