Monthly Archives

March 2022

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Adjusting to the next normal

What was that about the ‘new normal’ we thought or hoped we might be moving towards? It was just the end of COVID we were hoping for, wasn’t it? On the back of 2020, we were all sure that 2021 was going to be a new start, then when that didn’t work out, perhaps 2022 was going to be the year. Funny how that worked out.

It feels like the world as we knew it has gone for a long time. COVID hasn’t gone away. It might not be as a serious disease as it was, but a lot of us are still getting it and it’s making us feel under par for a while. The cost of living, taxes, energy and fuel prices are shooting up with no end in sight and then, of course, there’s the war in Ukraine with all the massive uncertainties that introduces.

Throw in a couple of personal worries, the friend with a cancer diagnosis and the offspring being less settled in their lives than they were and…..

I have been reflecting and wondering, how to be in all of this. Acceptance feels like the first thing – there’s only so much I can do to change anything. Someone has pointed out that stress = expectations – reality so I’m going to lower my expectations of how much certainty I can find and how easy life will be over the next couple of years. This is going to be the new normal. Perhaps our joys and the things we appreciate will come in small ways, that sunset, the arrival of spring, trying a new recipe, making contact with an old friend, taking in a refugee.

We need to recognise the effect all this has on us as well though. The latest issue of Raconteur (14th March) had an article suggesting that more people are looking to take a sabbatical on the back of a hard two years, stress, burnout and the need to switch off, recharge and get work and life back into balance. If you don’t have time, or won’t get the support from work for a full sabbatical, why not think about coming on one of our five-day retreats (over three months)? They are an ideal opportunity to take some time for yourself and focus on what’s really important.

For more information please get in touch https://thenextchapter.guru/get-in-touch/

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Ways to deal with anxiety

I’m wondering when we last faced such a conflation of causes of fear and anxiety. We’ve had two years of the pandemic and while the acute effects are past for the time being there are still many cases of COVID with people not being able to work because they are ill. Then for businesses, there is the effect of Brexit on the ease of doing business, higher taxes, changes to patterns of working and many employees are choosing a hybrid model which some managers find difficult. Affecting both business and individuals are higher and more volatile energy prices. We will all start to feel the effect of an increased cost of living. Some may have been affected by extreme weather events caused by climate change. And on top of all of that comes a war in Ukraine. The biggest factor in all of this is that a lot of it is beyond our control.

It is also very easy to focus on ourselves and how other people behave in very difficult circumstances can be enormously inspiring. We’ve all been moved by the many stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Such stories enable me to find courage.

What else can we do to prevent ourselves from being overwhelmed by anxiety?

  • Being disciplined in our use of social media. The constant stream of news can be very addictive, and doom scrolling doesn’t help. There are plenty of people catastrophising which is only likely to increase our anxiety.
  • Check our sources of information especially at a time when there is plenty of misinformation on all kinds of topics.
  • Routines can also help. During lockdowns I’m sure I was not alone in finding that daily and weekly routines gave me a structure which helped me get through, for example, making sure I took breaks and went outside.
  • Keeping a sense of perspective. One of the things that can help with this is gratitude practice. Thinking of at least three things to be grateful for before going to sleep makes for a much better night and reminds us of all that is positive in our lives.
  • Mindfulness. How this works when it comes to anxiety is that we need to stop and observe ourselves and how we’re feeling to help us manage our feelings. Mindfulness creates a gap between feeling and responding and stops us from just reacting in a way which might not help.
  • Look for a way to get involved, especially in the Ukrainian situation. There is no shortage of charities who need money, clothes or food which they are transporting to Ukraine to support the people there.
  • Random acts of kindness can change our mindset and make a difference to others.
  • Exercise. There is plenty of evidence that shows that exercise is a very good way of dealing with anxiety.
  • Talk to someone. Stay connected, don’t get isolated, don’t withdraw. Keep in touch with your family and friends and if you need professional help don’t be afraid to admit that you need help. There is no shame in feeling anxious, especially now.

We’re here to talk if you’d like to get in touch.

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Where do we find hope for the future?

Sometimes I wake up with an enormous sense of hope despite all that we have been through, the disruption of Brexit, the doom and gloom of the virus, and now the war in Ukraine. What is fuelling that?

  • The way in which people are responding to the war. At a global level, so many countries and organisations have come together not only to condemn what is happening but also to do whatever they can to support the Ukrainians. Have we ever had such a unified response to an outrage like this? At the same time, let’s not forget or condemn ordinary Russians who are also caught up in this and who are as shocked as we are.
  • The inspiring example of ordinary people and their courage as well as leaders like Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • A sense that as a result of the pandemic, we have been forced into new perspectives, different behaviour patterns that we might have previously resisted but which have led to changes in lifestyle which we are now enjoying.  The tectonic plates have shifted and when that happens there are opportunities for something new to emerge. Businesses are allowing staff to choose how and where they want to work.
  • There seems to be a real shift in a commitment to do something about climate change. More and more people are seeing an opportunity to do something and are taking action.
  • Perhaps what underpins all of this is a growing sense that we need find purpose in what we do, that we can choose how to respond, choose what action to take in an uncertain world.

I know there are so many difficulties that have to be confronted and I don’t want to sound too Pollyanna-ish. What we can do is look to see what new patterns are emerging and make the most of the new opportunities that are presenting themselves to businesses, relationships and the way we want to live. Someone has pointed out that 30 years of mayhem, pillage and murder in Italy gave rise to the Renaissance, 500 years of stability in Switzerland produced insurance and the cuckoo clock (sorry Switzerland!). What do we want to see in our world? How can we make it happen?

Blog

What to think? What to feel?

We’re living in momentous times. I noticed that the invasion of Ukraine evoked feelings very similar to the announcement of the first lockdown or the results of the Brexit referendum. It feels like something fundamental has changed. My first reaction was that of shock, that something like war in Ukraine could actually happen and on our doorstep. I then felt very confused about what else I felt and whether there was something I should feel.

Scrolling through Twitter showed a variety of reactions from predictions of World War 3 breaking out and others pleading with them to dial down the temperature for the sake of their anxiety. I could identify with that. I was talking to a Ukrainian and felt so helpless when all I could offer is emotional support.

For me, it has highlighted the difficulty of accessing and acknowledging our feelings. Personally, on the one hand, it’s been a great week with a business opportunity that could make a huge difference to our business, but on the other hand, I have almost felt guilty about how happy that has made me feel with everything else going on.

Acknowledging and articulating our feelings is an important way of looking after ourselves simply because it makes us listen to ourselves and if we wait long enough, to hear our deepest anxieties and longings. The psychologist Susan David has some excellent advice about dealing with our feelings and I highly recommend her TED talk https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_david_the_gift_and_power_of_emotional_courage

She makes the point that being emotionally agile as opposed to emotionally rigid, as well as aware and accurate with our feelings enables us to take the right action, action which is supported by our values. For many of us, core values act as the anchor in our lives, and we need to remind ourselves what really matters to us.

I’ve been introduced to a mindfulness exercise that I find helpful in grounding myself and getting in touch with my feelings. It involves going outside, looking around and asking the following questions:

What do I see? (look for four things)

What do I hear? (listen for three things)

What do I feel? (Find two feelings)

What do I see? (look for three things)

What do I hear? (listen for two things)

What do I feel? (Find one feeling)

What are your feelings leading you to do?

Please get in touch if this has sparked something or you’d like to find out more about Next Chapter Retreats.

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