Take Back Control in a Crisis

Take back control


During COVID I wrote this article to help my readers and clients to take back control of their lives which were being profoundly disrupted at the time by stepping into their adult selves. I gave it to one of my leader mentees a few weeks ago who was in the midst of a crisis and handling really well actually. She found it immensely helpful. She came back this week wanting to unpack it with me so she could use it to empower her team. So I thought, if she found it so useful it might be worthwhile sharing it with you all again. If you read it before, I suspect you read it with COVID eyes. Read it again now and see what’s valuable in it for your life in general. I have edited it in parts to make it relevant to today.

COVID saw our lives turned upside down in a very short period of time! We didn’t know what was going to happen from day to day. We came to expect that the next day more change would envelop us that we couldn’t  even foreshadow that day. As for next week and the week after that…….. that was so unforeseeable. We had no comprehension in those earcly weeks and months of 2020 what was in store.

We lost control of most of the parts of our life that gave us a sense of security and stability. We had to take back control over what we could control, not just our physical reality but also our emotional lives.

Early in COVID, I received an article from Tony Schwartz and Emily Pines titled “Coping with Fatigue, Fear and Panic During a Crisis” that had so much valuable stuff in it that I wanted to share some it with my colleagues, readers and clients. I had been following Tony Schwartz for years. He runs The Energy Project and introduced me to why we need to manage our energy as a crucial leadership skill. Manage your energy, he said, not your time.

We are being infected by two viruses.

Tony and Emily make the point that “we are dealing with two contagions – the virus itself and the emotions it generates. Negative emotions are every bit as contagious as the virus, and they are also toxic. Fatigue, fear and panic undermine our ability to think clearly and creatively, manage our relationships effectively, focus attention on the right priorities, and make smart, informed choices.”

There is a physiological impact on our bodies of those negative emotions, one of which is to weaken our immune systems. We certainly don’t need to be fronting this virus with a weakened immune system.

Tony and Emily tell us that we have three “different selves” responding to this threatening reality.

The Overwhelmed Self.

This is “the most defenceless, vulnerable and childlike part of us.”

The Adult Self.

This is “a more capable adult self.”

The Survival Self.

This is the defensive self that rushes to protect and defend us “reactively, impulsively, haphazardly and often counter-productively.”

In any crisis situation, where we feel we are losing control, these three selves can rear their heads, and understanding each of them means we can choose how we want to be in this time of crisis in our life. So let’s stop right there and ask ourselves where we were in that COVID experience. Or we can think of a time of crisis in our life and ask ourselves which Self was in charge of how we managed the crisis. We will manage crisis best when we act out of our Adult Self, rather than where we might naturally go, into our Survival or Overwhelmed Self.

Take Back Control in a Crisis by Acting Out of Our Adult Self.

Here are some of the steps Tony and Emily suggest we take to move into our Adult Self.

Step 1.

We need to become aware of our emotions, “what we are feeling at any given moment.” This is about becoming emotionally intelligent.

Step 2.

We need to calm ourselves, and they give us a way to do that by using our breath.

Step 3.

We need to reflect and we can begin to do that once we are calm. This allows us to step up into our Adult Self and put it back in control.

When we are living in our Adult Self we are better able to assess and evaluate the information that is coming to us. We are able to draw on our inner resources and our personal strengths to make decisions that empower us rather than having us feel overwhelmed. We gain clarity and direction for our lives and therefore gain the ability, as Tony and Emily indicate “to focus on what you have the power to influence and letting go of the rest.”

You can read the entire article here. 



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