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Cultivating Calm in Chaos

A Therapist and Executive Leadership Coach's perspective on cultivating calm in chaos, uncertainty, and change.

The world is experiencing increasing levels of chaos, change, and uncertainty. As the effects of the latest coronavirus ripples throughout the world, we are reminded that humans don’t thrive when facing fragmented, fast-moving change that feels out of our control.

As a narrative based psychotherapist and executive leadership coach, I have the privilege of seeing the world through my client’s eyes. My clients are my greatest teachers and bring me lessons from their many backgrounds and highly unique patterns of thinking, feeling and acting through change, uncertainty, and complexity.

Three interconnected forces have fueled the current levels of change, uncertainty, and complexity:

  1. Technology has created an interconnected world with instantaneous news cycles that have accelerated the pace of information we are consuming throughout our day. This is massively out of step with our human body’s ability to absorb this information and integrate it into resourceful actions
  2. Globalisation driven by the acceleration of technology (specifically communication and transport technology) over the last several hundred years has increased our reliance on the diverse relationships between the world’s national economies and now with global travel, the literal health of one nation directly impacts the health of every nation across the globe
  3. Our Biology as humans, we operate from an incredibly complex brain and body connection that preferences in times of change fear, threat, and safety. This system protected us in tribes but in our modern life can be overplayed or imbalanced to lead us towards high levels of anxiety, stress, and short term reactive thinking and actions

How do we cultivate calm in extreme levels of change, uncertainty, and complexity?

Connection

  • Disconnect from technology:
    • Turn off your notifications, news alerts, and other digital interruptions to give your brain and body connection a rest
    • Try this for an hour or two per day to give your body space and time to disconnect and reconnect to slower and less reactive experiences
  • Invest time in human to human connections:
    • Create space for human connections that are not filtered through technology to help ground your nervous system
    • Take time to slow your human interactions down by bringing calm to others through deep listening, reflecting back what you have heard and asking questions
    • Our nervous systems synchronise naturally with those who are around us, actively influence the people you are connecting with towards groundedness and calm by slowing your own nervous system down

Curiosity

  • Be open to discovering something new:
    • Bring an openness to learn within every experience
    • Quite often complexity, uncertainty, and change has asked us to shut down our ability to learn and we move towards being certain, convinced or in black and white thinking
    • High levels of resiliency through change is supported by increased levels of curiosity, exploration, and learning
    • Ask yourself: “What am I learning from this experience?”, When difficulties or challenges arise ask yourself and others “What is in my control and what is out of my control?”, “What are the choices or options in front of me?”, “What outcome would I like to see from this experience for myself or others?”

Clarity

  • Keep informed:
    • Connect to credible information sources as things change and evolve around you
    • When overwhelmed with many snippets of information and or disinformation seek out clarity from national government sources or other reputable science-backed sources to get the whole picture, this context will help cultivate calm instead of panic when feeling overwhelmed
  • Prioritise then act:
    • Create a climate and culture of clarity around you by prioritising where you spend your time, energy and money through high levels of change, complexity, and uncertainty
    • Prioritise and plan in your own unique way, you may want to write a list, plan out your calendar with time blocking or create a shared agreement with people on your team or in your household about where your focus and attention will be throughout the day, evening or weekend
    • Aligning your daily actions towards a plan will help cultivate responses versus reactions to help cultivate calm in every corner of your experience of yourself and others in the world

Connection, curiosity, and clarity will help us to cultivate more calm in a world where chaos, change, and uncertainty is in high supply.

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