You can’t turn on the TV or talk with someone that the topic of coronavirus doesn’t come up, and that’s to be expected – it’s on all of our minds.
The intensity of the uncertainty we share about our health, livelihood, and future kicked our brain’s state of emotional arousal up a few hundred notches. Our collective brain is screaming at us to narrow our focus and engage in short-term fixes and safety-seeking behaviors like locking down cities and emptying grocery stores.
Intuitively and experientially, we know the human brain is automatically drawn to the worst-case scenarios, often inaccurately. The constant updates don’t calm our collective anxiety and fear. They prime the pump for the cycle to intensify.
What will work to get comfortable with discomfort in uncertain times?
Learning how to be comfortable with the discomfort that uncertainty brings.
There are five things you can do today that will put you in a better position to refocus your mind and build your emotional resilience.
Get Comfortable with Discomfort
Getting comfortable with discomfort helps break your fear response cycle and frees your mind up to see other things that are equally or more important to your survival. Acknowledge you’re having an automatic emotional response to unfamiliar, scary and life-altering situations. Lean into the discomfort you’re feeling rather than expending energy and avoiding it. You can do this by first thinking about what you fear will happen. Then quickly force yourself to think about what you want to happen and then shift to what is most likely to happen. Once you’ve arrived at what most likely will happen, develop a plan for what most likely will happen.
Tune Down the Intensity
Too much information can gunk up our thinking. Seeing beyond the noise means immersing yourself in pursuits that aren’t related to solving the current challenge 24/7. Choose how long you’ll spend each day watching the news, talking about it with others, or just thinking about it. Set that limit and stick to it. Stepping back from all the noise means you won’t seize and freeze in these changing times.
Don’t Blindly Trust Your Gut
Trusting your gut instincts works well when time is of the essence, when the challenge is both complex and not clearly defined, or when there is too little or too much information. But your intuition isn’t infallible – intuitions aren’t truths. Test your intuitions and rule out bias, fear-driven action and thinking too fast. Solve what is likely to happen by taking some practical steps that are completely under your control.
Break the Spell of Conformity
Respectfully raise relevant objections or scenarios that uncover and improve the strategy under consideration. You’re not the enemy when you do this rather you help yourself and others avoid magnifying the problem beyond what it is, and rushing to conclusions that give undue weight to what may have worked well before.
Make it Safe to Think Counterintuitively
We all have a responsibility, especially those in leadership roles, to make it safe for people to think and experiment with counterintuitive solutions, take intelligent risks, report and adapt to failures quickly and ask smart questions. Letting go of needing to be right, to be the one who acted first and blame unleashes the vast potential of our collective mind to solve the challenge together.
Our shared willingness to experiment with these strategies helps us be comfortable with the discomfort that uncertainty brings and helps us to see a wider field of potential solutions.
I’d love your best ideas for leading yourself and others in times of uncertainty.
Stay well, lean in, and we’ll emerge even stronger together,