22 February 2022
Tension persists, uncertainty is still very much with us. Nobody expected this state of uncertainty to go on for so long. Psychologists know that this continued state can have a long-term impact on the way we are. The human brain can’t live in an endless state of “alarm”. Our brains’ alarm mode is also called “the abduction of the amygdala” and it happens when we’re unable to forsee what’s going to happen in the immediate future.
The human brain is a “great predictor” in fact. It’s able to foresee what may happen and how it will react to something before the event occurs, which makes things easier for us. We do a lot of things on auto-pilot, leaving our prefrontal cortexes – the most advanced part of the brain that imagines, resolves and collaborates – free to use a lot more energy. But when we’re unable to predict what’s going to happen, our amygdala comes into play. It’s one of the most basic, quickest and primitive parts of the brain that “robs” the remaining energy to keep us safe. That’s how we have adapted our everyday routines. But until we know what’s going to happen “later”, part of our energy will remain caught up there, along with all the uncertainty, ready to use the fight-or-flight instinct that’s so significant for our species. Can we do anything about it?
According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, there is. We can actually do a lot to lower the amount of tension, maximizing the persistence to develop our superpowers, putting our prefrontal cortex into use. Doing so would mean we’d feel better today, but we’d also be able to remove ourselves from this strong crisis and strengthen us as we face complexities that are now part of our histories. Here’s what the psychologists suggest:
1) cultivate self-efficacy: focus on all the ways that we resolve small and large uncertainties each day, finding imperfect solutions that work. Now is not the time to look for definitive solutions: everything is changing so quickly that we need to know how to tollerate our own imperfections. Being able to see and value the good things that we’re able to do is the most useful skill that we have, increasing awareness of our efficacy and the perceptions of our ability to act, whatever life throws at us.
2) working on purpose: the human mind finds relief when it taps into something higher. When we take small steps forward each day, we need to be able to step back and see the “bigger picture” from time to time, seeing that everything has a purpose. It’s really about the purpose that we give to our own lives, the design that we continue to see as we trace it. A design that changes with every transition we go through. That’s why we need to keep looking at it with fresh eyes as we continue our journeys.
3) showing ourselves to others: trust and entrust. This state of uncertainty doesn’t leave us with any energy to fake it or draw up our bridges. Now is not the time to hide behind labels. We need to show ourselves to others with grace and respect, trying to see each other more clearly. Our “old style” roles – the ones that separated our working and personal dimensions – don’t fit any more. They need to be adapted and changed too frequently, together with the definitions and behaviors that they bring with them. We can reveal ourselves in a transparent and empathetic way, that human superpower that allows us to stay together, even when the signals that surround us might feel confused.
We can do these things each day, starting with the small things. We need to see what we’re able to do, despite everything. It’s about seeing the bigger picture of our lives, showing ourselves to others and being more attentive when we look at those around us. Now we know that it’s not just a pipe dream: it’s an effective way to lower our stress levels and strengthen ourselves in this incredible era of our history.
This article was originally written by Riccarda Zezza and published on the Il Sole 24 Ore blog, Alley Oop. To read the original article (in Italian), please click here.