How to stay calm, reduce the panic and become your own lifesaver
In Australia we teach our children surf safety and in particular what to do and how to stay calm if they’re caught in a rip. A rip is a strong, localised and narrow current of water that moves directly away from the shore. If you’re caught in a rip you can very quickly be dragged out to sea.
We teach our children to remain calm and not panic, to float or tread water until they can swim out of the rip and only then swim parallel to shore to escape the current. Trying to swim against the rip is exhausting, as no matter how much effort and energy you expel trying to swim to shore, the ocean is far more powerful.
As we teach our children to remain calm in a rip, I think the same applies to what we are all forced to experience right now.
The uncertainty, the disruption, the complex, the unknown of every day is very real. We are absolutely living through what Harvard Professor Ron Heifetz calls ‘an acute emergency phase’ – this virus is like the powerful rips of the ocean. The actions and choices we are having to make are pulling every one of us in uncomfortable directions but choosing to swim against the tide will only cause significantly more personal and professional exhaustion, anxiety, disruption and negatively impact the health of many.
As I wrote last week – the questions continue to be many and yet the answers are few.
We are all having to adapt. Business plans are changing on a daily basis. How we connect, share, network and learn have become virtual as meetings, keynotes and coffee catch ups are delivered on-line. Our health and fitness habits have evolved as gyms, shops and cafes shut their doors. Our personal leadership skills are being challenged as many of us, with care and compassion, navigate the anxiety, uncertainty and fears of the people around us. Some have had to take on additional roles of teacher, school principal and full-time carer – all whilst juggling the ongoing demands of keeping business doors open and teams employed. Some have lost jobs; many are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. And our personal needs for connection, friendship and freedom have been compromised as we are forced inside to self-isolate – all for the greater good.
Now we face the toughest choice of all.
We can either choose to surrender and remain calm, swimming with the changing tide (albeit with the occasional splash of ‘I don’t like this’), following the directives that we are being asked to follow, implementing the changes that we are forced to make and perhaps even be a little bit curious about the new opportunities that may exist.
Or we can swim against the tide, forcefully sticking our heels in the ground, fighting every step of the way, diverting responsibility, blaming others, believing we know all we need to know and pushing back against the changes that are happening and the new rules of everyday life.
Swimming against the tide will get all of us nowhere and nowhere very quickly.
Swimming with the tide will get us all there eventually, and more safely.
Here are four ideas to consider to help you swim more easily with this significantly powerful rip of change.
- Manage your INPUTS
With so much anxiety and fear coming at us every second of every day via the news, social media and the people we connect with it can become harder and harder to protect and maintain a positive mindset and the stamina to keep going.Imagine you are surrounded with your own personal bubble and determine what you have to do to protect this. Only allow into your personal bubble the information, commentary and people that feed your feelings of positivity and momentum. Push the stuff that feeds your angst and panic, aside. Quit the negative voices and information because they will force you to swim around and around in circles of increasing despair, anxiety and fear – and this helps no-one.
- Manage your OUTPUTS
Every single one of us wants to do purposeful and meaningful work. We want to feel like we matter. This need doesn’t stop just because the world is in disruption or the people around us are indecisive in their decision making.Don’t get lost in the status quo of sitting around and doing nothing, of waiting for someone else to give you permission to keep moving forward. There is only so much Netflix you can watch before your brain turns to mush! Take ownership of your daily activity, be intentional and commit to doing at least one thing every day that contributes to the work you do and the impact you can make. Make today matter.
- Manage your key OTHERS
In this period of forced disconnection and isolation, connection matters more than ever. Carolyne Gregoire wrote in The Huffington Post that this is the ‘decade of isolation’ and this was back in 2015, way before Covid-19 kicked in.Now is not a time for hard core sales hustle or fighting to secure a commitment to action. Care first and foremost. Reach out to your network, team, clients, suppliers and friends. Ask how they are doing? Get even more curious and ask how they are really really doing? Converse. Listen. Explore. Ask for input. Share your fears. Share your ideas and the things that are working unconditionally. Maybe do a random act of kindness for someone else every day – a smile, a handwritten note in the post, a funny text message. Today I bought a bunch of flowers for my local hairdresser who is distraught at seeing her business of 10 years slowly hit breaking point. Now the flowers didn’t solve the problem, but the sudden light behind her eyes and smile was evidence that this little gift of appreciation made her feel better – if only for a moment. Actively make a point of reaching out to help each other. This is not really about ‘social distancing’ at all, but rather as Steph Clarke from Spiique pointed out – this is about ‘virtually socialising’ and ‘safe distancing.’
- Manage YOU
Who you are and what you do matters more than ever. Hope is definitely not a strategy. You are the strategy. You are the key to change and in times of crisis it is those that take action that succeed. But how can you be the brilliant and best version of yourself and take the right action or make the right decisions if you are overwhelmed, over-exhausted and quite frankly – over it? How can you possibly find the space for perspective and clarity if you aren’t looking after yourself? If we bury our own needs right now and keep pushing and pushing; if we forget to attach the oxygen mask to ourselves first; then we will collapse mentally and physically and we are no help to anyone.Today, right now, only YOU know what you need to do to maximise your positive mindset and stamina to keep going and to maintain momentum.What do you have to do to ensure you are functioning in the way your team, organisation and family need you to function right now?No amount of prescribed 7, 5 or 3 steps to success will help. YOU already have the answers so take a moment to think about:
- your daily practices that keep you present and centred
- how you rejuvenate to ensure you can function appropriately during these challenging times
- and identify your personal inner circle of confidantes that will support you through this.
Personally my brain was hurting at the end of last week with all the negative information it was absorbing and decisions I had to make. I couldn’t think clearly, my personal anxiety levels went through the roof, I cried in the shower saddened by all that was going on in the world and the potential impact this was having on my “Corona Kids”. To be my best self ,which is exactly what my clients and family need right now, I have to increase my focus and time dedicated to daily exercise, journaling, meditation and sleep. It’s choosing to read a “crappy” book before I go to bed so I can switch my brain off from the worries of the day.
Every single one of us must choose to swim with the tide
We have to evolve and change direction and unlearn and relearn so that together we can adapt and face this battle head on. We have to choose to remain calm and not panic, to do what needs to be done so that together we can swim out of this rip and eventually head back to shore, to be in a position to place our feet in the sand and to do what needs to be done to restart again.
All of need to choose to swim with this tide together.
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