Why are you not feeling elated?

The last year has been weird to say the least. The good news is that spring is nearly here, the UK vaccination programme is speeding along and there’s a four-step roadmap to see us out of lockdown.

So why are you not feeling elated?

It might be because the idea that everything will go back to how it was a year ago simply isn’t realistic.

We’ve all invested a lot of energy in adjusting to lockdown, and the life we are currently living has become normal. We’ve developed new routines, and new ways of operating. Many of us have adjusted to a different pace, as well as reflecting on priorities and what we want from life. Most of us are not leaving lockdown as the same person we were when we entered it.

We’ve changed.

Our physical world has got smaller. We’ve become accustomed to being socially distanced. We’ve learned to manage our expectations and emotions when it comes to what we’re not able to do, like travelling and seeing friends and family.

Yes it’s boring. But it also feels safe. And human beings like feeling safe.

So if your not feeling elated and the thought of or being back in the office with other people, or browsing in real shops, or travelling on buses and trains or having a drink in the pub doesn’t light you up then it’s OK – and perfectly normal.

From years of helping others to innovate, I know that change can often feel uncomfortable and sometimes even threatening. Leaving lockdown is a change. It will take time to adjust. No matter how exciting and hopeful, change can often come with a sense of apprehension. You might not feel ready to leap energetically into a social world after a year of being told that being social is not safe. We need to acknowledge that the messages about social distancing are now anchored quite deeply in our minds and that it could take time to build our social confidence again.

What you might want right now is an increased sense of safety, certainty and a rest – and that is perfectly normal.

If you’re not feeling elated and full of hope and optimism then that’s OK. If you’re feeling exhausted that’s OK too. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t worry about what you should be feeling and just accept how you are feeling and work with that.

Human beings like certainty. Whilst we can adapt, we feel more comfortable staying the same.  We’re more inclined to feel safe sticking to what we know than trying something new. And physically going to work, socialising with friends and family and being in environments with people we don’t know, right now, is something new.

Some tips for managing change (again)

How you’re feeling is how you’re feeling – It’s OK not to feel elated. Don’t put yourself under pressure or feel guilty. Accept how you’re feeling. Talk to friends and family about it. Take one day at a time. Write your thoughts down. Reflect.

Go at your own speed – we’re all different, whilst some people will be excited to go to parties on 21 June, others of us won’t. Do what feels right for you. Talk to your friends and family about where you are at. Follow your gut feeling.

Manage expectations – we’re not going to switch to ‘back to normal’. There is no back to normal. Life will evolve into a new post pandemic rhythm. Expect that it will take a bit of adjustment and time.

Practice socialising – it’s been a year since we socialised in groups. It might feel a bit odd. If the thought of meeting lots of people is causing you anxiety, start small and build your confidence.

Have routines – Humans are creatures of habit, which is why we can find change difficult. Routines can bring certainty when we are feeling uncertain and make us feel happier. Where you can, have a routine, for example getting up at the same time, having lunch at the same time and going to bed at the same time.

Talk about work – if you’re preparing to go back to work, talk with your manager and colleagues. Understand how each other are feeling and agree a phased approach to transition back to a post pandemic work life over an agreed period of time.

If you’d like some help managing change, check out Lucidity coaching, training and facilitation.

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Three tips to manage uncertainty

Uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. None of us have a job for life, a guarantee of good health, or absolute certainty over what tomorrow will bring. As the coronavirus outbreak has shown, life can change quickly and unpredictably.

The challenge for all of us is that human beings are wired to seek certainty. When we’re faced with uncertainty our brain believes our safety is threatened.  This triggers us in to a fight, flight or freeze response. When we’re in a fight, flight or freeze state our ability to make decisions, collaborate and solve problems is impaired. We want to feel safe and have a sense of control over our lives and well being. In an uncertain world, our need for certainty fuels worry and anxiety and makes the management of uncertainty a constant in our lives.

From an evolutionary perspective, humans’ first priority is survival. We’re built to be able to anticipate danger, prepare for it, and fight against it. Think about our ancestors who had to be alert for anything, from predators to natural disasters, that might pose a threat to their survival.

Today, the dangers we face are different, but our brains are still wired the same.  As a consequence, we react to uncertainty with the same responses as our ancestors. When faced with uncertainty our reptilian brain takes over with a fear response and triggers us to fight, flight or freeze. This response is great for fighting a bear, or out-running a sabre tooth tiger. However, it’s less good for figuring out how to juggle working from home with schooling the kids or preparing for a job interview.

Fear and uncertainty can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, and powerless. It can drain us emotionally as we worry about everything including the economy, employment, finances, relationships and our physical and mental health.

We’re all different in how much uncertainty we can tolerate in life. Some people seem to enjoy taking risks and living unpredictable lives.  Others find the randomness of life deeply distressing. All of us are different. All of us have a limit as to how much uncertainty we can handle.

Three tips for managing uncertainty

Structure and routine. Having a structure to your working day, for example starting and finishing work at the same time, having set tasks that you do at set times, or having team meetings and 1-2-1’s at regular times, can create a sense of predictability that can help to counteract the stress of uncertainty. I wrote about this in my blog on tips for working from home. 

Be aware of the meaning you’re making. When faced with uncertainty, research in cognitive behavioural therapy shows that people tend to overestimate the risks and negative consequences that may result from a situation, and underestimate the probability of a positive outcome. What assumptions are you making about the situation? What gaps in knowledge are you filling with negative assumptions?  Shift the meaning you’re making about the situation by challenging yourself to image the best possible scenario.

Create space to reflect. To understand your reactions to uncertainty, create space for reflection.  It can be helpful to remember that you’ve faced uncertainty before. How did you manage it in the past? (You’re here now so you did OK!) For example, allocate time with yourself every week to reflect on the week. You could keep a reflection journal or work with a coach or buddy up with a colleague.

If you’d like more help and practical tools to manage uncertainty,  join me and over 170 other members over at the Lucidity Network. More information and sign up here.