After a few years of disruption, fear and constant confrontation with unpredictability, we seem to be on track to a more “stable” way of life. The past two years, dealing with COVID, has tested everyone’s ability to adapt. Some adapted easier than others; moved from being in perpetual survival mode to integrating the needed changes and in general feeling more comfortable, competent, feeling some degree of satisfaction. Others did not adjust to the demands as easily, entering and staying in a survival in the moment state, feeling not quite regulated and struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, low satisfaction and loss of connections. For some there are accompanying fantasies or plans to make a drastic change in their lives such as quitting their jobs, moving to another state and even leaving their spouses. In some ways this is a version of the fight, flight or freeze mechanism which leads to exhaustion, negative emotions and stress.
I would consider this a survival mindset, which often comes with a feeling of loss of control. Statements like, “I just have to make it to the weekend,” or “I just have to make it to vacation.” The big one is, “I just have to make it to the end of the year.” Those are all clues of survival mindset. For those who may be in such a mindset, it’s important to reflect on places in your life where you do have control and whether the past level of hyper-vigilance is still necessary. The way you think should eventually shift to “How can I not just survive the next few days, weeks or months, but ENJOY what I’m doing?”
There is a phrase in psychotherapy, “Maslow before Bloom,” which essentially means that in order for a person to effectively function in their daily lives (Bloom), that person must first have their basic needs met (Maslow).
In the Maslow Motivation Model below the base four; Physiological Needs, Safety Needs, Belonging and Love Needs, and Esteem Needs are the areas that need to be addressed before the higher level needs can be optimally negotiated.
The two areas specifically, Belonging and Love and Esteem Needs are areas that directly relate to life satisfaction. Many of the activities that foster connections such as book clubs, after work happy hours, lunch with colleagues and/or friends, had fallen off as a result of dealing with COVID. This has left many people I have spoken with feeling disconnected from family members, friends and colleagues. Feeling connected to others leads to belonging. Esteem needs are partially met by feeling competent and satisfied from what you are doing specifically in work, school and play.
So as we move forward toward the second half of 2022, let's try to reestablish some of those practices that lead to feeling more regulated. Reconnect with colleagues and friends , start the day with an activity such as exercise or meditation, rather than getting right to work. Put down the devices . . . take some deep breaths. Have some fun, laugh and lighten up the mood. That will help you to jumpstart your mindset to not only perform but to thrive!