Managing the stresses of our daily lives is a challenge even in the best of times. We yearn for good fulfilling careers, excellent education for our children, care and support for our parents, safe and clean estates, rewarding investment opportunities, loyal friends with fellowship, exciting destinations to travel and explore, and so on.
However, the persistent Covid-19 pandemic permeates into nearly all aspects of our lives. Will our jobs survive? Will our industries change to unrecognisable extents?
Will our children still adequately learn and thrive? Will we get sick by eating out, ordering groceries, going to work, and walking in crowded spaces? Will our Kenyan economy sink and flatten the growth and value of our investments? Will our reduced human in person interactions minimise the efficacy of our friendships? Will travel ever be the same again?
The global health chaos brings stress and worry at each stage of our lives and jobs while multiplying the stress levels that we already faced. We feel our energy levels zapped. We sense that we do not possess the desired control over our lives. We realise that we hold less time to complete our needed tasks. So, how do our brains handle the added externally induced shocks? The human mind developed over thousands of generations to react quickly and efficiently to immediate risks. On the other hand, we do not react to or process existential or long drawn out threats effectively because in a pre-agricultural world, abrupt hazards comprised nearly the whole human existence.
In our contemporary times though, when severe longer-term dangers beyond immediate equivalents of hunting and gathering stress us, our minds jumble past, present, and future risks all into overarching anxiety.
Since ancient harms revolved around speedy acceptance by our family members, dodging charging elephants, and foraging for enough food to last through dry seasons, our brains today still function with immediate obsession.
We spend four times as long worrying about negative aspects of our lives and jobs than we do celebrating and appreciating positive triumphs. Therefore, we often fail to gain bigger picture perspective in our lives, especially during difficulties or chaos.
Behavioural health advisor Jane Ehrman encourages employees to intentionally focus on their mental health during coronavirus-induced shocks and handle overwhelming fears and negativity head-on.
First, turn your worry into action. Occasionally, your fears and anxieties might hold a justifiable basis. Fear for your job? Before any bad news gets confirmed, update your CV and LinkenIn profiles.
Start proactively networking with friends, chama members, former classmates, former professors, among others. Review dozens of jobs on online platforms. Investigate side hustles. Worry that your industry will change after Covid-19? Register and participate in free online MOOC and edX or fee-based but reasonable Maisha Skills and Udemy and discover other careers that fit your passion and build skills in that new industry. Ask for informational interviews about different industries from those in your network.
Second, choose an accountability partner. Utilise that friend to articulate all your anxieties and let them help you prioirtise what may prove real threats versus theoretical risks. Such interactions assist you to relinquish your fixation with control over all situations.
Third, acquire a tip from South Asian and East Asian traditions and focus on your breathing. Sit up quietly and calmly and then take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Practice intentional breathing several times per day for several minutes each time.
Fourth, before you drift off to sleep every night, grab your mobile phone or a piece of paper and spend intentional time writing down at least 10 positive things in your life that deserve your gratitude. Writing positive aspects of our lives reprogrammes our brains to realise and focus on the bigger picture.
Adhering to the above four steps will repurpose your negative thinking and the commensurate anxiety and lead you to actionable solutions in your life and job.