How to manage your mind during uncertain times

Mar 19, 2020

There’s no doubt that we’re living in unprecedented times.

The Coronavirus has already brought massive disruption to the way we go about our daily lives. Right now, you’re likely feeling very anxious about the immediate and long-term impacts to our health, businesses and economies. I certainly have been.

I want you to know that you’re not alone. Fear and panic are a very natural response to the uncertainty that we’re experiencing.

However, what I want to offer is another way of looking at this current situation. And some tips to help you stay positive, manage your mind and remain resilient through an unpredictable period.

Only last week, I presented at an International Women’s Day event and shared the 3 biggest lessons I’ve learnt on my career and business journey.

One of the greatest learnings I discussed was the importance of building resilience in order to manage and overcome personal and professional setbacks. So today, I decided to share an extract from this presentation, along with some additional comments to support you at this time.

Read on to find out how I’ve built resilience and learnt to manage my mind in order to overcome unexpected life challenges. You’ll discover 4 strategies to help you deal with stress and anxiety and build resilience during uncertain times.

Extract from IWD presentation: “How to go from striving to thriving in your professional life”

About 18 months ago, I got a call out of the blue from my Dad. It could have been any typical mid-week working day. But that day is etched in my memory and that one phone call changed my life forever.

“I’ve just come out of the doctor. Even he was in tears when he told me it’s about the worst news possible. I’ve got pancreatic cancer.”

In that moment, time stood still. I remember taking it all in — the sick feeling in my stomach, the giant tear that dropped on my notepad smudging my writing. Then punching my desk, letting out a loud expletive and bursting into tears.

This news arrived a few months after I’d launched my new coaching business and while I was studying part-time. Initially, there was some hope and Dad started months of gruelling treatment. By the time we learnt it was terminal about a year ago, my now husband and I were engaged and frantically planning our wedding for 10 weeks later — so my Dad would see me get married.

And this is what happens in life. It sometimes throws you unexpected curveballs.

Understandably, I became overwhelmed. From the emotional toll and stress of balancing time with a sick parent, while running a business, studying and planning a wedding in such a short timeframe. In the past, as a Type-A, workaholic, over-achiever I would have kept pushing through this and ended up burnout, as I had many times before.

Thankfully, because of the mindset work I’d done and lessons learnt, I’d build enough resilience to get through a very challenging year. Here’s how I did it:

TIP #1 — SLOW DOWN, TO SPEED UP LATER

I’ve recognised the importance of slowing down — and sometimes stopping altogether. All so I can keep going and speed up later. This has led me to embrace the concept of ‘being’ versus ‘doing’: being present in the moment, doing only what I can and taking the time to process what is happening.

This may sound like counter-intuitive advice during uncertain times. However, when your brain senses danger, it activates your sympathetic nervous system and fight or flight response. If you’re worried about finances or job security, this fear response may push you to work longer and harder to sustain your business or keep your job.

Because your nervous system is already stressed, this reaction puts you at risk of further pressure or burnout. I’ve certainly learnt this lesson the hard way. Most of all, it could potentially compromise your immune system when there’s already a heightened threat to your health.

So please, slow down when you need to during this time. This will help you build resilience, manage stress — and easily speed up later!

TIP #2 — PRIORITISE SELF-CARE

I learnt to prioritise self-care during challenging times — and have built it into my schedule on an ongoing basis. For me, self-care is a morning routine of exercise and meditation, getting 8 hours sleep, putting boundaries on my working hours and a hard stop on overtime.

The anxiety we’re all experiencing right now is due to the lack of control we have over the situation. And a fear of the unknown. Take back the power by focusing on the things you can influence — your health and self-care.

Paying attention to self-care is essential right now. It will help you cope with anxiety and keep your nervous system calm. As well as protect your health and that of those around you — which is critical at this time.

What does self-care look like to you? Prioritise these activities first each day. Despite the uncertainty and disruption to your normal routine.

TIP #3 — PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION

Academic and self-compassion expert, Dr Kristin Neff says: “Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness and care that you’d show to a good friend.” As a high-performer, I find it tough to slow down and can easily feel guilty about the things I don’t get done. However, I’ve learnt to practice self-compassion — and stop beating myself up for what I don’t do!

Self-compassion is about being kind to yourself, especially during times of stress and uncertainty. The current challenges can be especially frustrating for ambitious entrepreneurs and professionals. But it’s important to realise you’re only human — so don’t be so hard on yourself for the anxiety or fear you’re experiencing!

It’s crucial to maintain a balanced approach. This means allowing any negative thoughts or feelings as they appear, without getting caught up with them.

Self-care practices and looking after your physical and mental wellbeing are the key to managing your mind and building resilience at this time.

TIP #4 — REFRAMING THOUGHTS

I realised the overwhelm I was experiencing was coming from me and the pressure I was putting on myself. You see, I couldn’t control the situation, only my response to it.

Our thoughts influence our feelings, followed by our actions and results. We can’t control current circumstances and what might happen next. But we do have the power to choose how we respond — by reframing our thoughts.

For example, the thought “there’s not enough” creates hysteria and anxious feelings, extreme buying behaviour and toilet paper shortages as a result! What if we chose to believe there was more than enough to go around? Instead, we’d come from a calm, grounded place and act in a much more rational, measured way.

It’s normal to feel anxiety, panic or fear at this time. Become aware of it, allow it and let it process. But don’t stay stuck there.

Is staying glued to the news and constantly being bombarded by information serving you or hindering you? Remember, you have the power of choice. To change your perspective and how you react to current circumstances.

Yesterday, a family member mentioned a client had put a project on hold due to COVID -19. Her immediate response was to worry about workflow and the future viability of her business. However, when choosing to adopt another perspective, she realised there were 3 other projects on the horizon which could prove to be even more lucrative — and now they had time to work on them!

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt is this: Resilience is key to manage and overcome personal or professional setbacks.

These tips have helped me build greater resilience and conquer unexpected obstacles in my business, career and life. I hope they support you during these uncertain times and in future too.

My thoughts are with you and your loved ones at this time.

Please stay safe and reach out to me if you need some extra support right now. Whether you’re feeling anxious and are dealing with challenges at a personal level, or want some help to navigate your career or business in the current environment.

You can book a complimentary 30 minute consult HERE.

Stacey Back is a coach to consultants and the Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving professionals go from feeling trapped in their corporate careers to developing the confidence and strategy to transition into their own consulting businesses.

Stacey also supports existing consultants who are stuck in a business model they hate, working longer hours than ever or struggling to find clients and make money. She helps them set the right foundations in their business so they can find more time, attract the right clients and create a consulting business doing the work they love — one that supports their ideal lifestyle.

Stacey works virtually with individuals based across Australia and internationally.