During uncertain times, like the one we are currently living through, our basic human fear factors kick in as a response to a potential threat to our well-being. Our bio-reactions are triggered by the most primitive of our brains in order to preserve our existence. 

These fear factors generate a myriad of emotions that are limited in rationale or strategy; this can, therefore, create anxiety, sadness, a feeling of loneliness especially in the absence of direction or guidance, and can even lead to depression.

One of the key basic elements that triggers our fear factors is control, or the lack thereof.

Staying In Control

When we feel we are losing control of a situation, discussion, relationship, business transaction we start to stress, fret and even sweat at times. When stressed, our body  releases Cortisol – a built-in alarm system that fire’s our “fight or flight” instincts. If left unchecked, it can effect memory and concentration, sleep patterns, energy levels, and  blood pressure amongst others.

Our ‘mood’ can therefore effect how we relate to our friends, family, colleagues; it can lead to demotivation, loss of interest, boredom and fatigue. It can also affect our emotional and sexual behaviours due to an increased lack of confidence

In business and work this can lead to achieving poor results, not reaching objectives, missing deadline, procrastination as well as loss of jobs and deals.

All these are common occurrences on a normal day due to many factors, however during times of uncertainty or when we feel we are left to our own devices, these feelings can be accentuated to a large extent, if not countered.

Our Chemical Musketeers

The response is in, what I like to call the “Three Musketeers” of well-being: Serotonin, Oxytocin and Dopamine with Endorphins taking on the role of Dartagnan. Hormones and chemicals that our body unleashes when we feel good.

These chemicals and hormones are the root of our contentment, feeling of belonging, achievement and success, so we need to seek these consistently to counter the effects of excessive cortisol in our system.

So how do we do that?

The answer is simply yes, albeit the way how is not always as simple, straight forward or clear.

In the context of the COVID-19 semi-lockdown, the requirement to work away from our normal environments, reduce the time spent with friends in large social contexts, and self-isolate, the risk is that we isolate too much.

We have to therefore find ways and means to create opportunities for us to ensure our basic hormonal requirements are met. Below are some thoughts on how to do that on a daily basis even on lock-down.

The strength of our Bonds

To ensure our levels of Oxytocin are topped up, seek to ensure your social connections remain strong. Oxytocin is also known as either the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone” because it is released when we bond socially or snuggle up.

Technology can help us maintain this through hosting virtual coffee breaks, lunches, after-work drinks and dinners. You can create message boards for friends and family to share motivational thoughts and a success board to showcase your achievements on the day. If you are still working remotely, host morning video conference huddle and an evening wrap-up. It is important to ask how everyone is and not just speak about yourself, because we are all in this together. Also, find a mentor, coach, someone that inspires you and reach out to them to share your thoughts, seek their advice or pick their brain. This helps us stay sharp and reinforces our confidence when they may be low.

Happiness is a State of Mind

Happiness is the key to our existence. It is why we do what we do. Happiness is conditioned by Serotonin that effects our mood, sleeping, eating and digesting. With the right levels we are calmer, more focussed, less anxious and more emotionally stable.

This means we need to be mindful about how we are feeling at all times. We can carry out some self-help checks during the course of our day to simply ask “how am I feeling” or “why am I feeling this way” so that we can take the necessary action to regulate that feeling. Try to keep, as much as possible, your normal routine as this helps your mind to remain on track.

Take the time to break and “shut-off’ from the many distractions. Keep to the facts! While working from home or away from the normal work environment it is easy to binge on social media or other outlets that can fuel ‘fake’ or ‘gossip’ news. It can derail our thoughts, and build emotional anxiety from the ‘fear or missing out’.

Do not over-eat or consume excessive alcohol or sugars. Try to exercise by following an online programme hosted live by a personal trainer to maintain the social connection. You could also turn a house chore into a welcome exercise break and earn brownie points with those sharing your home.

Quick Wins Go Far

Your mindset will eventually determine your outlook and the achievements you accomplish. Getting things done is a great way to release Dopamine in our system which helps us keep motivated. Dopamine is a ‘reward’ chemical that helps us boost attention, learning and regulates our emotional responses.

Positivity is a great way to maintain our levels of Dopamine and the way we address the challenges ahead of us will turn these challenges into opportunities or stumbling blocks. There is much to achieve during these times. We can take the opportunity to follow online courses and enhance our skill sets. We can THINK more about the strategy forward. We can control our thought process by focussing on what we have in hand rather than what is not known. We can share our knowledge and expertise and become in turn the mentor for those in need. We can show appreciation for those around us, more vulnerable, or under higher levels of strain.

Finally, seek the feel-good factor. Working remotely or staying home can actually be a great thing. You could work in your pyjamas, or not shave. You could listen to music at high levels or leave the TV on in the background. It doesn’t have to be a chastising experience. Doing things that make us feel good throughout the day helps to relieve pain and stress, and are a key component to maintaining a positive outlook, healthy lifestyle and fulfilling relationships with the people around us.

Reach Out to Reach UP

Most importantly, it is imperative to understand that no one need go through this alone just because we are alone at home. Many professionals and services exist to provide the assistance to those who feel they may be losing focus, so reach out. Your own colleagues, friends and family members can provide many of the inputs you require to keep that smile and productivity levels high.

Everyone at UP Ltd would like to extend their gratitude to all those working in the interest of public health to bring the COVID-19 situation under control. We appeal to all readers to heed the advice of the professionals and ensure our actions, even unintentionally, do not cause harm to others in the process. 

The only thing that gets in our way from action, is the choice to take the decision to reach out.

To assist those who may require support, UP Ltd is providing a free virtual consultation on how to remain on track during these times and can be contacted via email on [email protected].