Maintaining Positive Energy and Emotion in these Challenging Times

In his 2020 ICW webinar, Jez shares his experience of life in lockdown, what he discovered there, and how that can support resilience in any challenging time.

Managing your own emotional bunting

How many days have we been in lockdown? I have lost count. How many of these days do you actually remember?  How often have you wondered what day it is?  Suppose we had recorded how we were feeling on each of those days?  And to keep it simple, suppose we only had four words to describe those feelings?
                                                       Stressful; Inspiring; Contented; Sad.

I’ve colour-coded them to match the mood.  We could imagine the whole lockdown period as a string of coloured tags –  a bit like emotional bunting.

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Actually, this is our whole life – in the before times, in the lockdown, and in the new normal afterwards (whatever that will be).  But how many of us stop to ponder the significance of our own emotional bunting from one day to the next, or even from one hour to the next?

For me, the before times were a string of inspired and contented yellows and greens, with the occasional foray into stress when I had too much work on, or something challenging happened on the domestic front.

Energy levels and emotional states

We can plot these moods onto a grid that compares our energy levels to our emotional states

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The first week of lockdown for me was spent finishing off work that was underway, re-arranging what could be re-arranged onto Zoom and cancelling other work commitments.  This was coupled with becoming stressed about all the ‘helpful’ offers of support on social media – from wellbeing to remote working to digital marketing.  This made me angry because they all felt fake and self-serving.  Then I slipped into sadness and stuckness.  I started cancelling meetings and declining invitations to attend networking meetings that had gone online.  I was finding it increasingly difficult to find my contented space.

Understanding the moods

In the normal course of daily life, we want to spend time in a positive emotional state – with a feeling of creativity and working towards something (Inspiring) or with a sense of accomplishment and feeling Contented.  Perhaps this is what people mean by work/life balance?

However, Contentment can easily slip into feeling Sad (even Stagnation and Depression), often when we are in denial that something fundamental has changed.  I suspect this has happened to a lot of people with the COVID-19 crisis.

And when we are working with high energy, we can easily slip into ‘Survival’ mode, when we feel like we a running to stay still.  This depletes our positive emotions and often manifests as a Stressful state of Confusion or finding ourselves in Conflict with others.  We might even experience ‘Burnout’ (which would be represented here as an extreme form of Sad).

Moving between the moods

To move back from such a low point, there are two routes:

A good route

  1. Move through the Stressful Quadrant before we can find our positive emotions again.  The Stressful quadrant represents high energy as we work through the options to get us back on the path to personal renewal.  The Inspiring Quadrant represents that personal renewal with high energy and positive emotion, and we need to go there before we can find our sense of accomplishment and feeling Contented once more.  This is the route often recommended in ‘normal’ times

In times of crisis – the best route

  1. Increase our positive emotions from a position of low energy to move directly from Sad to Contented.  This involves being kind to ourselves, and giving ourselves a break – give ourselves permission to slow down and stop trying to accomplish so much.  There has been a lot of talk about learning new skills during lockdown, but hey, if we can just get through it and stay sane, perhaps that is enough?

Questions

So, what have you noticed about your response to the crisis?  

What has happened to your energy and emotion?

Who do you turn to for help? 

A good coach can help you find your way back to contentment, creativity and inspiration.

The finished model

I have dropped the colours and broadened out the words.

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Notes

You might have come across different versions of something similar:

Claes Janssen’s Four Rooms of Change (Contentment; Denial; Confusion; Renewal) in Personlig Dialektik (1982). Stockholm, Liber.

Jim Loer & Tony Schwartz’s work on managing energy rather than time (Performance Zone; Survival Zone; Burnout Zone; Recovery Zone) The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, not Time is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal (2003). New York, Simon & Schuster.

Lewis Richmond’s modern interpretation of the Energy Wheel from Buddhist teaching (Stressful; Inspiring; Contented; Sad) in Work as a Spiritual Practice: How to Bring Depth and Meaning to the Work You Do (1999). London, Piatkus.