Whether you’re trying to stay strong for your children or loved ones or you’re trying to manage a whole team completely remotely, it can be taxing trying to be a role model when you’re scared and worried too; not just for your energy but for your mental health. It’s a scary situation right now with so many unknowns. Even though lockdown restrictions are being gradually lifted, with no clear end in sight, so it’s completely normal to feel this way. However, when you’re running a practice or a household, perhaps even both, you may be feeling like you can’t feel this way.
To help you be strong for the people who need you, here is how to stay positive even when you’re scared and worried too.
Plus at the time of writing this we’ve been in this since the middle of March. For many of us this means we have not really had a break for at least 2 months. At least with the busy season, there is always an end deadline in sight to motivate and rally the troops.
You need to deal with your anxiety and worry first
It’s no good squashing down any fears that you have because you ‘can’t afford’ to feel them. All this does is it keeps them at bay - not effectively because you won’t even feel better in the short term - and it causes them to build in the background until they eventually have to come out. Usually, this isn’t pretty and more often than not, they come out in the worst of ways and far more intensely than if you had just dealt with them in the first place. After all, many accountants right now are worried about how many clients they are potentially going to lose as a result of CV-19, where they will get the resource needed to keep everything going, and the natural guilt of how much screen time the kids are enjoying right now...
So, not feeling how you actually feel and keeping it in is bad. This means that the only way to cope is to deal with it and let it go.
We like to use the analogy of the ‘oxygen mask’ to convey why this is so important and it makes it very easy to understand. If you want to know how to stay positive for others when you feel scared, you need to be at your strongest; you need to have as much energy as possible so that you can give some to others. Just like the oxygen mask, it’s only when you put yours on first that you can effectively help others. If you don’t, then you run the risk of not being able to help anyone. The same goes for your energy. If you don’t concentrate on your own mental health first, you’ll be tapping into your energy reserves when you try to help others and very soon, you’ll have nothing left to give.
To help you deal with your worries and fears so that you can effectively let them go, here are a few things that you can try:
- Talk to someone - don’t try to figure things out by yourself, it’ll only amplify how you are feeling. Seek community and support. If you have someone who you trust and who you can speak to, then do, otherwise, try online support groups and resources and maybe even an online therapist. This is why our daily positivity call for our members has been so successful. Our members get the opportunity to check in with other members, share their fears but also get a whopping great dose of positive energy to start the day with.
- Arm yourself with facts rather than fiction - make sure you get your information and news from reputable resources like the government website or the NHS coronavirus page. These are useful as they tell you about the practical things that you can do.
- Limit your exposure to the news/social media - while staying informed helps you feel more in control, it can also fuel anxiety which can quickly become overwhelming. Stick to one interval a day where you catch up on the news such as after your workday and before you start settling down in the evening.
- Plan your new daily routine - having a regular daily routine makes you feel grounded as it allows you to take back some control. When working from home with the whole family indoors too, you need a plan! Here’s how to create a new working from home routine to help maintain a sense of structure and normality.
- Prioritise your mental health - what hobbies do you love? What things make you feel calm? You need to take time out for yourself, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed, so think about what would help. Maybe it’s daily meditation or yoga. Maybe you prefer to listen to podcasts, read a book or take a few minutes to practice mindfulness breathing.
Useful resources to help you:
- 16 Ways to Cope When Life Changes Suddenly
- Working from home for the first time? Here’s how to establish a new (and successful) structure to your day
- Essential 4-step guide for leading your team virtually during the Coronavirus
You need to train your brain to be more positive
Our brains are wired to protect us and sometimes this can do us more harm than good. Take the global situation right now as an example. Our brains perceive the virus and anything that could cause us to catch the virus as a threat. This ‘threat’ stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to initiate the “fight or flight” response which many of us are familiar with the side effects of, primarily an increase in adrenaline, an increase in heart rate, sweaty palms etc.
If this isn’t bad enough, our brains are also wired towards negative bias. This means that we are more likely to notice, respond and dwell on negative stimuli. Again, this is an evolutionary protective measure as at one point in the world, this attentiveness was literally a matter of life and death. Those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive.
While the fear response is normal, it can severely impact how you think, respond, and feel if activated for a prolonged period of time. So how can you overcome it?
The bad news is, is that it’s not as easy as just ‘thinking positive thoughts.’ The good news, however, is that the brain is an amazing organ and it can be trained. It’s going to take time, but you can learn how to switch off this response when it’s not needed. Here are some things that you need to be doing regularly to train your brain to be positive:
- Be real with how you feel but be okay with some things being out of your control - pretending you don’t feel scared or worried won’t work. You need to tell yourself it’s okay to feel that way but it’s also okay to not know/control some things.
- Believe a positive attitude is a choice - people aren’t either positive or negative, the difference is that people choose to find positivity in difficult situations. If you truly believe that your attitude is a choice then you will find it easier to control how you feel regardless of what’s happening around you.
- Focus on positive thoughts - in moments of panic or negativity, get outside and go for a walk. Listen to calming music until you can take your mind away from what you’re worried about. Now spend time focusing on things that make you feel safe, accepted, and loved. Over time, it will become natural for you to think about how fortunate you are rather than succumbing to fear or anxiety.
- Rid your life of negativity - certain things, people or habits can harbour negativity and they often are a drain on your energy too. Where possible, eliminate these from your life or at least limit your exposure to them.
- Look for positivity - retraining your brain takes time so practice every day. Consciously select something positive to think about wherever you are and whatever you are doing throughout the day. This will refocus your brain’s attention in the immediate and will foster positivity in the long run. Some of our members have found the daily positivity call has given them the bit of positivity they need to start their day properly.
- Reinforce the positivity in your life - you can’t be in a state of fear (negative) and gratitude (positive) at the same time so practice gratitude as much as possible. End every day with making a list of what you’re grateful for.
- Minimise threat and maximise reward to establish better habits - negative self-talk serves no purpose other than to make yourself feel worse so start recognising when you feel bad and what is making you feel that way. When you recognise these moments, immediately do something that makes you happy, reframe the situation or practice gratitude. This ‘reward’ that you give yourself stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin (happy hormones) which over time, will help you develop healthier patterns.
Only then can you be there for others
We’ve outlined the two biggest steps for how to stay positive: first, you need to deal with your own fear and let it go and then you need to retrain your brain to think positively. Only when you do these two steps consistently can you be strong enough or have the energy to help others who may be feeling this way too.
The best way that you can help others during this uncertain time, whether that’s your children, your family members or friends or even your employees, is to share with them the strategies that you yourself use to cope. When you practice these yourself and you have a strong positive outlook on life, you can easily share this with others. Not only will it reinforce your own training but it will help others become more resilient and better able to support their own wellbeing too.
To be there for others during this difficult time, here are the best ways that you can help them:
- Check-in regularly and really listen - with weeks of lockdown and social distancing, communication has never been so essential. Help others satisfy their social needs by checking in regularly and listening to how they are.
- Help them reframe things and to be more positive - if they are struggling with their situation and are feeling very negative about the outlook, help them reframe it and share some techniques for how to stay positive.
- Share what works for you - what works for you might work for them (such as exercise, mediation or healthy eating recipes) so share with them. It might make a difference having someone they know who is doing it too.
- Be empathetic - when helping others with their feelings, try not to dismiss how they are feeling as wrong. Be empathetic to their situation and approach it as a problem-solving task together.
- Spread kindness - tell someone they look nice today, praise them when they’ve done a great job, tell them that you love them or appreciate them. Send flowers or a gift to someone, write letters or notes to them.
Useful resources to help you:
- The 3Ps to helping your team through the current global crisis
- How to help your team members create a new routine when working from home
Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself
Parents, in particular, may feel guilty about taking time for themselves but it is absolutely necessary. Would you rather take 10-20 minutes out of the day to focus on your wellbeing or would you rather burnout until you’re no help to anyone for a much longer period of time?
Whether you’re a parent, a spouse, a carer or a business owner, to be there for others you first have to be there for yourself. Even if you’re scared and worried about the current situation, you can do this, you just need to take some time to deal with your own feelings first and practice gratitude every day to reframe your brain to think positively. Once these become a part of your routine, you won’t even have to think about how to stay positive then. This will be your default and you can be strong and able to support others all the time.