We have been experiencing burnout mostly driven by perfectionism, action-addiction (Busyness), self-loathing, and fear of scarcity. Now we are dealing with the real monster, the stressors are external and real. Uncertainty, lack of autonomy, and isolation are really getting in the way of achieving “success and productivity” at work. Our ability to stay focused and productive is competing with real life stressors that we don’t really know how to combat…we are feeling defeated.

We are experiencing high levels of anxiety mostly because we have lost our ability to control the autonomy of our lives and predict the future. Unfortunately, we are automatically and unconsciously engaging in behaviors and habits that do not support our goals.

I wanted to share some of the things I have been observing from my clients lately that are getting in their way of coping effectively with the challenging times we are living:

1. TRYING TO PREDICT THE FUTURE: Since we are experiencing a lot of fear and stress we are investing a lot of our time thinking about the future…the unknown and uncontrolled future that triggers more anxiety and stress.

2.CATASTROPHIC THINKING: Since we are wired for self-protection we tend to imagine the worst-case scenario. This is just a coping mechanism to experience some sense of control towards the chaos that is happening now, the “just in case” type of defensive mechanism. 

3.INFORMATION OVERLOAD: We are consuming an unlimited amount of information on the news to again exercise that need for certainty and stability over the future. We are wired to predict so we fall into the trap of the thinking that the more we learn the more we will be prepared and this is helpful but to a certain extent. Otherwise, you will be self-inflicting a lot of unnecessary stress.

4.UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: We are also over-challenging ourselves because we don’t want to feel that we are being defeated so we are raising the bar, but our conditions are not favorable right now for that kind of success so we could fall into frustration and a sense of loss of hope.

5.POSITIVISM AS AN ESCAPE PLAN: And last but not least we are denying and not validating some of our challenging emotions by escaping through the positivism emergency exit door. Being positive is extremely important now. In fact, finding the silver line is key to be able to cope constructively but not as an exit strategy to not deal with your internal experience and feelings. Feeling human is ok. We don’t have to be ok and perfect and positive all the time. Feeling sad, frustrated, and worried is a natural response to the current circumstances. Don’t judge yourself for feeling this way. You are not your emotions.

So here are a few things that I have noticed are working for my clients:

1.BE IN THE PRESENT: Regulate your attention from past and future-oriented thinking to the present moment. Take 5 big and deep breaths to regulate your thought pattern and focus.

2.FOCUS ON WHAT’S WITHIN YOUR CONTROL ZONE: Observe and identify when you are spending a lot of time entertaining future-oriented thoughts as a coping mechanism to get certainty over the future. This is normal but if not regulated you can alter your emotional state by triggering more stress and anxiety.

3. REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF MEDIA CONSUMPTION: Reduce the amount of your media consumption to once a day instead of 5 times a day. Read reliable sources.

4.FOCUS ON WHAT’S ESSENTIAL AND CREATE WEEKLY PLANS: Identify the most important goals that you want to achieve that week. Get real about what’s essential and what is achievable given the current conditions.

5. LET GO OF WHAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL: Come up with a short list of what you cannot control now. READ IT ONCE A DAY. Make peace with it.

6. BE KIND AND GENTLE WITH YOURSELF AND OTHERS: This is not a performance race. We are facing a crisis. Give yourself permission to be human. I think this is one of the most important learnings from this virus. We are not “Human Doers”, we are Human Beings going through a massive disruption so do the best you can with the resources you have and treat yourself with kindness in the process.

7. CREATE THE RIGHT CONDITIONS IN YOUR BRAIN: Exercise and meditate. Both of these activities will make a difference in the way you show up daily at home and work. These two will also facilitate all of the above.

The way to success now is grounded in self-care, discipline, and self-understanding.

Stay healthy and grounded.

This too shall pass.

Ivanna Casado

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