June 11, 2020
Uncertainty is uncomfortable for most of us. Whether it’s the rapid spreading of a virus, financial stress, political turmoil, or a reorganization at your company. If you’re concerned about your future, you are likely be distracted and unproductive. When things don’t go as planned, it can cause us to react with anger or fear, to grieve the loss, or dread the future.
The simple truth (that we all know or eventually realize) is that nothing really stays the same. How we decide to navigate the change and uncertainty in our lives is one of the keys to staying focused and on track to move forward. Over time, with experience and practice, this shift in perspective and action will lead you through certainty -- things will always change and you’ll have the tools to manage through it and ultimately get to your next level.
I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll share a few tips that have helped me along my personal and professional journey thus far.
Take Care of Yourself
Sometimes it helps to simply acknowledge that stress is a normal physiological response to feeling out of control or threatened. During times of stress, taking care of ourselves becomes more important than ever. Self-care isn’t solely about eating healthy or getting daily exercise (though those are vital components), it also means taking care of our mental and emotional health.
Regardless if you are managing a team or an individual contributor (at home or in the office), take the time to sit with yourself. Try a few mindful breathing techniques to settle and calm the mind and body and increase focus. Without judgment or analysis, simply allow the mind to wander and when you noticed it has strayed, bring it back to your breath. You can try counting your breaths from 1 to 5 and back down to 1, for example: 1 (inhale, exhale), 2 (inhale, exhale) … up to 5 and back down to 1. Once you feel calmer, you can ask yourself questions to uncover what you are feeling. You may want to try writing things down to put distance between yourself and the emotions so that you can see things differently and potentially make conscious decisions. Questions like: what am I feeling now? Why do I feel this way? What values are important to me? What you uncover might show you where or how to focus. For example, if being a good friend is important to you, you might want to reach out and connect with those that you care about.
Focus on What You Can Control
Acknowledge that things seem chaotic and unpredictable at that moment. When something is bothering you, it’s easy to spend time thinking and talking about it. Try and avoid repeating the same negative situation to friends, family, or colleagues (over and over and over again) - this can lead you to feel stuck in a negative spiral. Move on to talk about how you want to drive change and improvement. If you want to share what your feeling with someone you trust, set limits.
Perhaps let yourself think or talk about it for 5 minutes (you can write down what you’re feeling) and then set it aside until later. You have the power here. Obviously the situation might dictate how long you’ll want to marinate in it. It’s helpful to learn to take control of your thoughts and make sure you’re not stewing in negativity, stress and sadness for an extended duration. You may want to try to change scenery, perhaps take a walk; Listen to music. Meditate. Do what you need to do to refocus.
Our brain likes routine. It helps insulate our brain from decision fatigue and can provide comfort during times of uncertainty.
Research has shown that even small rituals can reduce stress and improve performance. You can do this by starting each day with a few minutes of breathing exercises, a meditation, or even creating a “to-do” or “gratitude” list.
Compassion towards yourself and others is always beneficial. Once you’ve done some self-care, you’re in a stronger position to reach out to those close to you personally or professionally. Being a confidant and demonstrating genuine support can be invaluable for someone. Give them the space to describe what they are going through. Try putting yourself in their shoes to understand what they think and feel (even if you don’t agree or feel the same). Building empathy forms trust and understanding so you can eventually move into problem-solving.
Studies shows that our greatest fulfillment comes in large part from being connected and helping others. There’s truth in the saying, “It’s in giving that we receive.”
Compassion brings meaning. Researchers have found that living a life of meaning is one of the greatest determinants of happiness. Not only does compassion ensure depth, fulfillment, and purpose, it has powerful health benefits and can lead to a longer life.
I’d love to hear what’s helpful for you during times of change and uncertainty. Feel free to share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org