When stress increases, wellbeing cannot be optional

Here we are, eight months after the UK started its first lockdown due to COVID-19. Numbers of cases and deaths had come down over the summer, then started skyrocketing almost everywhere. Now, we need to hunker down again to try and get these numbers down.

But people are tired of it. Any novelty we felt has worn out; long gone.

We are so over it and ready to get on with “normal” life, whatever that is. 

Meanwhile, employees are burning out. For those who are lucky enough to have a job, the amount of work is becoming excessive, people are working formidable hours. Too many people report going from one online meeting to the next, back to back all day long with no breaks – and no time to get any real work done. That creates high levels of stress.

Along the way, impatience rises, tempers shorten, and more and more conflicts happen between colleagues. It only makes the stress worse.

We are getting sucked into a downward spiral of stress upon more stress and with each step we have less capacity to be truly effective.

This is unsustainable.  And it’s probably not going to end soon. It is hurting business results and people will burn out.

We need to recognise that this situation has created unprecedented stress levels for people. And we need to understand that stress naturally leads to conflict between people. That is just what happens. You will see more stressed out behaviour and more interpersonal strife.

We must come to realise that caring for our brains is an absolute, fundamental must for these times.

Wellbeing may seem like a luxury. But it isn’t. It is not optional. Not if we want people to be able to do their jobs.

And it is even more important if we want to have enough brain capacity to think and create new ways forward.

Wellbeing is about brain care. It is about caring for the instrument that performs for you. For you as an individual, for you as a manager, for you as an organisation.

The brain works like this:

There is a small rational part of our brain that does most of our work. It is also responsible for managing emotions and our human needs. Normally, it manages emotions so we can be patient with others and that allows us to collaborate well.

But this small part of our brain is completely overloaded with both work and      with emotions to deal with.      When it tires out – which it does easily on a ‘normal’ day (and even quicker on a stressful day) – it hands over control to the much bigger and stronger emotional brain. This part is demanding, competitive, petty, angry, and impatient. It likes to pick fights, which create more stress and gives you even less chance for your rational brain to kick into gear. 

This is how the downward spiral works. And to top it off, when this emotional brain is in charge, you do not make sound decisions or get much productive work done. It is futile.

Wellbeing and brain care mean that you respect the brain that nature gave us, and you take care of it. When you do; you have the capacity to think, to collaborate, to manage emotions and stress.