“Accept what you cannot change, change what you cannot accept” is taken from Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer, words frequently cited in addiction recovery programmes. Apparently, this week is International Stress Awareness Week so it is a rather appropriate mantra. Remembering that we can control most situations and that some unfortunately we cannot, is a pivotal strategy for whether we succumb to feelings of stress and overwhelm, or ride our resilience.
We can help others with this too. Too much uncertainty can cause the brain to experience a strong limbic response (alerted by our physiology). If this occurs in a social situation e.g. work, this is likely to be magnified and promote disengagement and uncooperative behaviour.
For example, if, like many of the leaders that I am coaching, your organisation is going through a lot of change (“restructuring”) then there could be a lot of stressed employees. Supporting your colleagues and direct reports with what knowledge you do have will help dampen down their limbic activity and encourage re-engagement – even if it is to tell them that you do not have any more information at this time. Does this sound too simple? Often where brain-friendly peak performance is concerned it is the seemingly innocuous activities that can provide the biggest returns.
Taking responsibility, control and being proactive are what separates the stressed-out from the stressed-eager. Challenge is extremely good for the brain: your pupils dilate automatically in response. This does not only occur when you see someone that you fancy or have imbibed particular narcotics! The widening reflects excited attention and a surge in dopamine and noradrenaline: having a challenge that you think that you can overcome induces a rewarding expectation of attainment and mastery.
So, as a suggestion, check in and think about whether you are choosing to feel overwhelmed or choosing to feel in control? Yes, you read that right. Your subsequent thinking and actions will always reflect your choice… 😉
What stressors are you going to exert control? What new challenge will help keep you motivated in the coming months? I look forward to hearing from you.