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Kubler-Ross’ long-established change curve can be a useful way to explain and identify where you, those you lead, and those you love are at, in processing grief and responding to the crisis. In this week’s blog we explore the final stage in our typical response to grief and change:
After several weeks of social distancing and isolation with our kids and spouses, many of us are realizing that this extraordinary time we are in, is very much a marathon, and not a sprint. We need to give ourselves permission to shift gear and settle into a sustainable pace, and not hold ourselves to the high expectations we may have placed on ourselves weeks ago. Change is hard. Creating new brain wiring in response to a crisis, is exhausting.
Our brain is constantly rewiring itself in response to what we focus on. This current period of isolation and confinement provides opportunity to build increased personal resilience to serve us through the challenges ahead.
Resilience starts with accepting our new situation, along with all the emotions generated. Observation of our internal thoughts and emotions, without the normal routine distractions of commuting, office environment and back-to-back meetings, can feel highly uncomfortable and confusing. This is where we discover how well equipped, or otherwise, we are to do this inner work of mental adjustment.
Scientific research shows that acknowledging and putting language to the emotions we feel, dampens down our brain’s ancient threat response, bringing our executive functioning capacities back online, so we can think and perform well. On the other hand, suppressing how we feel by trying to ignore our emotions or distract ourselves, has been shown to increase activation of our threat circuitry, and inhibit our ability to think and perform. Acceptance often comes with a sense of numbness to what is. It’s not necessarily a happy stage – but one where we’re able to simply focus on taking care of ourselves in what feels like a new, albeit temporary, normal.
Some simple ways to help our brains adjust to and accept the new normal include:
1. WRITE down how you feel each morning – without judgement.
Keep a journal next to your bed. Don’t over think it… just write. And allow yourself to sit with how you feel.
2. LABLE an emotion, as it comes up during the day. Put language to what you feel, using just one or two simple words. Post-it notes are great for this.
3. SHARE with someone else, the three things you feel grateful for.
Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s studies show that positive emotions play an essential role in our survival, increasing mood, improving immune system and creativity. Sharing positive emotions with others, amplifies this effect.
4. STRENGHTEN your ability to stay focused and reflective by moving and doing mindfulness activities. Take a short walk. Do a short meditation. Now more than ever, we can all find 10 mins in our day to engage in these brain and mood enhancing experiences.
In our upcoming blog series, we’ll be sharing the key skills that leaders need, in this new normal.