The past few months have been really hard for lots of people. For others, it has been quite a positive experience. And for others it has been a bit of both.
What I’ve been hearing from my clients is that lockdown was easier than this ‘new normal’ because they knew what the rules were and now they don’t know how to cope with all of the change.
So I was delighted when The Women’s Organisation invited me to deliver a webinar on Coping Mechanisms as part of their Change It programme. The session was all about getting insight into the workings of our brains and getting the tools we need to break negative thinking habits.
It was a really fun and interactive hour sharing some really simple practical tips which actually came in handy in the middle of the webinar when my co-host Jen became transparently distracted because the window cleaner unexpectedly turned up!
Yet it’s a perfect example of the unexpected distractions of working from home. Whether it’s the window cleaner or the postman, the cat or the dog, the children or the significant other, or the non-stop Zoom calls. It is all OK!
They are all things most of us have never really had to contend with before and all in the middle of the pandemic. When I asked the attendees what the real challenge was for them right now, they said:
- Being focused while at home
- Concern for the future
- Dealing with uncertainty without freaking out
- Too many spinning plates
- Keeping energy levels up
- Managing expectations
- Loss of trust
I’m sure lots of these resonate.
So, in this blog, I’ll be sharing some really simple coping strategies.
Here is a simple exercise to get started. You can use it now but you can also use it for day-to-day tasks.
- Take a pen and paper and write down a number between 1 and 7 of how focused you intend to be whilst reading this blog. (Hopefully, it’s at least 5!)
- Look around your environment. What can you do to make sure you meet the score? Do you need to do a quick tidy? Do you need the shut the door? Do you need to switch off your phone?
- Take a few deep breaths and now you can focus on the task ahead.
Tip 1 – Ask ‘What Can I Control?’
Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions that we have no control over, we should focus our time and energy on the things we can control.
In the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey talks about the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.
The Circle of Concern includes the wide range of concerns we have in our work and our life – health, family, money, economy, global warming, Covid! Everything you include in the circle matters to you and everything outside of the circle is of little or no concern.
The Circle of Influence are the things that concern you that you can do something about.
In the week before lockdown, I, like many business owners had a healthy pipeline of work that started to disappear as clients cancelled work the more the pandemic took a hold.
It wasn’t something I could control and was very much outside of my Circle of Influence. I needed to let go and I asked myself what can I control and what can I influence? So I made some telephone calls and cut some costs and made some new plans and thankfully, I am still here to tell the tale.
The key is to focus your time and energy on the things that you can influence.
Tip 2. – Too Much. Too Little. Just Right: The Goldilocks Principle
Too much pressure can lead to stress, burnout and exhaustion but actually too little pressure is also harmful. It leaves us feeling bored, stuck and unmotivated. The sweet spot is not too high, not too low – but just right. Just enough pressure to keep us alert and motivated. This is the Goldilocks Principle.
In the fairytale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks tries three different bowls of porridge. The first is too hot. The second is too cold. The third is just right but we all like our porridge differently so my “just right” will be different to your “just right”.
So how do you find your Goldilocks spot, your perfect levels of pressure to help you feel engaged?
When we look at different areas of our lives and examine them, we often find that some things feel off. We might be doing too much of some things and not enough of others. (Free Download: Wheel of Life Exercise).
The key to coping (and to living a fulfilling life) is to adjust our time, energy and focus so that they are spent on the things that are important to us. Of course, it won’t be “just right” all of the time but it can be helpful to check in with ourselves and make adjustments when needed – scaling back on some tasks and adding joyful activities.
Sometimes we forget what makes us feel good. We run on autopilot. Download and print off my free Happy List exercise and use it as a prompt whenever things feel out of balance.
Tip 3 – Hippo Time
Some events trigger wallowing. The end of a job. A disappointment at work. The end of a relationship. Hippo Time is when we allow ourselves some time to wallow (as hippos do) and to acknowledge our feelings of disappointment or frustration.
Having some time out when life’s challenges knock us sideways is absolutely fine: we all need that. Give yourself permission to wallow but put a time limit on it. This helps you to contain it, process it and move on.
If you are interested in having a conversation on how a wellbeing session can support the people in your workplace, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you.