It goes without saying that a great number of people are stressed and anxious in the current global climate; anxious about their lives, anxious about their loved ones, anxious about their livelihoods, anxious about their larders, anxious about their leaders…the list goes on.
Crises cause stress and stress causes mistakes, so this begs the question…how are you coping? How is your family coping? How is your team coping? How is your organisation coping?
What strategies are you employing to keep a handle on your stress so that you can cope better on a day-to-day basis?
If you were to take an individual, team or organisational ‘selfie’ and give yourself a coping rating on a self-help scale from zero to ten, where ten equals fabulous and zero equals terrible, what would the number be?
But more importantly, in which direction are you facing? It’s easy to slip from distress to disorder when fear, overwhelm and lack of control abounds, so step one is to use strategies to calm yourself so that you can figure out how to nudge a notch higher on that self-help scale.
To help calm the amygdala, that part of the brain that acts as the smoke alarm for danger, switching on the fight-flight-freeze response, a quick fix is to practise deep, diaphragmatic breathing to engage the parasympathetic nervous system’s rest and digest response. Dr Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing is excellent for instantly soothing the nerves and lowering symptoms of anxiety.
Know that blood vessels feeding the pre-frontal cortex of your brain, aka it’s CEO, can get suppressed by up to 80% when highly stressed, which limits oxygen and makes you dumb!
Now that you’ve calmed a little, consider doing a STOP-START-STAY assessment to figure out what thoughts, feelings or behaviours that might not be serving you, in which case try to limit or give them up e.g. reaching for your phone upon awakening to tune into the latest news updates, igniting an instant anxious ‘tone’ for the day.
Perhaps you could start your day doing a couple of minutes of mindfulness meditation instead, a powerful tool for helping calm and control the ‘monkey mind’.
Just know that roughly 80% of the 75,000 thoughts we have daily tend towards negativity (yes, we’re hard-wired for negativity for survival) but in all likelihood that percentage in the current climate is probably higher, so it’s going to pay, now more than ever, to focus on the remaining small percentage that matters.
It’s going to pay to focus on positives as they emerge and look for the gifts in these troubled times. We know from Pareto’s 80:20 rule that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes, so narrowing your focus on the positive can yield a mighty result in terms of improving how you feel.
Now that you’re feeling a little calmer and more positive, from the smorgasbord of 10 strategies below, choose 2 strategies you think might work best to help nudge you up your self-help scale some more:
In the meantime, Headspace, Mood Mission and Smiling Mind are apps that will definitely help put your mind at rest, but if at the end of the day it all gets a little overwhelming and too hard doing it alone, don’t be shy about accessing you company’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service for some professional help.
Here’s to being self-aware and leading from within. Remember, just two will do.
Mental Wellness Specialist
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