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  • Career Change, Career Development, Career Management

    How to Deal with Anxiety (Day 3) – The Daily Checklist

    (5 minute read + a downloadable checklist)

    I’d originally anticipated lockdown to be a slower pace, a reconnection with what matters and a welcome realignment of my values.

    Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but the reality for me is the pace has been higher than ever before.  I’m one of the lucky ones, but so far this luck has translated into very long hours sat at my desk, worrying about my family, childcare, clients and the world.

    One thing I have noticed is how hard I can work without feeling that I’ve achieved anything.

    This is related to the ‘Zeigarnik effect‘ – the tendency to focus on all the things we still need to do rather than the things we have done.

    Apparently waiters can recall diners’ orders only before they have been served – afterwards the brain just lets go.

    This is pernicious, because a story can easily grow that we are busy but not being effective.  My mind easily slips into stories like ‘I am a busy fool’ or ‘I’m panicking’ which then leads to feeling overwhelmed – like my body is primed for action but I can’t actually think what the next right action is.

    This is where checklists can help, by dampening anxiety, giving us a structure and crucially, helping us notice what is working and what we have achieved.

    Atul Gawandee’s The Checklist Manifesto shows how checklists improve outcomes in a whole field of outcomes, but checklists can be useful in this current situation too.

    If you want to know how to create one, this article gives a step by step outline.  But if you want something specifically created for this lockdown period, I have created a Daily-resilience-working-from-home-checklist-27th-March.pdf (19 downloads) with specific questions to answer in the morning, and then some further questions to reflect on at shutdown time.

    The objective is to help people to:

    • Mindfully check in with themselves each morning;
    • Monitor their own self-care;
    • Spot what’s working and what isn’t;
    • Embed effective habits into consciousness and then hopefully, into their routines.

    I am already using this on myself and some clients and the response has been great.

    I will be revising and improving this over time and may turn it into an Excel doc or an online tool (developers please get in touch!)

    Please let me know comments and suggestions for improvement in the comments below!

  • Career Change, Career Development, Career Management

    How to Deal With Anxiety (Day 2): The Pivot

    Many people find that anxiety is unpleasant so they try to wrestle with it to get rid of it.

    For many this sets up a ‘doom loop’ where they start feeling anxious about their anxiety.  Along with being unpleasant, this is also very time consuming and energy sapping.

    It’s possible to spend our whole lives trying to control, eliminate or distract ourselves from anxiety and then wonder why we are not the person we hoped or wanted to be.

    When anxiety – or rather not having anxiety – becomes the main objective in our lives then we know we need a different approach.

    One approach that I have personally found helpful is to counter anxiety by 1) being willing to have it whilst 2) committing fiercely to my values.  In this excellent video Mark Freeman calls this pivoting away from anxiety.

    If you want to try this for yourself, try this simple exercise:

    Step 1.

    Identify some adjectives to describe how you want to behave during this crisis with different people, for example with:

    • Family
    • Friends
    • Colleagues
    • Your wider community
    • Online
    • Strangers

    Write your adjectives down on post-it notes.

    An example for me:  During this crisis, I want to be both kind and compassionate but also humorous wherever I can be.

    Step 2.

    Once you have identified these adjectives, think about what kind of behaviours would help you move in the direction you’ve described.  For example, if you want to be compassionate to your friends and family, what kind of behaviours would help you do that?

    An example for me:  I will offer some pro bono psychology sessions for people feeling really stressed and anxious.  I can also make jokes and stay lighhearted when I interact with neighbours and friends.  This is me today with two neighbours.

    Step 3.

    See if you can commit to some more of these behaviours, even in the presence of anxiety, and then notice how that feels.  How does it feel to live one of your values, even in the presence of anxiety?