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Getting back to basics when everything feels overwhelming

If you are feeling overwhelmed, worried, stressed… exhausted you are not alone! In the last week, we, as South Africans, have faced concerns around our health, our physical safety and that of the people we love. This also came on the back of a lock down extension after 18 months of dealing with a pandemic.

I say this, because I am not in denial. I know these fears are real and they still exist. We also saw the country (for the most part) come together though, in the most beautiful way and those of us that are old enough, got to register for our vaccines.

There are small steps we can each take in moments like this and just as with progressive behavioural engineering, these baby steps compound and before we know it, we are back on track.

This image is for those of you that prefer an infographic.

Right… so let’s get to it, for the readers!

What can you do, starting today? If I coach you, you may notice the order of what I am about to outline:

  1. Focus on what you can control

I promise, there is actually quite a bit. There is a reason the subject line of this mail is back to basics though. Start with some simple things. Our brains love order and a sense of control, so let’s give them some. Examples of this may include:

  • Clean up your physical environment – clutter adds to anxiety

  • Plan your day – even if it doesn’t go perfectly to plan

  • Limit your consumption of social media and doom and gloom WhatsApp groups etc – stay informed through reputable sources, not fear mongers

  • Look after your health

  1. Look after your physical and mental well-being

This point deserves a double mention. Now is not the time to let this slide. Our bodies, minds and emotions are one system. Remember, this is about getting back to basics so don’t aim for perfection but try look after these 6 areas:

  • Sleep – get back into a routine of going to bed and getting up at the same time. It trains our brain to produce melatonin at the right times. Stop scrolling on your blue light devices an hour before bed. Again about the brain – it sees blue light as the sky and assumes it is day time.

  • Hydration – keep that water bottle filled and next to you. I am a fan of hot water and lemon when it is cold but do what works for you. Lack of water can drive up anxiety (our bodies need it to survive) and it can lead to brain fog.

  • Nutrition – fuel your body with the best food you have available. Give it the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep your immune system strong.

  • Movement – remember to move throughout the day. Take 2 minutes and shake out your body, after sitting at your laptop for an extended period. Beyond that, use exercise to get the endorphins pumping. You don’t need to go to a gym for this or excessive amounts of time – every little bit counts.

  • Vitamin D – sunshine literally makes us happy and it boasts our immune system. Go get some!

  • Breath – remember that extending your exhale is one of the quickest ways to move your body out of fight or flight. When you are taking your 2 minute breaks to shake out your body, just add some exhalations in.

  1. Remember who you are doing this for

If after looking after the first two points, you are still battling to do what needs to be done, remember who you are doing this for. If you are a parent, your kids need you. If you are a kid – you parents need you! Beyond that, as knowledge workers, we are in one of the best positions to keep contributing to the economy, during the pandemic. This is critically important to the future of our country (and the world, in general). If none of that moves you though, do it for the future opportunities you are creating for yourself.

  1. What is the priority?

As I mentioned, I realise we are all feeling taxed and we may not be the most productive at all times. Before productivity though comes the understanding of what the priority is – focus on the needle moving tasks. Don’t get caught up in busy work just because it may help in distracting you. It actually only drives up anxiety at the end of the day (or at 3am, when you are staring at the ceiling). Plan your day and do what matters!

  1. Be the change you want to see in the world

Yes, I realise that is a loaded statement and maybe, somewhat cheesy. It is true though. We all have a responsibility to manage how we are showing up. Ask yourself – are you helping or are you hindering? Be honest and if you are hindering, the awareness of that is a win. Now you can choose differently.

  1. Book end your day with good things

Did you know that research has shown that people with a gratitude practice are 25% happier? Start and end each day by focusing on the good – this can be the one thing you are looking forward to, the things you achieved in the day and the things you are thankful for. If you are battling to find things to be grateful for, I challenge you to once again, get back to basics – what are you taking for granted? Things that seemed to be at risk last week? Gratitude is not just a spiritual practice, if that is what is stopping you. It is a way to train the brain to look for the positive.

If you have gotten to this point in my first post, thank you! I am here for you.


P.S. You may know that one of my quirks is my dyslexia so excuse any grammar or spelling mistakes.

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