You are your biggest asset – and risk
Lockdown – and the bigger Covid-19 context – is a very rocky road. You are living and leading through a context of ‘clear and present danger’. Is it an exaggeration to use a military term? No, it isn’t. The uncertainty, unknowns and risks (to both your health and your business) are real. And yet the biggest risk you face at the moment is not external, it is internal. To be direct, YOU and your well- being are at the heart of how you weather this storm.
Acting with CARE
There is nothing soft about your own mental and physical well-being. Your resilience is a critical asset and you need to treat it as such. Navigating lockdown (and beyond) is not about endurance. It requires intentional action. There are four key levers you can use to deliberately manage your health and mindset – Connection, Awareness, Routine Reset and Energy Experiments. These are at the heart of your own care. CARE, get it?
Connection with others is essential in these uncertain times. Humans are a social species and we need interpersonal connection for our psychological and physical health. Your relationships with others is the most important predictor of your resilience. Keeping connected with your loved ones, mentors and teams is critical in these times. Making time to check-in with your teams every day; and building time with your friends and families will add to your sense of well-being. We all need to feel a deepened sense of care in a crisis. Aside from all your virtual meetings, how about getting your team together for a virtual lunch, taking your mentor out for a virtual coffee or getting your loved ones online for a virtual meal? Feeling you’re not alone in this is key for your own resilience.
The uncertainty and sense of being under threat makes this is a time of heightened feelings. You’re probably having ups and downs; good and bad days. Identifying and naming your feelings; and seeing them as ‘data’ – giving you key information on your situation and your response to it – enables you to pause, choose your next action and react more consciously and intentionally.1 Fear might be showing how to keep yourself safe; sadness might be highlighting a sense of loss; excitement might be highlighting the possibilities ahead; boredom might be showing you this is a marathon not a sprint. Denying your feelings or pushing them away makes them more likely to resurface unconsciously and trigger less rational and emotionally intelligent actions. It keeps you stuck in unproductive ways of thinking and feeling helpless. Using your emotions as a ‘data’ gives you a map. It gives you a sense of what is in your control (and what isn’t) and helps to focus your attention productively. It enables you to focus on facts and to pause before you act. It helps you to calmly move forward and take tough decisions. It shifts your brain into being able to plan and problem solve for new possibilities. It builds your own confidence; and that of those around you. It grounds you in ‘realistic optimism’ – a sense that you will succeed in the long run, although the short term will be tough.
Reflect on your routine and identify key practises that are helpful to you, your loved ones and teams.2 Use this time to reset. Your vision and values are guideposts – directing your focus on what matters most to you.
- Sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise are an essential foundation for everything else.
- Build a sense of structure and routine into your days. This helps keep a sense of normality and predictability in unpredictable times. Get up at your usual time and get dressed for work. Virtual daily team huddles at a set time provide a structured way of connecting and aligning. Prioritising and keeping focused on the most important tasks are useful anchors and promote clarity in a confusing time.
- Take breaks during the day and end work at a reasonable time. Have down time each day. Your days are probably longer than usual, with hours spent on-line. Unplug. Be mindful about how much time you are spending on screens. Monitor your news sources and make sure they are credible. Minimise your time on social media. Mute Whatsapp groups constantly pinging.
- Make week days different to weekends so that the time is less of a ‘blur’. How about starting a Friday night braai ritual? Scheduling ‘silly time’ with your children? Or doing a family exercise session first thing on a Saturday.
- Build mindfulness, meditation, prayer, journaling, gratitude and reflection into your days.
This is a time to try out new things and build new habits. Managing your energy – not your time – is an important shift for you to make 3. It time to experiment. Give it a go! Have fun! Use the time to do things you have been meaning to get around to. Try things out, if they don’t work, try something new. Try that crazy new idea you have been holding back on. Have a family meal across the country using Facetime. Take part in a live, virtual dance competition. Worship in a streamed service. Figure out what energises you and do more of this. Everyday.
Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to be human in all of this. You’ll likely feel bored, restless, exhausted and overwhelmed all at once. Take time out. Do absolutely nothing. Clill out. Your resilience depends on you having periods of rest and recovery, not simply throwing everything you have at it and enduring. 4.
Here are three tools to help you to move forward with CARE:
If you find your emotions spinning and your mind racing, use your breath to centre and calm you. Don’t scoff – US Marines use this technique!
It takes 90 – 120 minutes to mitigate the stress hormone cortisol in your body and return your brain to clearer thinking and complex problem-solving.
|CARE||DESCRIPTION||Check-in with myself
How am I doing? Score out of 10
|What’s my next move?
(What one thing can I build on or change to shift my score?)
|Connection||Daily connection with your loved ones and team.|
|Awareness of emotions||Daily ‘feelings check’ so that you can respond intentionally.|
|Routine reset||Daily routine implemented|
|7+ hours sleep every night|
|Vegetables and protein every day focusing on vitamin C, D and zinc|
|8 glasses of water or herbal teas with no milk every day|
|Exercise for 30 minutes everyday|
|Downtime every day|
|Energy experiments||Daily energy experiment|
Tool 3: CARE coaching how-to-guide
Here’s your third tool: a simple CARE Coaching how-to-guide. It’s simple:
Invite a buddy to be your CARE coach for the next 2 months; and you can be theirs.
Have a quick call each week to discuss your well-being:
- Share (5mins): In each call, start by sharing a 5-minute summary of how you’ve taken CARE of yourself for the last week, by answering these 3 questions:
- Overall, score how well you feel (out of 10)?
- What’s working well?
- What’s the biggest gap in your wellbeing right now?
- Explore (15 mins): Allow them to celebrate, challenge and guide. Focus on building from what’s working; being clear on obstacles you are hitting and practical actions you can take. Ideally build a cycle of repetition, rituals and reminder so you entrench new habits.
- Act (5mins): Close off with your commitments for the next week
- Your goal on how well you will feel this time next week (out of 10)
- The most important change you will make next week to protect your wellness.
- Flip roles! As you coach and they start to share.
This will pass – make it count
The lockdown and COIVD-19 crisis will end. This is the time to ensure that you’re clear on what you want for yourself, your business and your loved ones. Linking that to your personal and business vision and your values will help you feel anchored in the bigger picture. It will give this time a greater sense of meaning. It will help you to elevate your perspective and allow you to focus on the possibilities and opportunities around you – to reframe the situation – rather than being stuck in a survivalist headspace. This will pass – take CARE in this uncertain new world so that you can learn as fast as you can and build the path ahead as you walk it.