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Understanding the psychological impact of “the new normal” and what to do about it
Change has always been a constant. Yet in recent weeks we’ve been plunged into a pace and scale of change with Corona virus, that few can have escaped being affected by.
We are all adjusting to new ways of thinking, working and behaving. It’s brought us very practical day-to-day issues with food, work and childcare. It also raises important questions for our psychological state:
- What does this mean for our mental health and well being?
- How do you manage that uncertainty within yourself, and help others to adapt?
- How do you stay firmly ‘feet on the ground’ when the ground is shifting so fast?
Putting on your own oxygen mask first
When you fly anywhere (obviously not at this time!), you’re briefed in the plane about safety and also told, “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others”. This safety briefing is a great metaphor, away from flying, for making sure we keep resilient and resourceful, so we can keep supporting others. It’s hard to work, and care for others in a way that is sustainable, if we are feeling depleted.
What follows are some ways of staying resilient, strong and productive, beginning with The Serenity Questions and moving onto The 7 Stages of Change and some great ways of helping yourself and those you love and support to thrive.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Change the things I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference”
These three questions are amongst the most versatile for rethinking challenging situations.
Breaking down a situation, into the following three areas helps us to work on what can be actioned and what is not helpful to spend time on.
- What do I/we have control over? This is only ever your own thinking and behaviour. If you are aware of these aspects of yourself, you can choose to change them
- What can we/I influence? This is about how we can encourage others to do things differently eg change their behaviour or how we can change systems and processes that we have to encourage people to change how they do things eg we are all washing our hands more than we were 4 weeks ago!
- What can’t be changed that I might need to come to accept? Working on accepting what is not changeable. And therefore letting go of giving it energy and attention.
By ‘splitting out’ our situation or problem in this way we start working on actionable parts.
Taking action is massively helpful to mental health and reduces stress.
Eg I can reduce to once per day, getting the news – and only get it from one calm, factual source, I can set a reminder on my phone about hand washing and not touching my face. That’s all pretty much within my control.
I can check in with my team/family/friends virtually once a week as a group and/or pick up the phone to individuals through the week to check on progress, but also listen carefully to them and support with warmth, compassion and practical ideas where necessary – this is my influence-based action.
Finally, I can acknowledge that the thoughts I am having about my elderly relative are deeply worrying, I can work on accepting that I have done all I can to educate them about the current situation, I am doing all I can to keep in touch with them, and to help them stay fed, and so I can work on coming to accept that I have done all I can.
Acceptance often needs working on most. It can come easy for some, but not for others. We tend to go through stages of change which are not always predictable in terms of their sequence or timing. They are however highly recognisable across the human population. These stages have been summarised below, bringing together a number of different academic perspectives on human change process.
If you are a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, a leader, a carer, a friend, indeed if you have any social connections at all, you are a role model in this crisis. Understanding and managing yourself first of all is key to responding well and supporting others effectively.
Take a look at the model below, so it’s just an idea of reality.
That said, it can be helpful in times of uncertainty to use theories and models to get a sense of what might be happening and how you might choose to ‘mindfully respond’ rather than ‘reacting’.
The model represents a series of stages which people, including yourself, might move through in adapting to the changes we currently face.
Kubler-Ross suggests that responses to change are seldom linear and we can skip steps, revisit them, jump quickly to the end or stay stuck in stages along the way. We may not follow the neat sequence suggested in the graphic. Prochaska and Diclemente, suggest that we can relapse and not embed habits of change, and then the process can restart.
Evidence suggests that people who adapt best to change, quickly move through a set of stages. These stages are not always distinct and it’s not a straight line of adaptation. That said, if we have some understanding of the stages it can help us with our own adaptation to these differences. Do you recognise any of these stages in your own reactions to the recent expectations over Coronavirus?
It’s also very helpful in understanding what others are going through emotionally and mentally, and in choosing how best to support them. Which stages have you seen in others at home, work or in the media?
Processes of Change Framework
The 7 stages of change are typical of imposed and complex change scenarios. Change can be Elective, ie you have chosen it, like a job change, or it can be Imposed like the UK Covid-19 lockdown, equally it can be Complex, that is to say a mix of elective and imposed. At this stage in The UK, we are still able to make some choices at home, even in our lockdown.
The 7 Stages of Change graphic, not only offers a summary of some of the shifts people may move through in imposed or complex change but also guidance on recognising and supporting them at each stage.
I’ve put together a short E-Book to offer you practical solutions and suggestions to support your family, your team, yourself and your friends through this tricky time. It offers further practical details on how to support yourself and other people through these difficult Covid-19 challenges.
To get practical suggestions on:-
- supporting others
- home working
- staying resilient and strong
- managing difficult thoughts and emotions
- 20+ tools and tips for you and those you support
- PLUS latest research on kindness that will blow you away!
Thank you for reading. If you or someone you know is finding it hard to adapt right now, do get in touch, there are various ways we may be able to help.
Will Thomas MA, BSc(Hons) is a Qualified Life Coach, Master Practitioner of NLP, Registered Hypnotherapist and Emotional Freedom Technique Practitioner. He is a prolific and award-winning author/co-author, with 12 published books in the field of Coaching, Well Being and Creativity (Bloomsbury, OU Press and Pocketbooks). He’s worked internationally as a coach, therapist, and trainer and has a private practice in Malvern, Worcestershire, at The Centre for Well Being. He is fully set up for high quality virtual support, wherever you are.
If you’ve been affected by the issues in this article and would like more support with managing your mental and emotional well being or making the most of these changes email Will Thomas now For information online visit: https://willthomascoaching.com
According to research by Greg McKeown and reported in The Optimist, the average “smartphone” user logs in to their phone 110 times a day.
This got me thinking. I did some simple maths. What came out surprised me. Based on this figure and a conservative assumption that it takes 2 seconds to tap in a four or 6 digit code or for a fingerprint recognition system to recognise your print, a whopping 21.9 hours are spent each year, just logging into our mobile phones.
What else could you do with 21.9 hours? That’s almost three working days, it’s nearly a whole 24 hour day and think of the picnics with family, the chats with friends and the words you could write, the places you could visit and the precious moments with that older person you know and love who has seen the lion’s share of their time on the planet.
I wondered how much time in the 5 years I have had a smartphone, that I have lost to its logging-in pad. I’d like to think I don’t log in so frequently as I used to. But it stacks up.
Greg McKeown, in his brilliant book “Essentialism” invites us to become really conscious about how we spend our time. He contends that we can spend a great deal of time each day getting really good at a few things, or a tiny amount “good” at a million and one things. He invites us to make a more conscious choice about how we direct our use of time.
For me, it’s more than just getting good at stuff, it’s also about attending to the things (usually the relationships) that are so very, very precious and so very, very ephemeral. It is about focussing on the question “What is essential for me today?” But it’s also about challenging the very definition of what’s essential.
Often our work drives us to do “essential things” eg make that call, file that report, design that process; but broadening our definition of essential to include what is precious and might be gone in an instant, that’s at the core of it. What it is that feeds your heart and soul, not just what is to be ticked off on a TO-DO list. That’s what I’m inviting you to consider today. Perhaps it’s about making your To-Do list and your To-Be list. Or simply asking of your daily list, what is it here that’s ephemeral and will make my heart sing? Your little girl is growing up, your beloved pet is 14, your parent is unwell, your book hasn’t yet been written, your relationship is shaking.
Of course, there are things you have to do in order to keep the bills paid and the cat fed, but it’s about a bit of perspective and balance. For a start, we could all log into our phones a few less times a day, and be with the people right in front of our noses in a real and present way.
If you’d like help becoming more present and focussing on the real essential stuff of life, join me for a day of learning, laughter and meeting new people.