Anita Franov is a Certified Trainer, Transformational Coach certified by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Hypnotherapist, certified by the American Board of Hypnosis and a Certified Practitioner of Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT). Well known for designing and successfully facilitating transformation training programmes for over two decades, Anita designs workshops and training courses that have purpose and meaning.
Life as we knew it has been turned on its head – ever-present threats to our physical safety in our daily environments, forced home protection and foregoing many meaningful and enjoyable activities and social connections, widespread job losses and uncertainty of the future. The overall effects of these shared stressful circumstances on our mental wellbeing are at present, poorly understood and could very well have long term mental health consequences.
To date, the frontrunner in the psychological and physiological repercussions are elevated levels of stress and anxiety. Additionally, there is a distinct rise in degrees of loneliness, depression, addictions, and self-harming. Many people are living in a chronic state of fear, worry or unease, all of which cause stress, and stress is a common trigger for anxiety.
When we feel threatened or afraid, the amygdala activates the “fight or flight” response by sending out signals to release stress hormones that prepare our bodies to fight or run away. This response evolved as a survival mechanism to react quickly from life-threatening situations, and our survival software is always looking for what’s wrong. Unfortunately, our body does not distinguish between what is a life-threatening situation and what is not, such as work pressure or a traffic jam. Our automatic response is the same.
Over time, repeated activation of the stress response can have long-term effects on our physical and physiological health. It blocks us from being able to respond more effectively to the perceived threat. It’s not that we lack the resources, we just lack resourcefulness due to our inability to move out of a survival state, into a more productive state of rationale and problem-solving.
Often, we learn helplessness in our childhood. For example, if a five-year-old is told by an adult they are useless at a certain task, the child will usually take this as gospel. In 1967, Professor Martin Seligman and Professor Steven Maier described this theory as “learned helplessness”. Our subconscious brain is brilliant at drawing comparisons between similarities in our present reality from past experiences. In adulthood if a present stimulus looks somewhat similar to a prior incident, our subconscious assumes they are the same and consequently responds in the same way we did in the past. In adults, learned helplessness materializes as a person not using their full potential, or learning adaptive responses to difficult situations – a perceived absence of control. In this state we accept bad things have happened and we have little or no control over them.
We spent approximately 80% of our waking hours on autopilot. Prior to the global pandemic, we went about our lives with extraordinarily little conscious
awareness. A great example of this is when we drive our car, arrive at our destination safely and have not given the whole process much conscious awareness.
We cannot be consciously aware all the time during our waking hours as we would use too much energy. However, we now know there is a greater need for conscious awareness, and this includes self-awareness.
Part of living is experiencing adversity. None of us have immunity to adversity. When we experience adversity, we experience grief. Grief is a sense of loss, and this year we have all faced a certain loss on a global level; for example, loss of a job, loss of income, loss of a way of life, loss of freedom to travel and perhaps the most impactful for many people is a lost sense of security.
The pandemic has created conscious awareness and amplified the perceived control we had over our lives. For many people, the uncertainty is the hardest thing
to cope with and handle. We still do not know the full impact; how long will we remain in this state of limbo and how many more unforeseen changes await us. This can become all too easy to magnify and spiral into an overwhelming sense of fear and panic. People are experiencing emotions and a state of mind they do not fully understand.
By adopting a sense of curiosity, we expand our knowledge towards our current state of mind and emotions. From which we can build resilience through self-regulation and develop coping strategies that help us become more agile.
Our emotions are a natural response to our thoughts. If we are more consciously aware of our thoughts and triggers, we can gain better control and re-direct our thoughts to be more objective and constructive which impacts our behaviour. This sounds easy, but it’s not so straightforward because most of the time we are still operating on autopilot.
It is important to remember we are all unique and while one person may find one technique or a series of techniques works best for them, another person may not find these techniques beneficial. So, one size does not fit all.
A good starting point before implementing any techniques is the awareness of taking responsibility and moving out of a victimised mindset. By taking responsibility for what is within our control and accept there are external elements beyond our control, we are less likely to fall into a helplessness mindset and more likely to be proactive. We also need to be more aware of our triggers and emotional responses, as well as question any limiting beliefs we hold. We then need to make the unfamiliar familiar, even if it means we are vulnerable and uncomfortable. The aim is to be open to a range possibilities and solutions. Find at least one technique that works for you, such as mindfulness, meditation or regulated breathing and consistently incorporate it into your daily practice until it becomes ubiquitous with your subconscious to the point where you don’t even think about it, just like breathing.
Adopt an ethos of Psychological Safety and implement the practices. Psychological Safety is a description for a workplace culture or environment which harnesses and encourages the practice of inclusion and collaboration. Before this can be achieved, leaders need to have a lot more awareness around their own behaviours. In other words, leading from the inside out. More than ever, the organisational language needs to be more human. This is not about being nice all the time, it is about honouring and respecting every employee’s reality and not make comparisons that can lead us to minimize or diminish the other person’s perceived reality. Psychological safety practices are all about organisations and leaders utilising the collective intelligence of their teams to help navigate businesses through unforeseen problems, whilst accepting constant change by adapting and nurturing a workplace conducive to growth, innovation, and diversity.
About Anita Franov:
Anita is on a continuous journey of creating and fostering a culture of learning. Consistently developing adult learning strategies, which support cognitive learning as well as individual’s learning styles. Aside from facilitating training workshops; Anita has helped people overcome profound personal and professional challenges through her Coaching programs. She is an advocate for psychological wellbeing, and for removing the stigma associated with mental health. Her RTT Coaching practice focuses on dealing with issues at the root cause, as everyone has the right to live an extraordinary and happy life. She is a great believer that we are all a source of unlimited potential, and the biggest obstacle standing in the way is ourselves.