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COVID-19: Who do I want to be?

COVID-19 – who do I want to be?
By Helen Jackson, Managing Director

We’re now six weeks into Lockdown with little to suggest that it will be lifted substantially in the near future and as we are now more settled into this new normal it might be a good opportunity to take a step back and think about how we’re adapting to and dealing with this once in a century event.

This might be a good time to ask ourselves ‘Who do I want to be during COVID-19?’ and to remember that, as human beings we are able to respond, react and change our mindsets as we gain more understanding of ourselves and our environments. Helen Jackson, Managing Director of Bush & Co gives us some pointers.

Which Zone?

“An image has been circling LinkedIn over the last few weeks that might help us to understand who we want to be during this situation and it involves three Zones – the Fear Zone, the Learning Zone and the Growth Zone and they each reflect behaviours that we might recognise in ourselves and others and they can help us to work out how we – and others – are handling the changes that we’re experiencing.

Source: LinkedIn, April 2020

For example, the Fear Zone, which is where many of us start this journey, is the place where we can find ourselves ‘acting out’. It’s the phase that’s closely linked to our brain’s Flight, Fight and Freeze reactions – this is when our brain is fighting for survival and decided to ‘act first, think later!

We saw this nationally with panic buying of groceries and loo roll (of all things!). Our fear of the unknown makes us desperate for any and all information that we can find, leading to us not checking sources and giving all information the same amount of weight and consideration, often forwarding it to others and, in doing so, spreading that fear so that we’re not alone in it. But staying in the Fear Zone isn’t sustainable or advisable so where do we go from here?

Learning and Growth

The second zone is the Learning Zone. This can come a little later when things have started to settle and we begin behaving in a less reactionary and more thoughtful and mindful way. We become a little more aware of our own limitations and so worry less about what we are able to control and let go a bit more. We learn to respond in a more measured way rather than react in the moment and we become a bit more circumspect about the information that we consume and how often we consume it. We become more patient with ourselves and one another.

The last zone in this theory is the Growth Zone and this is where we are starting to look outside of ourselves a bit more and look to wider society – how can I help and serve? Who is struggling more than me and how can my actions (even just saying thank you to the postie or the bin collectors) ease the burdens of others at this time? It is in the Growth Zone where we find ourselves seeking out new hobbies or investing more in existing ones, it’s where we are less fractious and urgent all the time and we allow ourselves to slow down and lean into the slower, quieter and more peaceful pace that lockdown can provide.

Which Zone are you in?

Of course, as a situation like COVID-19 can take time to develop and changes to circumstances and advice can mean that we move between these Zones, depending on our circumstances. It’s worth taking a look at the diagram and checking in with ourselves regularly to see where we currently sit, where we know we have been and what has changed and so influenced our movement between zones.

Of course, the Growth Zone is the Holy Grail of response and if we are able to spend more time there than not, then that’s great! Many of us have read the book SUMO (Shut Up, Move On) and it looks at these kind of responses in a really accessible way. The time that we spend in the Fear Zone can sometime correspond with what the author, Paul McGee, calls Hippo Time.

Hippo time – just for visiting!

When something challenging or disappointing happens we all need to spend some Hippo Time wallowing, getting our head around it and recognising what’s happened – but we can’t stay there! We can’t live in Hippo Time, it won’t help us and can make us worse if we concentrate too much on the thing that’s happened and not enough on how we might deal with and move on from it. Here are some ways that we can help ourselves emerge from Hippo Time and move into the Learning and Growth Zones of the plan.

Practice gratitude

A good way to get some balance is to practice the art of gratitude. Even on the worst day we can find three or four things to be thankful for. They don’t have to be huge life-changing events – even if it’s just that there was enough cheese left for a sandwich. These days that can be a deal breaker!

Another way to help us move from one Zone to the next is to practice kindness to others – whether that’s putting a note through an elderly neighbour’s door to let them know that you are around to help them if needed, or collecting a prescription for a vulnerable family member, showing kindness to others changes our focus and takes us out of our own heads for a bit.

Be kind – to yourself and others

Linked to that is being kind to ourselves. We all know what makes us feel better – it might be crafting or exercising, praying or meditating but whatever it is, make sure you prioritise that -it’s the best way of ensuring you can be useful to others is to make sure that you’re in good shape yourself.

Connection with others is also really important. For some of us, this time of disconnection might feel great! Maybe being around people is exhausting for us but it’s also a fundamental human need. In lockdown we’re becoming ever more creative with how we connect with each other – Zoom quizzes, Pub night on Teams, Facetiming with friends and family, it’s all part of staying connected and that’s really good for our wellbeing and mental health.”