Director’s thoughts – September 2020

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Director’s thoughts – September 2020

Strategies to remain resilient in challenging times

This time I would like to focus my thoughts on a topic that has been a lot on my mind recently. As COVID-19 is spiking again and communities are trying to grapple with ‘new normals’, whatever they may be, we are witnessing around the globe increased levels of pressure and stress. As seasoned distance-worker myself, I am feeling the pressure friends and colleagues are under, talking about being ‘zoomed out’ and being under the impression to forcibly having to be online, thus proving their worth, for work. Work is creeping into the home, formerly a safe haven from work-related stress and aggravating situations.

Granted, work should also be satisfying, but also good stress can turn into bad stress under the right circumstances. Paired with homeschooling, parents found little time for themselves, to think, to be creative. Job insecurity has risen in recent weeks and many countries are bracing for a new recession.

What can we do personally to remain resilient and calm? It lies on the hand that being disciplined and making time for one’s own creativity is important. There is no shame in demanding time to think and time to recover. The better we recover, the better we can be there for when others need us.

One approach that is re-gaining popularity is that while we are in a crisis we must return to our values. The idea behind this is that while we are exposed to circumstance, luck and outside conditions, what we can control is our behaviour and our own thoughts. Finding the way back to our values means that we can control how we react under pressure. If we cannot control a situation, what we can control is how we handle it.

Assessing our values brings us several benefits: while contemplating about what we value, we calm down. Our bodies receive a moment of much needed rest and hormones are allowed to kick in and do the job they were made for.

As I contemplated about which values I hold most dearly, I landed quickly on Compassion, Authenticity, Curiosity and Kindness. What do these values mean to me? In times of great pressure to perform at work as well as in my private life, reflecting on these values gives me time to think. With time to think comes a formulation of priorities and what is actually important to me. Giving myself the time to reflect, I learned that almost by itself strategies started to form in my head and I knew what I had to do as next steps.

It was important for me to go through this exercise. For too long I had felt early symptoms of burnout, and one should not ignore these signs under any circumstances:
-    Inability to concentrate
-    Feeling like a constant failure
-    Make careless mistakes
-    Re-upping a bad habit
-    Dizziness and headaches

Our bodies have a great deal to do with this process and help us heal naturally. We produce what some people call ‘happiness chemicals’ that we emit when we engage in certain activities. Personally, I am becoming increasingly strategic when it comes to managing stress and my attitude towards a certain situation.

1)    Dopamine, the reward chemical: when something seems to hold us down it is important to realize that we actually have achieved probably quite much at the same time. 
What can you do?
a.    Complete a task
b.    Do some self-care
c.    Eat some good food
d.    Celebrate the little wins

2)    Oxytocin, the love hormone: It is important to feel part of something and to belong. It gives us this warm fuzzy feeling inside. 
What can you do?
a.    Play with a pet
b.    Play with a baby
c.    Hold hands
d.    Hug your family
e.    Give a compliment

3)    Serotonin, the mood stabilizer: when the going gets tough, our moods start to swing. 
What can you do?
a.    Meditate
b.    Run or work out
c.    Seek some sunshine
d.    Walk in nature
e.    Swim
f.    Cycle

4)    Endorphin, the pain killer: stress-related pains are a social phenomenon. We become more sensitive to pain when stressed. 
What can you do?
a.    Exercise laughter
b.    Use essential oils
c.    Watch a comedy
d.    Eat some dark chocolate
e.    Exercise

As you see there are a few things we can introduce in our daily routines and that, with sufficient exposure – don’t overdo it! – will help us balance out stress and our moods.

In times where our routines are no longer what they used to be and we long to get back to the way things were, not knowing if they ever will, it is important to be mindful of oneself and grant us some time out.

Utilising this knowledge I have found ways to integrate my values back into my life. And so long as my actions are in line with my values, destiny will take care of the rest.

Chris Raudonat

Director, Henley Business School Germany GmbH

Christoph Raudonat

Head of Henley Business School Germany