By Anna Bell (www.annabellcoaching.com), November 2020
What are your thoughts and feelings about the months ahead?
How do you anticipate your physical and emotional or mental health to be?
In this post, I share a summary from the Way to Work ‘Working it out’ Webinar which I was delighted to be involved with. It focused on ‘Adapting in an ever-changing world’ and how to sustain healthy habits, motivation, and consistency during winter.
There are also short videos on some of the key topics, which you can find links to within the text below.
It’s fair to say we could never have expected the events which have unfolded over the past few months. Now we are approaching winter, this can be a useful time to reflect and appreciate how far we’ve come, and think about what’s next.
Each of us has experienced the pandemic in a different way, and my heart goes out to you if you have been significantly affected by COVID-19, or any of the repercussions.
We have each responded in unique ways based on our habits and patterns of thoughts, beliefs, and behaviour. Our language, and how we filter what we hear other people say, reveals a great deal about what’s going on under the surface, and we can be affected even if we’re not conscious of it.
For example, in the early weeks of the first lockdown I heard on TV…
‘We’re all in a crisis.’
‘Everyone is struggling.’
‘The whole world is suffering.’
And yesterday: ‘Are we in for a particularly bleak winter?’
The tone of voice and grim expression of the newsreader suggests we are, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
As a coach, trainer, and mindfulness teacher, I have become very aware of the impact of what’s being broadcast out into the world, and thankfully we can learn to filter based on whether it’s helpful or unhelpful. Unhelpful patterns show up at times because we’re wired that way as human beings. It’s natural.
When we raise awareness of what’s happening at a deeper level, and understand what’s behind those thoughts and beliefs, it can bring about new choices and ways of being. This helps us to build resilience and deal with life events as they come along, realistically and resourcefully. I have found that there is a pattern to how resilient people sustain themselves, and we can learn from that to adopt these traits for ourselves.
Especially in the times we are living in, having the willingness and the capability to think and behave in flexible ways is key. This is one of the foundations of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), which is about learning to study subjective experience to understand what’s happening at a deeper level and to bring about awareness and choice, for ourselves and others. In other words, being resourceful to handle whatever comes up and find ways to reflect, re-frame, re-think, and find new options and opportunities, even during adversity. There’s a structure to every belief or way of being, and when we learn to unpick that, we create more opportunities to respond appropriately.
Bring to mind someone who you have noticed has adapted – and possibly even thrived – during the pandemic. Notice how they have demonstrated flexibility in the way they act and communicate, and the impact it has on themselves and the people around them.
Now think about the beliefs these flexible people are likely to be holding. They will tend to be focusing on outcomes and possibilities rather than problems, and consistently believe that they can find a solution that works.
I go over some examples and what we can learn from their ways of thinking and behaving flexibly in this video.
Our capacity to be consistently resilient and resourceful is underpinned by the beliefs we hold. In NLP there is a set of beliefs which can be very useful to ‘try on’ and apply in all aspects of life. These are known as Beliefs of Excellence or Presuppositions based on holding a positive frame of mind.
They are not factual statements: they are useful ways of thinking, which successful people consistently hold to be true. When we can do that for ourselves, it’s much easier to align our language, thoughts, and behaviour to achieve a positive outcome. And it’s so useful for motivation.
There are three beliefs in particular, which I have found helpful for myself and my clients during the past few months. Tune in to this video to find out more about each one, and to hear some examples.
There is no failure, only feedback.
Everyone has a unique perception of the world.
The person with the most flexibility in thinking and behaviour has the greatest influence.
(Source: ‘NLP at Work’, Sue Knight)
What’s your response as you’re reading this? Are these beliefs you hold? Where might you be noticing some resistance? The good news is, we can learn to respond differently to align with the results we want.
I encourage you to work with the one you find the most challenging and see where you can weave it into your life.
‘Respond not react’
This is a useful mantra to hold as a way of pausing and choosing a response, rather than getting caught up in the automatic ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ reaction which is triggered by a perceived threat. Our mind and body is hard-wired to react instantaneously, and we can learn to re-programme our patterns to respond more appropriately when we meet a challenge. If you want to understand more about this, watch this video.
A recent example could be your reaction to hearing about lockdown restrictions being tightened again, or something else relating to the current situation which you find particularly difficult. Pause and notice your thoughts and emotions with curiosity, rather than being suddenly emotionally triggered. The key is not to judge yourself, simply aim to raise your awareness.
By pausing, breathing, and framing the situation constructively, we can bring about a more helpful response which helps our mind and body to return to a calm and balanced state. For example, the trade-off will hopefully be seeing family over Christmas, and we’ve been through lockdown before so we can do it again.
Who knew that we would become so accustomed to – and dependent on – connecting online for business and social purposes, and for education and training?
I’ve seen lots of jokes and read funny stories about little mishaps like finding yourself eye to eye with a family pet as they sit on the back of a sofa, or an unexpected little visitor bursting into the room. And in my opinion, there’s something quite nice about the informality of it all, most of the time.
And sometimes it’s important to make a positive impression, for example an important business meeting or interview.
In this video I go into a bit more detail, but for now here are some high-level things to think about. There’s a mix of how you prepare yourself and your environment, and of course, remember all the other tips about beliefs and flexibility.
And if it doesn’t go to plan, take a deep breath, acknowledge it, and take comfort that just about every meeting has a blip here and there. What a relief, and we can have a sense of humour about it!
Sustaining healthy habits through winter
First of all, bring to mind how you want your physical health to be by the time Spring comes around. How do you want your body to feel? What state of mind would be most useful?
Holding that in your mind, imagine drifting forward in time, through the shortest days in December, noticing as you go what healthy habits support you towards how you want to be…. Christmas, time off, looking after your physical and mental health…. New Year, days getting longer and finding it easier to be active outdoors…. Eventually coming into Spring, to a point where the weather is warmer, the days are becoming longer and there are new green shoots of growth outside. You have sustained your healthy habits and are feeling just as you want to, inside and out.
From this place in the future, being there now, full of health and feeling good… what sorts of things can you look back on that you know have helped you? Habits and patterns of thoughts and behaviours, and healthy choices?
How does it feel to have done that for yourself? Maybe you’ve done it for others too?
Now imagine you can send some advice and motivation back to yourself in the present day. Send it back in whatever way you like.
And now slowly return to the present day, noticing the progress you have made and gathering all the learning to take with you.
Notice your thoughts and feelings now.
What I would most like to leave you with is to encourage you to embrace these times as an opportunity for learning and raising awareness… to take a pause and reflect on life. I believe there are always more choices available in how we could respond to a situation, and what can come of it can often be significant and unexpected, even from the most challenging times.
Other links to support you:
If you want to dig into these topics in more depth, you can watch the full webinar.
Contact Anna at www.annabellcoaching.com if you want to explore how you can have more influence over your habits and patterns of thoughts and behaviour, through one-to-one coaching, workshops, or NLP training.
Note 1 – Source: ‘NLP at Work’ by Sue Knight, Fourth Edition, 2020