In today’s blog, we are going to look at what the Reintegration stage of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis means for you, as well as provide you with two Helpful tools to better manage risk and overwhelm at this pivotal time. As always, if this post is Helpful, please consider sharing it with your friends and loved ones 🙂
The COVID-19 lockdown is gradually easing and we’re moving closer to the Reintegration stage of the current crisis we find ourselves in. In other words, we are preparing to move towards a semblance of normality or the ‘new normal’ that everybody keeps talking about.
However, things still aren’t that clear at the moment and there are lots of subtle nuances you need to consider before you can even begin to start going about your usual business. Right now, it’s all about risk assessment and making the most informed decisions you can, which can be both daunting and overwhelming.
Addressing unhelpful thoughts with your ABCs
The COVID-19 pandemic has already seen us managing lots of risk: infection risk, emotional impact and mental health implications, physical health impact, work decisions and more. It’s required a significant amount of processing just to get to where we are now. All this thinking takes energy and with the conflicting needs and priorities we are all navigating, many of us are feeling overwhelmed.
Where there is risk there is also often overwhelm, and it can be Helpful to be aware of some key thought patterns that are probably arising at the moment. If you remember from one of our previous posts – What am I making it mean? – you’ll already know about the snowballing and mental tennis thought patterns.
To give you a couple of examples, let’s say you’re considering visiting your mother once lockdown restrictions have been eased and you’re assessing the risk:
- Too much mental tennis and you could struggle to arrive at a decision, instead flitting back and forth between potential outcomes: ‘Should I go and see mum? Should I not? Oh, I don’t know!’
- Go down the snowballing route and you’ll only consider the worst possible outcomes: What if I go and see mum and she dies because she caught the coronavirus off me!?
To help overcome this, it can be Helpful to run through your ABC for Feelings to obtain a better idea of what level of risk you are taking and the variables you are managing:
- Awareness – Be aware of the unhelpful thought patterns as they appear. This is about spotting that you’re stuck on the roundabout of unhelpful thinking.
- Breathing & body – Shift your focus to your breath and body. Compose yourself by taking a breath and getting a good sense of your body by e.g. shuffling your shoulders and wriggling your toes.
- Choice – What would be a more Helpful choice in this situation?
Whether it’s managing risk or overwhelm, there are a couple of techniques that can help you with the Choice stage of your ABCs: the Animal Risk Model and the Triangulation Technique.
In a nutshell, the Animal Risk Model helps you ascertain risk by assessing likelihood and impact on the one hand and cost/benefit analysis on the other. While the Triangulation Technique provides a Helpful way to deal with overwhelm and identify why it may be occurring.
Managing risk using the Animal Risk Model
Now the purpose of fear is to keep us alive. This is important. But sometimes, the way we think does not accurately reflect the reality or risk we’re facing. For example, we might tell ourselves stories that are not true or Helpful to avoid certain situations. While this has helped us survive and evolve over millions of years, it can often skew our perception of risk.
The Animal Risk Model is all about assessing likelihood and impact on the one hand and cost/benefit analysis on the other. It helps us assess the actual risk involved in a particular situation and not just the risk we perceive.
Likelihood / Impact
Consider the four levels of risk, each of which is named after an animal. Notice how each animal represents the likelihood of you meeting this animal and the impact of the encounter going badly. Hence why likelihood and impact are the key factors to consider when faced with a risk.
- A cat – Coming across a cat and stroking it (assuming you like cats) probably doesn’t seem that high a risk. The worst that could happen is you’ll get bitten or scratched.
- A dog – It’s a similar but slightly more risky situation if you came across a dog. After assessing the animal for a short while you might decide to pet it, in the unlikely event it goes badly it could result in a nasty bite that requires you to have a tetanus shot and a couple of stitches so, you’re likely to take the risk.
- A wolf – Now imagine you meet a wolf. Assuming you like wolves, you consider stroking it. But there’s no way you’re going to do so without first donning some protective gear to minimise any potential injuries.
- A tiger – Finally, you come across a tiger. Even those with a particular fondness of these magnificent cats aren’t going to jump in and start engaging with it without professional support and advice.
The bottom line is we should always take a Proportionate and Appropriate Approach based on the merits of the situation we’re facing. However, this is sometimes easier said than done because of the way our brains work.
You see, our brains are hardwired to immediately assume everything is a tiger. It’s up to us to put the training into practise to help us discern what we are actually facing, which is why this aspect is so important. For example, imagine the consequences of thinking you are facing a cat when in fact it’s a tiger – this could cost you your life. However, if you start of with the assumption that all cats are tigers and then reassess and downgrade the risk to a cat, you will have had an adrenaline rush and a sudden comedown but no harm done. It makes evolutionary sense that we are wired this way but it can run us ragged unless we train our thinking to assess and manage risks well and with growing confidence.
Always be kind to yourself when you realise you’re thinking about worst possible outcomes and run through your ABCs — spot the risk (the A in your ABCs), bring your focus to your breath and body (the B) and then make your choice (the C) using the Animal Risk Model and then check out the Cost / Benefit Analysis.
Cost / Benefit Analysis
With cost/benefit analysis, the key is to determine whether the benefit of what you’re considering outweighs the cost of doing it. To this end, you need to deliberately think through what the cost of doing the activity or taking on the risk is vs. the benefit of doing so. If the cost is greater than the benefit, then chances are it’s not good to continue. But if the benefit outweighs the cost, then you should probably proceed with a view to maximising this benefit and minimising the cost.
That’s why it’s always Helpful to look at reducing costs and increasing benefits wherever you can.
So if we go back to the example of visiting your mother once lockdown restrictions have been eased, you could reduce the costs by wearing a face mask, gloves and avoiding high risk areas for several days before your visit. You could increase the benefit by timing your visit well. If mum’s a morning person, go see her earlier in the day when your visit will afford the most benefit for you both.
Managing overwhelm using the Triangulation Technique
The purpose of overwhelm is to help you identify the edges of your capacity and highlight when something – time, resources or tasks – is out of kilter or skewed. It’s another factor to consider in addition to assessing risks.
Always start with your ABC for Feelings and then when you come to Choice use Triangulation to help you deal with overwhelm in the most Helpful way possible.
Always start with your ABC for Feelings and that means noticing that you’re feeling overwhelmed. Then bring your focus to your breath and your body. Breathing in to the count of 5 and out to the count of 7 a few times and doing something with your body e.g. shuffling your shoulders and wriggling your toes. Finally, when you get to Choice leverage the Triangulation Technique to get curious about the overwhelm and address it.
With us all managing so many different variables and dealing with conflicting needs at the moment, having a method to manage overwhelm can really help. Remember, all feelings are information and that includes overwhelm too.
Now you might experience overwhelm when considering all the different tasks you need to do. Create a map of the tasks that need doing, the time you’ve to do them and the resources (e.g. people or money) you have to do them with. You now know what you want to get done and you know the time in which you’ve got to do it. You also know what resources you have available to help you. If the corners of the triangle – representing Resources, Time and Tasks – don’t add up, the whole shape is out of kilter and creates the feeling of overwhelm.
Whenever overwhelm occurs, it’s time for you to get curious and map your triangle. Once you’ve got that information you can then look to what actions you can take:
- TIME: Arrange the tasks in order of importance and urgency. Remember something can be important but not urgent. This means you can give yourself more time with that one.
- TASKS: Does the task need doing to the level that you’re planning? Can tasks be combined? What’s the risk if you don’t do it? Check the Cost / Benefit Analysis for the task, is the cost worth the benefit?
- RESOURCES: Bring in additional resources to help. This could be e.g. spending money to have something delivered earlier or delegating a task to a colleague or family member.
Consider this example and the Helpful outcome:
Suzie was a manager of a department. One day, her boss gave her a new target to achieve within the next 10 days. When she got the email outlining it, she felt immediately overwhelmed and was fed up with her boss because it seemed as though no matter how well she did, more was asked of her. But instead of struggling and letting the overwhelm get the better off her, Suzie got curious about her feelings and checked her triangulation (with our help). She soon realised that in order to achieve the task in the timeframe given she would need more people and/or resources; it was practically impossible otherwise. So Suzie calculated exactly the extra resources she needed to deliver the task on time and went back to her boss. While he couldn’t give her the extra staff she requested, he did agree to move the deadline and so she had more time to do the task with the resources she had. With a realistic timeframe based on the resources available to her, Suzie’s overwhelm was addressed, her confidence restored and she was able to achieve the target she was set.
You got this!
So you’ve now got two Helpful tools for helping you figure out the ‘C’ in your ABC for Feelings when managing risk and overwhelm: the Animal Risk Model and the Triangulation Technique. Whether it’s in terms of home life, health or work regularly using these tools as and them will help you better manage both risk and overwhelm, becoming more agile and confident with both risks and overwhelm.
As with most things, we encourage you to practise using these tools to help you become more proficient in using them. Remember, as we often say, you don’t learn to swim by watching documentaries, you need to actually get in the water.
You may not control the weather, the economy, the virus – you name it – but you are the captain of your ship, the master of your fate. You got this.
Would you like personal support to navigate your way forward and help you find the meaning you need to come through this? Book a chat with me and let’s explore how I can help you through 1:2:1 consultations.
You’ll discover how to:
- Help yourself feel better straight away
- Work with your brain and your body to respond better to challenges
- Get curious about your feelings and why they show up
- Have more helpful self-talk
- Pace to manage stress, pain and fatigue and reduce where possible
Go gently, hold steady, stay the course.
All the best, Thor