For business-owners it is essential to keep going despite the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 lockdown. Given all the difficulties this creates, many of us, whether we are employees or business owners are feeling the pressure and are generally more anxious than normal. It’s easy to slip into a downward cycle of worry, lethargy and depression.
Given the reality of the threat what we can we do? We can boost our resilience, finding ways to keep our morale up.
Two principles are particularly useful. First, managing anxiety takes mental strength and energy, if we don’t actively recharge, we will become depleted. Secondly the state of our morale affects the state of our immune system (At this point I have to say this doesn’t mean that anyone who becomes ill wasn’t positive enough!). So, if we pro-actively attend to our morale, we are also pro-actively attending to our health.
Let’s look at some ideas you can use for yourself, personally, and in your business:
Keep in contact with friends and relatives
Social contact is another thing that is very important to our wellbeing. This is something we are missing if we are working remotely. I am fortunate that I am marooned with dear beloved. Even so, I am resolved to talk on the phone to at least one person who isn’t him every day. You might want to talk about the situation, that’s fine. However, I would suggest you also ask them about their plans for the day, what they are hoping to achieve during this period of lockdown. In other words, try to help them see a silver lining relating to business and personal life. Ideally you will both come away from the phone call feeling slightly better not even worse!
Get into flow and out of yourself
Just ‘not thinking about it’ is hard, we need to find things that take us out of ourselves. When we are completely absorbed in things we are in a state of ‘flow’ and when we are in this state, we are not focused on our feelings. It’s like getting a holiday from your worried self.
For me writing, gardening, and complicated cooking (or these days ‘creating from what we have got to hand’) all offer me productive escape time. Sometimes it’s hard to get yourself over the initial hump into the activity, but once you’ve started to apply yourself, time falls away.
The book, ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ explains flow and other positive psychology concepts that might be useful right now. ‘Positive Organizational Development cards’ take twenty of the key positive psychology concepts, including flow, and give you questions to help you explore them and brief ideas for action. Or you can go straight to the master’s voice and get Csikszentmihalyi’s classic book, ‘Flow’.
If you have to worry, have a worry appointment
Some of us are born worriers; suggestions of optimism only increase anxiety. If you are someone who finds worrying reassuring, try to limit it so it doesn’t become overwhelming. A time-honoured technique is ‘allowing’ yourself a specific allotted time to worry as much as you like. So, if you need to, spend a specified 15 or 30 minutes allowing yourself to name all your worries, business and personal. Write them in a diary if you like. Or arrange a strictly focused and time limited phone call with another ‘worrywart’. And when your time is up, it’s up. Stop, close that box and move on with your day knowing you have another half-hour of worry time allocated tomorrow. Allocating this time and allowing yourself a good worry, should reduce the likelihood of doing your worrying at the crack of dawn, which is the worst possible time to do it.
- Pro-actively managing your news feed and other anxiety amplifiers
We are being offered 24-hour, worldwide updates. Following this minute-by-minute is not likely to do you any good. So, take positive control and limit your daily diet. You might choose to read rather than watch the news. One benefit of this is that there is less ‘emotional contagion’ from the written word than from a person’s voice, so less transmission of anxiety.
What we want to do is replace anxiety with optimism. Two great resources with ideas about how to do this are ‘Happy Brain Science’s Happiness at Work’ game and ‘Positran’s Positive Action Cards’. Happiness at work contains over 100 science-based ideas for how to change mood or deal with some common work challenges such as ‘I work remotely, rarely seeing colleagues face to face’. While the positive action cards, also science-based, give easy to follow instructions for over sixty ways to increase your well-being.
Count your blessings
The new science of positive psychology has proved the benefits of the old adage of counting your blessings. There is an exercise known as the ‘three good things’. At the end of each day, identify three good things that have happened during the day. It’s good practice to write them down. Doing this regularly helps train your brain to look for the positives amongst the gloom, to find the silver linings, if you like.
For instance, perhaps you saw a report in the paper on the positive effect of the lockdown for wildlife. You can find lots of similar proven exercises in Vanessa Keys excellent book: 10 keys to happier living. Based on science, written for everyone, it is full of ideas for boosting your mood.
Exercise is very important to both mental and physical health. Don’t stay hunched over your work screen. You know the rules about keeping your distance. Put your face mask on and get out there and yomp for an hour somewhere green.
I’ve started doing a morning workout with my almost daughter, through the wonders of the internet. She has Jo Wicks ‘Seven days of sweat’ (and I can tell you, she didn’t tell me it was called that before we started!) on the computer her end, then we link up over face time and she instructs me. It’s social time and I get a great feel-good buzz afterwards. The point is, I would never do it without her company.
Use a project to draw you toward the future
Starting projects suggests an optimism about the future that becomes self-reinforcing. Uncertainty can act to paralyse us. By pro-actively starting a project we can break out of that paralysis. The hardest part is getting started, but once you do it will draw you forward. It might be a new business idea you want to develop. It might be a hobby. In my case this is a tapestry kit. These take me a long time to complete. But every evening I can admire the couple of square inches I’ve completed and feel I’m making progress.
Positran do another great set of cards called ‘Positive Transformation Cards’. They are resilience building cards, full of uplifting quotes and insightful questions to help you boost your optimism, hopefulness, and self-confidence in a mindful way.
Practice Appreciative Living
Appreciative Living, which is based on Appreciative Inquiry, is all about seeing and seeking out the best of life. We can’t deny the reality of a worldwide threat to our whole way of life, but we can still appreciate the things that make life worth living, today. Developing an appreciative eye, especially in times such as these, takes practice and isn’t always easy, but the benefit to our health, well-being, state of mind and ability to remain pro-active in the face of threat, in fact to our resilience, is beyond question. Keeping doing all the things you need to do to stay safe, and start living appreciatively at the same time.
Jackie Kelm is the guru of Appreciative Living, you can find her videos on YouTube and her latest book, Appreciative Living, on Amazon. Or try the Appreciative Inquiry card pack, with pictures, quotes and questions. Or you might find Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management by Lewis, Passmore and Cantore of interest for a more work orientated explanation.
As the restriction continue, and many keep working remotely, take good care of yourself, support employees and encourage everyone to make use of the tips that feel right for them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Lewis C.Psychol., is the principal psychologist at Appreciating Change, a strengths-based psychological consultancy that is committed to applying well-researched positive psychology ideas and interventions to workplace challenges and opportunities at an individual, team or whole organization level.
Sarah is an associated fellow of the British Psychological Society, a principal member of the Association of Business Psychologists, and a member of the International Positive Psychology Association.
Sarah is an acknowledged Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology expert, a regular conference presenter and author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ (Wiley), Positive Psychology and Change (Wiley), ‘Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management’ (KoganPage) and Positive Psychology in Business (Pavilion).
She also collects great positive psychology resources to support consultants, trainers and coaches in their work which are sold through the Positive Psychology online shop. https://www.thepositivepsychologyshop.com/