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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Is lockdown making your creativity nosedive?

Do you feel like your creativity has taken a nosedive in the last year? Are you struggling to focus or getting ‘brain fog?’ Do you struggle to find inspiration or motivation?

I was thinking about this. If you’ve nodded to the above, it’s no wonder really. And don’t give yourself a hard time about it. Here’s why.

For the majority of people, we’re in the flow with our creative thinking when we’re relaxed. For example, I’ve asked 1,000s of people to tell me where they do their best creative thinking. They answer that it’s when they’re relaxed and not thinking about work, when they’re walking the dog, running, driving or in the shower.  Whilst a deadline might help some people focus, the majority of people think more creatively when stress and anxiety are low and when they’re doing something non work related.

Now lets think about our stress and anxiety levels over the last year. Broadly speaking would it be fair to say that they have been heightened these last few pandemic months?

Many of us are feeling isolated, and at the same time finding it difficult to disconnect work time from home time. Many employees and managers are fighting feelings of presenteeism as they adjust to flexible working. Working flexibly doesn’t mean being available from 9-5 yet many people feel they should be at their desk and available that whole time which can cause a huge amount of stress.

In addition to this, human beings crave certainty. It’s a basic survival instinct. When we don’t feel safe (like when we’re under stress) it triggers a threat response and our bodies are flooded with cortisol and adrenaline and we get ready to fight, flight or freeze. Our blood thickens and moves away from our prefrontal cortex (where we do our thinking which explains brain fog) to our vital organs. This was helpful when survival looked like running away from or fighting a wild animal, but less helpful in today’s working environment. It’s also exhausting.

It’s no wonder that our creativity is impacted by living in a higher than ‘normal’ state of stress and anxiety.

Where do good ideas come from?

According to Steven Johnson in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, creativity is making new connections by putting old ideas together in new ways. Therefore, to be creative, we must expand our portfolio of knowledge so we have more old ideas that we can put together when needed.

In order to have concepts to bring together we need a portfolio of resource, we need experiences, we need inspiration. Over the last year of lockdown and social distancing we’ve become increasingly more isolated more insular and as a result lacking new experiences and inspiration.

Consider the difference between working from home and working from an office. At home we get up we’re in the same space and we’ve got the same things around us.  We might doom scroll social media or watch TV or look at the news but the amount of new stimulus for our thinking is massively reduced than if we were leaving the building on a regular basis.

Remember back to the days of commuting. You leave your home and walk down the street, consciously and subconsciously you are taking in information.  You notice a new shop window display, read the headlines on the newspaper stand, notice somebody in a colourful hat that reminds you of the time you played ‘Guess Who?’. Your brain is gathering material to turn into connections for creativity.

It’s not just what you see either, you’re experiencing sensory overload, different smells, sounds and textures. Even by the time you arrive at work the amount of stimulus that you’ve opened your brain to is way more than perhaps the stimulus that some of us have had in the last year of working at home. If ideas are connections put together in different ways and the premise is that we need to have a portfolio of ideas and connections to go to for our creative thinking the pandemic has significantly inhibited our creative thinking portfolio.

How to give your creativity a boost

If stress and lack of variety are having an impact on your creativity then test out my tips below.

  • Pay more attention to and be more deliberate about lowering your stress levels. Look after yourself, eat healthily, get exercise and take regular breaks. When you are stressed or anxious it’s very difficult to think creatively.
  • Start to notice. For example, go for a walk and focus on noticing. I’m a big fan of the fake commute so when you’re going for your walk round the block notice your surroundings. Look for details. Are there plants growing out of cracks in the pavement, what is distinctive about the buildings you pass, or the cars that are parked on the street?
  • Decide to be curious. Play and experiment. Take the course that interests you, learn the instrument you’ve always wanted to play, read the book you never have time for. Can you ask more questions and set yourself a challenge to learn one new thing every day?
  • Talk to other people. Replace the water cooler chat where ideas are exchanged that’s missing when we work from home. Allocate time at the beginning and end of phone calls or Zoom chats for those random conversations about anything.  (That’s one of the reasons we organise random connections over at the Lucidity Network)

If you feel your creativity has taken a nosedive then come and join us over at the Lucidity Network. With regular training topics, group coaching and random connections it’s the place to get your creative mojo back.

Testimonial for the Lucidity Network

Thank you to Kate Sanders-Wilde and Tammy Palmer for your chat that inspired this blog.

Do you ever wish you could put the clock back?

Turn the clocks back

Do you ever wish you could put the clock back and go and give yourself some good advice, knowing what you know now?

A few weeks ago I asked the brilliant brains in the Lucidity Network ‘What advice would you have given yourself on 1 March 2020 – knowing what you know now?’

There were too many responses to list them all, so here’s my pick of what they said.

Stop, breathe and take time to settle. This will be a long process and there is no hurry for anything.

Just. Slow. Down.

Stop judging yourself by ‘normal’ standards. We need different measures of ourselves for these different times.

Don’t leave your favourite cardigan in your locker at work.

Go and hug a lot of people. (Even the random lady down the park with the barky dog)

Go visit everyone you know and love and spend a lot of time with them – appreciating everything (even your sisters annoying habits) as you don’t know when you might see them again. Make time every day to get out in the fresh air and enjoy your surroundings, it’ll make all the difference.

Always have a plan B (maybe a C and D as well).

Buy flour (who knew!?)

Don’t rush to fill up your car thinking that there will be a disruption in supply. What will actually happen is text book economics: no one goes anywhere so demand goes down, the world is over supplied with crude oil and prices fall to their lowest in decades. NOW go fill up

Remind yourself to stay calm. Many times.

It might not seem possible at first but there will be positives, parts of it will actually be enjoyable. Find the positives and appreciate them.

Finish as much client work as possible and enjoy the quiet time in the house before schools shut!

Be kind to yourself and build up your resilience.

Take an office chair home from work – kitchen chairs will hurt your back.

Treasure the joy in spending time with loved ones, hug them a little bit longer as you’ll need it to keep you going over the weeks ahead.

Cut yourself some slack and don’t judge yourself for any emotion you feel over the next few weeks. This is going to be a rollercoaster. Some days you’ll feel ok. Others days you’ll be worried sick. Some days you’ll feel guilty that you’re finding it so hard when you know other people have far more to deal with, and some days you’ll battle between your desire to be productive and your lack of action.

Don’t waste your energy judging others for their actions, just concentrate on you.

The stuff you’re stressing about now will not be important in a few weeks.

Remember you have others who want to help you that you can delegate to.

Buy more printer ink and garden furniture you like.

Strap yourself in and just roll with the feelings rather than fight them.

Tomorrow will be the same but different.

Stop trying to plan too far ahead, you need to focus on getting through today.

It’s going to be mentally exhausting so use the coping strategies that work for you to look after yourself, so you can keep going and help others.

Look for all the positives that come out of the situation. There are many, but it will be hard to notice them at the beginning.

Give all your elderly relatives a crash course in technology.

Adjust your own expectations of yourself. Stay at home parent, working 37.5 hours a week and teaching are three separate full time jobs.

Don’t focus on what could happen, focus on the here and now. Be kind to yourself and don’t compare yourself to others.

We are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat!

What would your advice be? Feel free to comment and share your advice below. And if you’d like to join this brilliant group of brains, then you can. Learn more about joining the Lucidity Network here.

Gary Gower’s guide to life in lockdown

A guest blog on coping in lockdown by Gary Gower, a wire fox terrier that likes to be heard.

Are we in week 3 or 4 of lockdown? What day is it? I’ve lost track. To be honest, days of the week have never made that much difference to me. I’m a dog. I’m used to hanging out at home, I’m used to sleeping at random times of day and I’m used to always wanting snacks. That’s why I thought I’d write this blog (with the help of my PA, Lucy Gower) to help you humans adjust to life in lockdown.

Have a routine for the basics. I get up every morning at the same time. I have breakfast and dinner at the same time. I go to bed around the same time. This way I know where I am. I think it’s important to have a routine for the basics in lockdown otherwise it can be easy for time to wander, for days to merge into each other and to feel a bit discombobulated.

Stretch. Part of my morning waking up routine is as soon as I’m up I do my stretches. Downward dog is my favourite. There are no sudden movements until I’ve stretched out.

Exercise. Go for a walk every day. I think it’s helpful if you go in the morning, that way you can start positive, have a think about what you want to achieve, make a plan and set yourself up for the day. My PA calls it her ‘fake commute’.

Eat well. If you can, eat a healthy, balanced diet and have your meals at about the same time each day. That helps you to establish a routine. I know that it’s breakfast first and after that its walks and in the evening it’s dinner and then a walk round the block. Don’t miss meals and snack instead. I see my PA opening and closing the fridge all the time and it’s worse if she misses a meal. I find it annoying because I don’t know if I’m getting extra snacks or not. I don’t like snack uncertainty.

Keep things simple. I’m a dog so that’s how I see life. Simple. Humans have a real knack of making things complicated. The simpler you can make your life the better. Part of this is appreciating the simple things right now in the moment. Things like having a good place to sleep, access to snacks and smelling good sniffs. Appreciate the simple things that you do have.

Look on the positive side. I have a good life. Even on the boring days when I have to do things I don’t enjoy, like having a bath, going to the vets or walking past a scooter with scary wheels, I just forget about it instantly and find a good sniff or something else that’s positive to focus on. Find your positive things to focus on. Make them simple. It can also help to list them in your head in the morning when you’re doing your stretches.

Good days and bad days. Remember we all have good days and bad days. I think this is just the natural flow of things. On the bad days, (like bath day) just remember that these feelings will pass. One the good days, (like when we went to the beach and I rolled in a dead seagull) focus on the positives in the moment. If you can, remember how it felt on the good days, and know too, that more good days will come.

Connect. Me and my PA do a Zoom lunch every week with her Lucidity Network members. It’s just to connect with others while we’re locked down. I get lots of attention. People like booping my nose through their screen and apparently it cheers people up so I’m happy to do it. Connecting with others in lockdown is important, it can give you an opportunity to talk through your own worries, help others, and get a different perspective.

Notice. I love sniffs. I spend as much time as possible sniffing the air and really breathing in all the smells around me. It helps to relax me. I think humans are usually in a big rush and forget to take time to notice. Now is your opportunity to stop and sniff the air, breathe slowly and deeply and just notice what’s going on around you as well as noticing how you’re feeling.

Do what you want. I please myself pretty much all the time (even though my PA thinks she’s trained me, I’m just playing a game with her). Lockdown is a completely new situation, and massive change and uncertainty can affect our motivation. In lockdown, if you’re not feeling motivated, doing anything is better than doing nothing. So throw your ‘to do’ list away and do what you fancy doing, until you feel motivated again. If you do all of the things I suggest in this blog, its likely that your mojo will return.

Be heard. Following on from getting motivated, it can help to tell others how you’re feeling and be heard. Personally I like to go out in the garden and bark at the neighbours. But we’re all different. My PA connects online and on the phone. It depends where your tribe is. Let others know you’re there, ask for help when you need it, and when you can, help other people too.

Get inspired. Personally I love David Attenborough. When he is on the telly I sit up and take notice. It’s like nothing else matters. He inspires me. What inspires you? Tune into it. Keep your inspiration levels topped up. Find a bit of inspiration every day.

Learn. This time at home is an opportunity to learn something new. My PA is a rescue diver and she was trying to teach me life saving skills in my paddling pool. I wasn’t very good and I accidentally drowned Christmas Pig.

I am however, going to give it another go. It’s important to keep learning. Are there things that you’d like to learn? Take that online course, read the book, watch the documentary, you could even ask your friends and family to teach you. Just keep learning.

Give. Helping others can help ourselves feel better. Apparently my Instagram makes people smile and sometimes helps them get through days when they feel sad. That makes me happy. What can you give back? For example, helping your neighbours who might not be able to pick up their shopping or prescriptions, or finding volunteering opportunities in your local community or a charity that might make good use of your skills, time or donation.

Gary time. We all need our own time and space. Slow down. If you’re at home with your partner, in-laws, children etc then acknowledge that this can be stressful at times. Take some time out each day on your own to think, breathe, notice and reflect. I often take myself off somewhere quiet. My PA calls this ‘Gary time.’ I feel much better and ready to engage again after a bit of time on my own.

Take one day at a time. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Lockdown is just part of a bigger picture of how humans are combatting the corona virus. There is no such thing as ‘back to normal’. We are all on a massive learning curve and adapting to a new world where the only certainty is uncertainty. The habits and mindset you adopt now will help you build your resilience and capacity to manage the uncertain times ahead.

Gary Gower is a wire fox terrier. He loves sniffs, tummy tickles and rolling in fox poo. You can check his words of wisdom and daily activities on Instagram.

Thank you to John Harvey for the inspiration.