Without question these are unprecedented times that call on us to dig deeper into our resiliency reserves. Our abilities to handle dynamically changing environments and stress are being put to the test. Experience has shown us that the more present we can be in times of great change, the less we distort what’s going in our current reality and can maintain calm.
As leaders, people look to us to set the tone. While we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t get stressed, we do need to be cognizant of how we show up and model a sense of calm. The best way to do this is by learning to work through our own reactivity and develop resiliency practices that will sustain us so we can be the sense of calm for ourselves and those around us.
In times of change, we need different practices on board to fortify and sustain us through crisis. Focusing on the following 4 resiliency areas have proven to reduce stress, strengthen resilience and manage your energy so you can be more effective.
Resiliency Area #1: Calm Your Nervous System (body)
With increased stress, we go into survival mode and our bodies engage the fight, flight or freeze reflex. Cortisol floods our systems, increasing our heart rates. We start to breath more rapidly and tense up. To counteract this cascade of events, we need to give our bodies time to clear the bloodstream of stress hormones by slowing everything way down, getting present and giving ourselves time to decompress.
Slow your breathing – it sends a message to your brain that you are not in fight or flight.
- Try belly breathing – breath in for 7 seconds and out for 11
- Military breathing technique – breath in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, repeat
Get into your body with these simple grounding practices
- Do a body scan — start by feeling into your toes, wiggle them, feeling your back and butt on the chair, feet on the ground, release and relax any tension you have in your shoulders, neck jaw, soften your gaze
- Stretch for 5 minutes, go for a walk in nature
- Meditate – try apps like Headspace, Calm, 10% Happier
- To release jittery energy — do an intense workout, bounce on a yoga ball for 5 min
Slow your pace – literally, slow everything way down. When stressed, it’s natural to want to speed up, take action or push through and that’s when we tend to make mistakes. Take this as a cue to slow down and stop multi-tasking.
- Do one thing at a time especially when you become increasingly distracted and losing focus
- Take a break, get perspective
- Move slowly
Resiliency Area #2: Tame Your Mind
When faced with uncertainty, most of us want to come up with a plan to create a sense of safety. With this virus though, information is changing so rapidly, we’re often unclear about what’s going on, let alone the best way to handle each challenge. As a result, we start contingency planning and list building for things that haven’t happened, as a way of “controlling” the situation.
When you find yourself distracted or your anxiety levels going through the roof, try to focus on what’s needed in the next hour. If that’s too much, try minute by minute. While we cannot control the circumstances surrounding this virus, we can manage how we respond to it.
Redirect Your Thinking to the Present
- Visualization — Try visualizing something that will stop the swirling in your mind. Imagine a stop sign and redirect your focus to a tranquil scene like a babbling brook, cascading ocean waves
- Self-coach — Ask yourself, am I ok right now, in this moment, get present
- Limit your screen time – be cognizant of the information you’re taking in and how it affects you
- Focus on what’s in your sphere of control – Instead of focusing on everything that’s outside your control, refocus on things that you can do something about. This gives us personal agency.
- Be mindful of your inner dialogue — redirect negative self-talk – I’m doing the best I can, I’ve trained my entire life for this moment
Resiliency Area #3: Stay connected (Heart)
When in survival mode for a sustained period of time, it’s easy to start cycling in and out of burnout. When you couple that with mounting stress and lack of sleep, you’re apt to feel a myriad of oscillating emotions – anxiety, frustration, anger, sadness, overwhelmed or even denial. It’s natural to want to push these darker feelings away, pushing through them. Others cope by isolating, thinking it’s better to keep these feelings to themselves and later judge themselves for not being stronger, more resilient or courageous.
The key is to move through the intensity of emotion by creating a little space for them. Find ways to share what you’re feeling with people you trust and stay connected with others.
- Process what you’re feeling with those who love and support you
- Journal how you’re feeling
- Stay Connected with loved ones – if you’re sequestered, Facetime, Videoconference, text, have a virtual dinner, exercise or watch a movie together
- Participate in group discussions — share how you’re feeling; knowing you’re not alone helps
- Self-Coach — Ask yourself, what do I want in this moment, let that inform next steps
- Reach out for support – to your friends, colleagues, support system to tell people what you need
- Keep your Routines or develop ones that support you – sleep, exercise, eating well
- Practice self care — take a bath, listen to music, give your family a hug
- Mark the transition from work to home — when you’re done with work, take some time to decompress, let go of your work stuff, get present at home
- Release judgement of how you’re feeling – “I’m doing the best I can”
Resiliency Area #4: Be purposeful and intentional (Soul)
At times like this, I heed the sage words of Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and author of a Man’s Search for Meaning. He believed that our meaning in life was defined through significant contributions in our work; our relationships and most challenging experiences. It is purposefulness and connectedness that brings joy even in the midst of death, chaos, fear and loss.
With great challenge, we may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can choose how we respond to them. Being intentional helps guide us through the dark patches and provides hope and inspiration for all of us for what’s on the other side.
- Remember Your Why – keep front and center why your work is important to you
- Be intentional –Ask yourself how do you want to move through each day/situation? Take a moment to pause and reflect on how you need to show up to achieve what you want
- Add Levity — find ways to connect with others in meaningful ways and lift each other up
- Humor is the ultimate connector – share a laugh, a joke, a funny message, it lessens the intensity so we can lighten up and not take ourselves so seriously
- Show kindness and respect for others – everyone processes stress and change differently, we are all flailing in our own existential dilemma. It’s not personal, remember that!
- Contribute — Try to focus on what you “can” do to contribute
- Use your Strengths — Support others by doing what you do best
- Practice gratitude – let people around you know how much you appreciate them in the moment
- Be the calm in the storm – instead of spreading panic, doubt and worry. Spread calm, love, compassion and I guarantee the result will be more connecting and uplifting.
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”
~ Thomas Merton