Why Wellbeing Can’t Wait

Posted on: 11 September 2020 by Denise Chilton in Blog posts

Denise Chilton

Denise Chilton covers the impact of COVID-19 on professional and personal lives and provides advice on coping strategies.

The past few months have been really hard for lots of people and those in the research community haven’t escaped the impact of COVID 19 on either their professional or personal lives.

Working from home has its advantages yet unexpected distractions can cause havoc with our routine and structure. Whether it’s an Amazon delivery, the affectionate cat or the non-stop Zoom calls. It’s exhausting.

I recently asked researchers what had been their own personal challenge over the past months. Here is what they said:

  • Being focused while at home
  • Concern for the future
  • Dealing with uncertainty without freaking out
  • Too many spinning plates
  • Keeping energy levels up
  • Managing expectations
  • Loss of trust
  • Confidence.

I’m sure lots of these resonate for you.

So here are three simple and effective coping strategies that you can implement immediately and are proven to have a positive impact on our wellbeing.

Technique 1. Ask ‘What Can I Control?’

Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions that we have no control over, we should focus our time and energy on the things we can control.

In the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey talks about the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.

The Circle of Concern includes the wide range of concerns we have in our work and our life - health, family, money, economy, global warming, Covid-19! Everything you include in the circle matters to you and everything outside of the circle is of little or no concern.

The Circle of Influence are the things that concern you that you can do something about.

The key is to focus your time and energy on the things that you can influence and let go of what we can’t control

Technique 2. Too Much. Too Little. Just Right: The Goldilocks principle

Too much pressure can lead to stress, burnout and exhaustion but actually too little pressure is also harmful. It leaves us feeling bored, stuck and unmotivated. The sweet spot is not too high, not too low - but just right. This is the Goldilocks effect. Just enough pressure to keep us alert and motivated.

In the fairytale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks tries three different bowls of porridge. The first is too hot. The second is too cold. The third is just right but we all like our porridge differently so my “just right” will be different to your “just right”. 

The key to coping (and to living a fulfilling life) is to adjust our time, energy and focus so that they are spent on the things that are important to us. Of course, it won’t be “just right” all of the time but it can be helpful to check in with ourselves and make adjustments when needed - scaling back on some tasks and adding joyful activities.

Technique 3. Hippo Time

Some events trigger wallowing. The end of a job. A disappointment at work. The end of a relationship. Hippo Time is when we allow ourselves some time to wallow (as hippos do) and to acknowledge our feelings of disappointment or frustration.

Having some time out when life’s challenges knock us sideways is absolutely fine: we all need that. Give yourself permission to wallow but put a time limit on it. This helps you to contain it, process it and move on.

Recording a ResDevInYourPJ’s bite sized video on wellbeing with Angela from the Academy

Recording a ResDevInYourPJ’s bite sized video on wellbeing with Angela from the Academy.

About the author

Denise is an executive leadership and career coach specialising in well-being, resilience and leadership. Denise has been supporting the academic community at the University of Liverpool for the past 10 years and working with researchers to help them unlock their potential and be the best they can be.


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