Message from Julie

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Message from Julie

The COVID-19 pandemic and everything that surrounds it brings to mind advice that my friend and colleague Rebecca Liston often gives, “acknowledge the suckage”. Meaning we need to acknowledge that a bad situation is bad, as well as the feelings elicited by the situation. The trick though is to acknowledge what “sucks” without getting sucked into the negativity and pessimism. Easier said than done for sure.

Part of what makes the current situation so difficult is the uncertainty of it all. Our brains hate uncertainty and equate it with a threat.  And of course, it is a threat. But it is a different kind of threat than meeting a saber-toothed tiger on the savannah. The problem is our brain reacts in the same way. Our primitive brain or amygdala takes over. When the amygdala is in charge, we can see only three options – fight, flight or freeze – we are in a reactive mode. The current situation requires a different approach. It requires our executive brain to be in the driver’s seat so that we can problem-solve, innovate, take proactive measures, and develop creative solutions.

So what can we do?

First, acknowledge and help those around you acknowledge their feelings. Label them. The simple act of labeling or putting the feelings into words helps move from operating with the primitive brain to using our executive brain or prefrontal cortex.

Next, do an exercise that I often recommend to teams that are experiencing a great deal of change and uncertainty. You can do this individually, with your team (even virtually), or with your family. The activity involves writing down everything you are concerned or worried about on stickie notes – one worry or concern per stickie note. Then put all the stickie notes with concerns you can’t control on one piece of paper. Put those things you can control or at least impact on another sheet of paper. Once the sorting is complete, neatly fold up the one with items you can’t control and tuck it away out of sight. (Don’t crumble it up and throw it away because that minimizes these issues that are real.) Then put your focus in on the list of items you can control and identify actions you can take.

If you are doing this virtually there are all sorts of creative ways to do it. Feel free to reach out for ideas or to let me know how I might be a resource to you.

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Julie Chance

POSTED ON: Leadership, Strategy and Vision, Uncategorized
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