Pivot your thinking in times of change

Your world has been through a lot of turmoil recently, with having to adapt to working from home, children conducting school at home, living in confined spaces, needing to be productive with seemingly many distractions.  

Your emotions appear to be all over the place, one minute happy and appreciating the moment and the next angry and wanting to fight with all those close to you. The emotions you are feeling are all related to your brain continuously scanning data streaming into it and telling you what to pay attention to and in what way. If the brain detects a physical or perceived threat, it will subconsciously take action to stay away from that threat, causing an away state in the brain. On the contra, if the brain detects something that will help you survive or something rewarding, it will subconsciously take action to move towards that reward, thereby creating a towards state in the brain.  

When in the away state you are unable to see the issue clearly, solve problems or work with others. You need to pivot your brain to the towards state which will enable you to think clearly, consult with others and find a workable solution. The steps to achieve this towards state are indicated below. When you practise these steps frequently, it will enable you to build up your resilience and therefore become more equipped to deal with changing situation in your future.  

The 6 steps to building up your resilience and operate in a more towards state are:   

1. Mindfulness: the practice of mindfulness has proven to improve calmness, focus, provide clarity and improve the immune system. Mindfulness can be done through meditation, breathe techniques or journalising. It is recommended to practice your choice of mindfulness daily.  Key is to be aware of your mental state through the day, recognize when you need to step away, reflect on how you are doing and calm yourself.  

2. Take care of your body: Eat a balanced diet, exercise, and try to get enough sleep to maintain a healthy body. This will reduce the stress hormone, increase the endorphins, and increase your ability to function under pressure.  

3. Contact a trusted friend or mentor: Connecting with others provide you with a support structure. This will aid in providing an independent perspective on the issue from a trusted non-connected source. Talking about the issue also initially acts as a release mechanism for you but also can allow the brain to process the issue slightly differently, which can sometimes lead to new insights. 

4. Routine: Continue with your routine or if you are lacking one, establish a routine for yourself. Whether that be exercise and meditation first thing in the morning or walking the dog. The brain thrives on certainty.   

5. Remain positive: Positive thoughts keep the mind in a state to make choices, be rational, engaging, and approachable. The “what if” questions only increase fear and escalates the problem. When you find yourself going down the “what if” route, distract yourself and bring your thoughts back to positive ones.  

6. Formulating a plan: In your calmer state and with your brain in a towards the state, you can now formulate an action plan by:

a. Documenting possible options available.  b. Review these options objectively, which might require an independent sounding board from a friend or mentor and then consider which one will be best to implement.  c. With the best option selected, detail the actions required to implement it. These actions need to be specific, measurable with realistic due dates.  

d. Hit the gas now and start implementing the actions. Engaging with your trusted friend or mentor will keep you on track and accountable to your deadlines. 

e. After a predetermined period, evaluate the situation and determine whether you need to tweak or add to the previously identified actions. 

f. Continue with the completion of the actions.

g. Acknowledge yourself for your efforts and give yourself some positive feedback. This will enable any new learnings to be hard-wired in the brain.

h. And lastly, reward yourself for your efforts with something that feeds your soul like a massage, walk in the forest, a visit with a long-last seen friend.  

 Life after lockdown is never going to be the same and that means we need to adjust our way of thinking to deal with more changes and challenges.  I hope these steps will enable you to pivot your way of thinking and build up your resilience to see the opportunities out there.  And remember “positive mind, positive vibes, positive life”.

 Blog post by Kim Harrison – Executive Leadership and Performance Coach