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Have you had any CONVOS lately?

What is getting you through the day?

It’s after 1pm and I am busy typing away at this blog post. The team’s chat is pinging away. The lockdown update has happened, and my team are sharing views and comments on what Cindy and her mates have said.

These days I don’t watch the 1pm or 4pm updates. I avoid the stress and anxiety it creates. Avoidance of anything covid news related is my coping mechanism. I fly away from it or simply tolerate it because I have to. Mainly because I know I can’t control or influence the decisions Cindy makes. I could take to social media and share my views and feelings. Along with maybe 50% of the NZ population. But really what will that achieve?

Instead, I get on with the work or having my lunch. Today it is writing a blog about coping mechanisms.

We all have them. Some are healthy and others are unhealthy. I don’t want to use the terminology of good versus bad. Mainly because what is good for one person maybe bad for another.

We turn on our coping mechanisms in times when we are threatened. It is part of our fight or flight response. How we perceive the threat has a lot to do with when and how the coping mechanisms are turned on or off.

Irrespective of how we cope, to find out what is serving us and our team, we first must look in the mirror at ourselves. Great leadership starts with self. I have come to learn that I must work on me so I can be a great leader and best serve my team, my family, and my clients.

Being honest with ourselves is tough. We are often our own worst critics, and our self-talk can really get us down. Here is a phrase I wish I learned or heard in my teens – ‘be the friend you are to others, to yourself’. In other words, if you wouldn’t say that phrase that is spinning in your head to your friend then don’t say it to yourself. You need to change the script or the story that is on repeat in your head.

George Mumford talks about our inner self talk and coping mechanisms in his book ‘The Mindful Athlete’. In particular he refers to the fable about the two wolves, one good and one bad, and what we put our in energy into feeding is the one that will be the strongest.

If you are using unhealthy coping mechanisms just to get through the day, then chances are your team will be too. As a leader you are a role model. So, if you want to see change happen then you have to be the change you want to see.

Do you or anyone in your team do any one of these behaviours?

  • Avoid anything that isn’t positive
  • Try to predict the catastrophes that could lie ahead
  • Isolate
  • Compare yourself to others who are doing worse to feel better
  • Romanticise the past
  • Overreact to small issues. Make mountains out of mole hills
  • Overthink and worry
  • Fidget e.g., biting nails, tapping, or even over-exercising
  • Eat and eat more. Or coffee and more coffee
  • Be more critical of own work

These are all examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms. If you notice any of this in yourself then it is time to unpack those emotions and feelings, you are avoiding. The stress bucket can only take so much until it overflows. These unhealthy coping mechanisms could be creating more stress just in other ways.

If you have noticed others in your team displaying one or more of these behaviours, maybe it is time to reach out and offer support. Here is how you could start it:

‘Hey Gary, these lockdown delays are pretty shit. How are you coping? I have noticed you talking a lot about it in detail lately.’

Then just hold the space for them to reply and open up. It is important you hold that space for them to talk. Don’t fill it with your feelings or rush in. Hold that pause and be comfortable with the silence so they can feel safe to reply. When they share something then simply reply something like ‘I didn’t realise you were feeling like that, tell me more’. Then again hold the space for them to share

If you are not confident in having these conversations I love the CONVOS model, CoLiberate use in their mental health training. There are days when I am not up to the heavy conversations and haven’t planned to have them either but when they crop up, I still must have them. So, I have copy on the wall by my desk as a reminder.

So what are the alternatives? The healthy coping mechanisms

I tend to think about healthy coping mechanisms as those things we know we should be doing instead but aren’t for whatever reason. Hence why it is easy to keep on with the unhealthy ones.

Here are some ideas. How many do you already do?

  • Listening to music
  • Laughing or crying (release those emotions)
  • Time with friends and family
  • Time with your pets
  • Creative activities (painting, drawings, writing, singing)
  • Exercising and exploring the outdoors
  • Having a good ole talk fest
  • Gardening or DIY
  • Deep breathing, meditation, or yoga Counselling
  • Making and following through with an action plan to solve your problems

My go to is music followed by exercise. The beat of a tune can bring a whole new energy to the room, and I can’t help but move to it. I have had some weird looks with my colleagues and family when the headphones are on.

Did you see our post about the recovery rocket recently? There are plenty more ideas and advice on this topic there.

So, when you have that conversation with yourself, or your colleague, be kind and give space. Then come up with some healthy coping mechanisms. Remember you are a role model for others.

If you realise after reading this that you have a team culture that is allowing unhealthy coping mechanisms and burnout to flourish and thrive, all the while healthy coping mechanism wither and die, we need to talk. The Stapleton Consulting team are known for getting to the root of things so you can see the forest for the trees and chart you way forward on your employment journey.

PS – With Waikato still in and out of lockdown, be honest – how are you really coping today?