We are living in unprecedented times. As parents, siblings, bosses, coworkers and everyday citizens, we are being both called upon and called up to navigate unfamiliar and unstable waters. Some of us may be used to working in a rapidly changing environment while for others, the sense of instability will be paralyzing. Regardless, there will be moments for all of us when the waves of fear, anger, apathy and sadness overwhelm us, and we will find ourselves struggling to stay true to ourselves and be present for those around us.
For many years, I have been training social change leaders in transformative leadership practices. One of the key areas of focus is learning to work in highly volatile, unpredictable and at-times conflictive environments. These kinds of high-stress environments trigger our body’s in-built defense mechanisms and if not managed, our pre-programmed fight-or-flight responses take over. The problem with this is that when these responses take over, it reduces our ability to respond effectively, think clearly and react compassionately to what is happening around us.
As Coronavirus has evolved from some far-off problem into a global pandemic, the signs of triggered defence systems are all around us: difficulties in concentration and engaging with work, shortness of temper, sudden tiredness, denial, rigidity, retreat, destructive behavior…the list goes on. Yet as I wrote about previously, now more than ever the world needs each and every one of us to rise above, stay engaged and be the best version of ourselves.
Transformative leadership practices, which help us build the skills to lead with wisdom, integrity and compassion during times of stress, can help us to achieve this. That is why I have decided to write this 4-part series on Practicing Wholeheartedness. In this series, I have attempted to put into writing some of the lessons from our training module on compassionate leadership. It will focus specifically at developing a better understanding on how our brains react under stress, and look at some practical things we can do to try and calm our limbic system and avoid being triggered. My hope is that this will be helpful in fostering compassion not just for ourselves, but for our friends, family and co-workers during these trying times. Rather than taking offense, we can react with love and support.
Finally let me share that this is an experiment for me. As someone who exclusively trains through experiential processes, putting all of this into words is not easy. But in the spirit of supporting each other and supporting our global community, I’ll do the best I can in the hope that it is useful to someone, somewhere.
If you’ve read this and feel that you could benefit during this time from one-on-one coaching or support, please feel free to contact me directly.
Part III Recognizing Your Defences – coming soon
Part IV Leaving the Serengeti: No More Fight or Flight – coming soon