It cannot go unnoticed that we are in a time of heightened uncertainty, worry, stress or anxiety. Lockdown measures are now leading to “lockdown fatigue” as we await news on when some restrictions may be lifted. Below, I provide 10 simple things you can do to help develop your resilience further.
The World Health Organisation acknowledges that mental health issues have increased due to covid-19. It is natural for people of all walks of life, all professions, all cultures - whoever you are, whatever your situation, it is natural to sense a greater level of sadness, anxiety, worry, overwhelm or even fear. Thoughts or feelings around these are entirely to be expected and could include:
- Fear over your job security
- Financial worries
- Relationship stress
- Overwhelm regarding remote working expectations
- Anxiety about suffering from covid-19 or what its aftermath may be
- Sadness at being alone or not being able to visit loved ones
Taking Charge to Build Your Resilience
Resilience is your ability to recover quickly from challenges or difficulties. Some say it is grit, strength or toughness. It is important to consider what is in your hands; what you can control in this time of uncertainty. One thing you can control is your own personal development or growth since you can personally take charge of this. By knowing what you can control and acting upon it, you have the potential for more balance in a time that may seem rather unbalanced and unfair.
Knowing what it is in your control, acting upon it positively, can reinforce your wellbeing and resilience.
With that in mind, this period may allow for more time to be spent on actions that support you; that nourish you.
Just One Step
Taking just one small step is all you need. And, as mentioned, doing just one thing means you are taking charge, you are in control. When we lose control, we feel disempowered. Covid-19 has taken some of our choices, or freedoms, away; therefore, it is more empowering for you to take control with the areas of your life that you can. If you need support to start, talk to, or buddy up, with a trusted friend online to share aspirations and small wins regularly.
I have learnt, through my own investigation, life experiences, research and personal development actions that, notwithstanding my inner strength, I can continue to improve my resiliency. I certainly have never experienced anything like this period of lockdown. Whilst I know how resilient I am, I owe it to the time I invested in learning about what worked for me – and forming the right habits. But I can keep learning.
And this is what I invite you to do. Spend some time understanding what tools and techniques can support you to find balance in this uncertain time.
The Resilience Toolkit
I have a variety of tools and techniques that I place in what I call my “Resilience Toolkit”, ready to be (mentally) picked out from when I feel it is necessary. It’s like an imaginary but very effective gift box to yourself of amazing things that offer long lasting balance, rather than instant gratification.
I didn't just come across the “gifts” within the Toolkit though - I studied, I practised different tools, went on courses, I read every day, I treated my wellness as a priority (and still do). How would your life be different if you did the same? One amazing “small win” for me as I embarked on my journey several years ago was that the just the act of trying a new technique made me feel better. I did not have to master it to start feeling the benefits.
More about the Toolkit below.
A Little About Statistics and Stress Itself – skip this to jump straight to the Toolkit
One in four adults (at least) suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their life. Right now, it may be even more than this.
In the workplace, over 80% of leaders or owners feel they have to curb their emotions with over 60% saying they are stressed. At the present time, they are also having to remain composed and ensure their staff remain engaged with a sense of purpose. Some are having difficult conversations regarding furlough, or a cut in salary. Other business owners or partners are taking salary cuts or are navigating new ways of working and creating revenue.
For those in employment, the figures are also staggering. For example, two-thirds of women in work say they regularly do not have a good night's sleep with mothers likely to be up to 40% more stressed than others. Current staff working from home now potentially have other stressors – lack of IT support, not enough room to work effectively, unwell family members, children to home-school, carry out domestics, shop at a time when queues are inevitably much longer.
Men and women apparently deal with stress differently (Edward Hallowell MD) and it is something I have certainly witnessed in my work. Work is the main stressor for men and, what has come to light in my conversations, is that this is accompanied by financial worries even when they earn a good salary. For women, I often here it is that they are having to manage “everything,” as carer, house-keeper, taxi, school diary keeper, activity diary keeper, nurse and so on. On the other hand, they may feel they are side-lined at work, ie, there are biases at play in the workplace (a topic for another day). Women often feel they are not a priority. Whoever you are, greater resilience built through a commitment to raising self-awareness can help.
Remote working may add to your stress, worry or anxiety etc if you do not address your triggers and actively learn how to manage this before it overpowers you.
Stress is different for everyone; stress is subjective – what is stressful for one person is not necessarily stressful for another. Take, for example, Jane who has a deadline to complete the drafting of an important agreement with a new client and her 3-year-old child is sick at home with no nanny as we are in lockdown. She also has an elderly parent who needs supplies delivered. Here, there are several events that may 'stress her out.' Is it a given that she will be stressed or does it depend on other things such as her mindset, her remote team support, her client’s empathy, her resilience and so on?
We all take on stress differently - in this current situation especially - and we may feel more in control of some stress than other stress. A fire in a shopping centre where you are stuck is less in your control and could cause immense stress – what is in your control in this scenario is how you consider (think about) getting away safely.
Understanding your Stress.
Understanding what stress is, your triggers for it, your resultant behaviours together with management tools, often provide great support to developing resilience. Take 20 minutes today to consider these; they could help you to take control and manage your next stressful situation more effectively. Symptoms may include more frequent headaches, loss of focus and concentration, lack of appetite, aches, disinterest, low motivation and confidence, anger, insomnia, excessive desire to sleep, withdrawal from usual activities, confusion, unhealthy eating – the list can go on.
Greater awareness gives you greater control. Be smart – if a voice inside you suggests seeing your GP, go. What have you got to lose?
More about the Resilience Toolkit
Here are just 10 simple things you can try to help with stress and keeping your mindset more positive. Choose what goes into your toolkit.
I must mention that building your resilience at this time does not mean denying the pandemic and its implications, but it allows you to potentially develop greater balance, control and perspective without burnout.
Remember that what seems to naturally resonate with you may not suit another person.
The list is non-exhaustive but provides you with a good starting place. I suggest experimenting with a few suggestions and creating your own unique toolkit.
1. Smile: Smiling activates neural signals that lead to greater happiness.
2. Pause: Consciously pause with awareness. It seems hard but, pause. Try. Notice your breathing as it is, then slowly move to three deep breaths in and out, then four in and four out.
3. Strengths: Take 20 minutes, uninterrupted personal space, to write down your strengths and skills. Accept them truly, acknowledge them, revel in them. No buts; know your triumphs. Own them.
4. Acceptance: Accept that not everything goes the way we want it to all of the time, nor do we have all the skills we may desire right this moment. Perhaps you’re frustrated with your workload. Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen or what can I do to develop. Then, act.
5. Awareness: Where does stress affect your body? Notice where the tightness, anxiety or tension is. Take a moment to notice and, if possible, place a hand on the spot you feel it the most. Remain in this position, eyes closed if possible, focused, for up to 10 seconds or more. Take few deep breaths here with a slightly longer out breath. (If you don’t want anyone to notice, do this at your desk, your gaze simply lowered or in a bathroom)
6. Sleep: Ensure you have enough quality sleep despite the marking and planning. Where does exhaustion leave you? Review your routine and screen time before bedtime. Do something relaxing and enjoyable even for five minutes before bed. Your phone may have a bedtime app reminder.
Breathing Exercises and Mindfulness also support your resilience https://www.anitagohilthorp.com/contact
7. Exercise: Exercise or walk, especially outdoors as you are still permitted to do that once a day, perhaps for just five minutes or more at the weekend. Getting close to nature, in the open, can have uplifting effects on the mood.
8. Journal: There is always something that went well in a day, or something/someone that made you smile (Perhaps you made someone else smile?) – writing these positives can support mental well-being and perspective.
9. Eat/drink well: Learn to understand which foods potentially add to your stress or tiredness and which boost your energy and mindset. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Substitute at least one cup of coffee/tea for water too. Dehydration affects clarity, mood, behaviour and energy levels.
10. Connect: You are still able to connect with others online or over the phone – friends, family, peers. Talk or share activities where you can be yourself and have fun or just offload. Many companies and families or groups of friends are having virtual parties or quiz nights. Savour the joy.
What else? Diarise tasks, stick to a routine and make time for enjoyable "down time."
Would you like to explore this further? If you would like support, or for more information, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the form https://www.anitagohilthorp.com/contact I’m by your side.