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How to weather the storm – 5 tips from our favourite expert

14 Apr 2020

Hils Carmichael has as an impressive background as a Military Officer and in the Emergency services, along with a degree in psychology; she holds a raft of coaching, NLP and therapeutic qualifications. Her wisdom and tips are gratefully received in this short interview.

We asked her when things began to crystallise for her? She said “The morning before lockdown. I was listening to ‘The Today Programme’ in the car. The interviewee was explaining what the three most important things for businesses were. He paused then with added gravity said; - “Cash, cash and cash”. That evening Chancellor Rishi made his first announcement and the magnitude began to sink in.”

She continued, “Since then a lot of us or have been fast time decision making, sorting IT, furloughing loyal staff, applying for grants, negotiating better deals and payment holidays; - mortgages, credit cards, cloud storage, CRM’s and business systems.

We’re juggling home schooling, self-isolation, uncertainty, frustration, anger, no haircuts (roots - argh!), and quite a few of us aren’t sleeping. We’re responding to calls to “Volunteer!” and heading out on a Thursday night to ‘Clap for our NHS and key-workers’.

We’re coming to terms with disbelief, loss and not being able to touch or comfort each other.

On the other hand, a lot of people see this as BAU with a different/same location and are thriving and making the most of the new situation. They’re energised, calm and focused. I’m really interested in this - it’s an excellent resilience strategy - it’s a switch of perspective - as if they’ve managed to switch their own internal pathfinder on.”

Hils laughed at that point and said “I was shooting the breeze with a PR who’d approached me for help in getting his head around an unexpected cancer diagnosis a couple of years ago. He said “It’s like ‘One day you’re the bug, the next you’re the windscreen’ - he paused as my eyebrows twitched with amusement then said “Ok I get it - I’m choosing to drive the bus, my bus - I’m choosing not to be a passenger anymore! ” Boom. Incidentally, he’s still going - and strong.”

Let’s get this storm navigated!

Here are some of Hils’s tips to simmer you down: -

1. Reduce your daily dose of doom. Graze the headlines, once a day. Get away from the breaking news. It’s living rent free in your head. It messes with your headspace and you start catastrophising. We are STELLAR at catastrophising. It’s a survival strategy. If we were weren’t, we’d be striding headlong into 10 lanes of traffic at rush hour without so much as a cursory glance either side.

2. By all means wallow if things have gone ‘Pete Tong’ (and expect to feel like wallowing) then when you’re ready, focus first on what you’ve got control of. Things like your time and activity, how you can bolster your immune system with exercise, supplements and what you eat. The body running “Doom protocol” will be directing you towards carbs and sugar. You can decrease stress hormones (and the urge to eat/drink carbs) with regular simple breathing exercises - and you don’t need to be on a cloud in your happy place! Employ the “CIF” principle - decide what you can personally Control, what you can personally Influence and what you can do eff-all about.

3. Get structure, predictability and familiarity! Our brains love bright shiny new things, like working from home or the idea of an enforced sabbatical. Trouble is, brain has to expend energy dealing with new routines (Imagine a team of electricians re-wiring a building without a plan - it’s going to take time) - which can make you procrastinate (and make you more tired). Set a start and a finish time for work and then add in your appointments, obligations and responsibilities.

4. Spending more time with the work tribe is the ‘new’ normal (and it’s a winner with engagement!) Expect to spend more time on the phone or video conferencing checking in with people. There’s no way of sugar coating this. Our nervous systems haven’t changed in thousands of years. We are wired for connection. It’s what makes us so good in tribes (and PR) and so bad at being by ourselves. It’s about survival. Buffer’s 2020 “State of Remote Work Report” showed 98% of respondents were happy to work remotely yet 20% struggled with loneliness. Loneliness is about being isolated and excluded from the tribe - elevating stress hormones and diverting energy away from (super important) immune systems.

5. Stay future focused on your story. If this was 10 years from now - what lessons did “Younger you” discover? Connection, grit, vulnerability, respect for others? Vulnerability is a breeding ground for creativity - Brene Browne was right. (Check out “Dare to Lead” on Audible). We’ve had the disbelief; we’ve had the initial chaos as we scrabble for a blueprint to refer to and we’re heading towards the storm. Go get yourself mentally into the eye of the storm where it’s calm, and revisit often. There will be some incredible challenges and the storm will pass. The world needs your skills now, more than ever and whenever you look back on this, maybe you’ll realise with a bit of pride that you were way more organised, flexible and resilient than you thought you ever could be!

Thanks, Hils!

Hils Carmichael has supported many business leaders manage enormous change in challenging times. Feel free to get in touch, if you would like some of her magic.

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