More and more I’m hearing that this lockdown just seems that little bit harder than the last time. It came on pretty quickly this time, it’s in the second half of the year when we’re already tired and ready for a break, this strain of the virus is more unpredictable! Know that if you’re feeling this way it’s completely natural, many others are feeling this way too. But why are we feeling that this lockdown is harder and what can we do about it? Largely, what it comes down to is understanding our human needs that are being challenged during this crisis. You see, just like in any crisis our worlds are turned upside down and we feel a little like things are outside of our control and a lot of things are outside of our control at this moment in time. What makes it so uncomfortable though is our need for Certainty as human beings. We all have human needs that we must meet on a daily basis to stay emotionally balanced. When we can’t meet these needs we feel stressed and sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint why. Two of our driving needs are Certainty and Uncertainty and we’re getting too much of one at the moment and not enough of the other, but we can change that.
Certainty (comfort, security, predictability) includes the needs for physical safety and psychological comfort. Everybody wants stability when it comes to their basic necessities: food, shelter or other material resources. Certainty needs are important for survival; for example, the desire for steady employment, health insurance, safe neighbourhoods, and shelter from the elements. I’m sure you’ve seen those survival shows on television—the first thing the contestants do is seek out shelter and a food source.
Often when people cannot control their physical circumstances, they seek a sense of Certainty through a state of mind, such as religious faith or a positive outlook. A year after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes in February 2011, a news report indicated that church attendance had decreased in every major city in New Zealand except one. You guessed it: Christchurch.
It’s the desire to meet this need that causes people such stress and fear during times of change. People with a high need for Certainty in their lives struggle with change and are reluctant to go too far out of their comfort zone. That’s why, as leaders, it is important to provide your people with the level of Certainty they need by reinforcing the good job they are doing (find something they’re doing right and build on that).
The level of Certainty people need varies from person to person. Living in a single room drawing unemployment benefits might be enough for one person, whereas another might need to have their mortgage paid off and be making a million dollars a year to feel a proper level of Certainty. Although Certainty is necessary for us all, what makes up this need varies from individual to individual.
The contrasting need of Certainty is Uncertainty or Variety (surprise, conflict chaos, change, instability). We all have the need to be challenged, to exercise our body and emotions. Some people may seek Uncertainty through a number of ways: stimuli, change of scene, physical activity, mood swings, entertainment, food, etc. How boring would your life be if you were certain about everything you did? This was the basic premise of Michael Douglas’s character in the movie The Game.
We need Uncertainty in our lives to challenge us, to help us grow our comfort zone. People with a high need for Uncertainty in their lives are always looking for the next big challenge. During a restructure, they are looking for the opportunities. ‘It’s about time!’ they say, and ‘Bring it on!’ They’re not content living a life where everything is mapped out.
Many people with this mindset are entrepreneurs or adventurers and shake up their lives in different ways to meet this need. Just as a level of Certainty is important for us to function day in and day out, it’s the excitement that comes from new challenges in life that makes us feel alive, that we’re growing. As with Certainty, people meet their need for Uncertainty in different ways. Watching the news or eating at a new restaurant might be enough for some, whereas others seek out a different kind of variety like extreme sports or taking on short-term work contracts at different organisations.
Certainty and Uncertainty work in balance with each other. Even those with a high need for Certainty need some kind of Uncertainty for stimulation, while living in a state of Uncertainty all the time can be pretty exhausting. And this is where the problem is for a lot of people right now – too much Uncertainty can be stressful. So what can be done? It’s important during this time to take back some control. Put in some structure to your day – give yourself and those around you a greater sense of Certainty. Focus on those things you can control and you’ll find your levels of stress starting to diminish. So what might that look like? Here are some thoughts…
- Get up at the same time every morning
- Get out for a walk, a run, or a bike ride (even better – do it with someone from your bubble!)
- Set mini-goals throughout the day
- Take micro-breaks between meetings (I know what you’re thinking but YES YOU CAN!)
- Have your healthy snacks prepared throughout the day
- Go for another walk during lunch time or in the evening
Of course, all of these things are easy to do and I’m sure you’ve thought about them already but here’s the thing about things that are easy to do… they’re also easy not to do. But they make all the difference.
I hope you find this useful and if I can help in anyway, please sing out at any time. Lastly, if you know of anyone struggling at the moment why not send this on to them – you never know what impact a small act of kindness can have on another person.
If you’d like to know more about how to achieve more in life or business, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.
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