What COVID-19 did to my business

What COVID-19 did to my business

There are days where I don’t want to hear the word COVID-19! I am so tired of the information overload, and my brain is saturated. I don’t want to read or hear any more news about it!

One moment I’m in denial about the new working world, and the next I see the endless opportunities. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride that just doesn’t stop. In every conversation I have with people (online, of course), COVID-19 comes up. We talk about it at the dinner table, with family, friends, clients, and even with suppliers. Everything I do, and every thought I have, seems to revolve around life before, during, and after COVID-19.

I’m sure that you, too, wish you had days where COVID-19 didn’t come into any of your conversations or thoughts. However, as much as I wish the word and its impact on our lives away, I have to be realistic and accept that it’s here to stay – probably for many months, if not years.

The new way of working

I believe that we haven’t felt the true impact of COVID-19 yet, especially in the business world. Many of us are still coming to terms with the new normal, making sure that our employees are screened and safe, that customers keep their distance when being served, that virtual teams have what they need to work remotely, and that we might even have a combination of employees working at the office and others from home. There are so many different, drastic, and vast changes which are happening all at the same time.

COVID-19 didn’t give us the time or luxury to adapt or implement changes in small increments. It’s come in a tsunami wave, and we need to be agile and on our toes all the time. We’re constantly challenged to find that sweet spot of balancing being courageous and driving our business forward, and, equally, being compassionate to people about their health, jobs, and the way forward.

A complete business overhaul

On reflection, are the changes that COVID-19 is forcing us to embrace in the business world such a bad thing? I can’t speak for you, but I have procedures, systems, and processes in my business that needed to be tweaked, and some even needed a complete overhaul. I never found the time BC (before COVID-19), and often thought that as soon as I finished a certain project, I’d get to it, but somehow I never did. It stayed on my wish list of To Dos for months, and sometimes even years.

COVID-19 has shone a bright floodlight on every angle of my business. It’s highlighted what’s working exceptionally well, and exposed the processes that aren’t. It was painful to face reality, but if I’m honest with myself, I knew BC that those areas weren’t working optimally. Now I have to be agile and either adjust the process or do away with it completely.

I told myself that it’s not the time to be emotional and sentimental about structures I’d worked hard for in my business. Rather, it’s time to be level-headed and future-thinking. I asked myself whether certain processes were relevant, and whether they were working at their best. If they weren’t, I questioned whether I could amend them, and if not then I need to stop doing whatever it was.

COVID-19 has given me the courage and creativity to perform a profound business overhaul, and make very swift and sobering decisions. Some of them were difficult to make and I felt sad because of them. I tossed procrastination out the window, rolled up my sleeves, and went back to basics on many structures and processes. I’m in the process of learning to run a lean business. COVID-19, as disrupting as it has been to my business, has brought an intense overhaul in the business. This is something that I’m humbled and grateful for. I hope you find the courage and wisdom to see the opportunity that it has brought you. Maybe you can’t see it right now as you are still in the fight, flight and freeze mode, but hopefully you’ll soon see that this profound disruption was necessary in our business world. As uncertain and rocky as the future might seem to you, you will get through this and adapt your business. You’re more resilient and creative than you give yourself credit for. In the bigger picture, COVID-19 has taught us to appreciate and acknowledge that our people are our most precious and powerful factor to our business. Cherish them!

Five benefits of the new digital workspace

Five benefits of the new digital workspace

There’s no denying it: remote working is the new normal! The benefits of a digital workspace have become apparent to employers and employees, and nobody’s going back to the old ways.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged businesses to reinvent themselves. In some cases, businesses have had to make the difficult decision of whether to close their doors, or to extend themselves into the digital age. We’re beginning to not only work remotely, but also to modify the way we do business. Most people have discovered that many jobs can actually be done remotely, and that a majority of employees actually prefer to work from home if at all possible.

Companies are starting to invest in technologies and systems that facilitate the digital workstation, giving employees the tools they need to connect, collaborate, and perform their core responsibilities from anywhere, at any time. There are, however, people who are still sceptical, so let’s explore the benefits that your company could be missing by not embracing the digital workspace.

 

Flexibility

Employees have the ability to work remotely, and with maximum flexibility. In so doing, there’s no compromise to the company’s efficiency, its productivity, or its ability to meet its goals. There are no limits to the concepts of place or time, and there are any number of technologies available. In addition, employees are unfettered by time restrictions, giving them more choices as to when they will work. Given those choices, employees can schedule work times to suit themselves, and will probably put in more time than necessary.

 

Collaboration

BC (before COVID), employees may have felt that they were isolated and away from their team and support system. With so many options available, everyone can easily interact with each other in virtual meetings. The ability exists to share and discuss documents, data, and images, and people can exchange ideas about things that they’re working on. They can also collaborate on projects together, despite the geographic distances that may separate them. And it’s generally easier to keep everyone engaged and in step, because people are almost always online in some way.

Company cultures are beginning to adapt, and we’re seeing happier employees who are more engaged, have better ideas, and are more innovative.

 

Productivity

There are many benefits for both employees and employers.

Employees produce more when they have a healthy work-life balance. And because they can work from home, they’re less likely to call in sick, because in many cases they can still work from home.

Employees are generally happier, and are more likely to offer the best of their skills and talents to the company. They tend to be more engaged, productive, efficient, and offer better customer experience.

Staff turnover is reduced because employees feel trusted, rewarded, and appreciated. Companies which offer flexible work arrangements find it easier to attract potential employees.

 

Compatibility

Employees and employers recognise and value the importance of the seamless integration of the various digital technologies in the workspace. This enables the improved management of workforce resources, team communications, training, performance statistics and reviews, and HR matters. The workspace can be brought together by means of communication applications such as chat, video conferencing, and conference calls.

 

Cost Reduction

This should be the foremost reason to transform your organisation into a digital workspace. Everyone will benefit massively from this.

Employees will have more hours in the day, more flexibility, and so many more added personal benefits and savings. They won’t have to pay for public transport, or for petrol and car servicing, or parking, and they’ll save on commuting time. There will also be less time spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic, probably resulting in less road rage. And they’ll be in much better shape to start their day!

Companies will enjoy reduced (or eliminated) office and building costs, office-related issues, building maintenance, staff refreshments, stationery, and much more.

Change is never easy, but with COVID-19 as the biggest factor – it’s really a game changer – can your business really afford not to invest in the digital future and the future of your company?

The Organisational Empathy Revolution is Here. Are You Ready?

The Organisational Empathy Revolution is Here. Are You Ready?

Empathy isn’t something that we’re hearing for the first time, but what is unique is that it’s finding its way into our business culture and vocabulary. In fact, in 2017 the Merriam-Webster dictionary identified empathy as the fourth most searched word of the year. This means that it really matters to us, and it’s here to stay. Instilling empathy in the workplace isn’t one of those nice-to-haves that you need to implement so that your people are happy and productive. Quite the opposite! It’s a long-term strategic culture decision that an organisation makes if it wants to experience satisfied customers, an engaged workforce, and a financially healthier business.

 

What is Empathy?

The most common definition of empathy is the ability to understand and experience the feelings and thoughts of another person. The aim is to get a better understanding of the other person’s perspective on a situation. Expressing empathy creates a positive and trusted connection among people; however, as always, we’re complex creatures and so we need to distinguish between the different types of empathy. American Psychologists, Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman classified empathy into the following three types.

  1. Cognitive empathy: the ability to distil how a person is feeling, and understand their thoughts. Developing cognitive empathy means being a good communicator because you can connect with the person at their ideal cognitive point.
  2. Emotional empathy: the ability to experience the feelings of another person. It’s about really understanding and intensely relating to another person’s emotions. Emotional Intelligence is the skill that assists you to build emotional connections with others.
  3. Compassionate empathy: is a combination of cognitive and emotional empathy, but has the additional component of being able to assist the person to take action to resolve their situation.

We all like to be understood and for others to consider – or at least listen to – our perspective. So, empathy is a two-way street, and you’ll receive as much as you give. It requires patience and practice, but it enriches relationships, minimises conflict, and improves problem-solving.

 

Empathy in the Workplace

The workplace is busy and we can get distracted by many things that continuously call for our attention. A client’s urgent deadline, a project that requires our input, wrapping our head around new systems, and managing a demanding colleague are all examples of things that distract us from focusing on empathy. We think that once a particular manic period is over, and a certain project has been completed, we’ll focus on empathy, but that day seldom comes because something more pressing always gets in the way. Empathy isn’t something you can squeeze into your workplace culture when you have time. It’s a strategic decision you make if you want to ensure your organisation remains profitable.

Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s the reality. Let’s look at some facts and figures to substantiate my comments.

  • The 2017 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report showed that high-performing employees who are not engaged at work will consider leaving. The only thing that would keep them there is empathy. Employers need to provide an environment in which high-performing employees are recognised and supported to achieve their career goals, where their needs are met, and where there is a work-life balance.
  • The 2018 Bussinessolver® State of Workplace Empathy reveals that 93% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. This figure proves that empathy as an organisational culture isn’t a nice-to-have, but a must-have. In fact, 92% of employees believe that empathy is undervalued in their organisation.
  • In the same survey, CEOs unanimously link an organisation’s financial performance to the level of empathy. The reason for the financial boost is that employees would be willing to work overtime for an empathetic organisation.
  • The 2016 Harvard Business Review highlighted that the ten most empathetic companies generate 50 percent more earnings than those at the bottom of the index.
  • Finally, Businessolver’s 2018 survey has ascertained that instilling empathy as a core value into the DNA of a business has a direct bearing on the workplace culture, innovation, productivity, and profitability.

These facts and figures might feel overwhelming to you, but you should use them as a motivator and a little nudge to start introducing empathy as a core value in your organisation.

 

What organisations aren’t acknowledging

All the surveys and statistics show that empathy in the workplace really does matter, but you have to decide whether you’re ready to embrace this change. Can you accept that empathy is what is going to motivate, unite, and connect people within your organisation? You may be sceptical and follow the “wait and see” approach, or believe that empathy doesn’t really apply to you. Then perhaps you should consider these four facts that all call for empathy in the workplace.

Firstly, women are becoming an equal representation in the workforce, and feel that organisations are only 33% empathetic and can do more. Women are dissatisfied with organisations’ low levels of empathy, and CEOs are aware that women in leadership positions would enhance the empathy quotient.

Secondly, employees are increasingly concerned and fearful about the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the workspace. Are we even sure how AI will impact on our job security and the ability to connect with customers and colleagues?

Thirdly, despite the technology and online platforms, employees still value face-to-face communication the most because it’s easier to share and feel each other’s empathy. More efficient communication methods such as video conferences, emails, and text message definitely lose the empathy factor.

Finally, empathetic organisations attract and retain talent because it drives collaboration and innovation, and makes employees feel like they belong.

 

In Summary

Empathy impacts on how we engage with others in the workplace and outside of it, as well as how we experience our daily life. The chances are that if you encountered empathy today, you’ll pay it forward and give to someone else.

Be part of the empathy revolution, and start thinking how you can instil a more empathetic culture into your organisation today.

 

Innovation – Something positive from the COVID-19 pandemic

Innovation – Something positive from the COVID-19 pandemic

With the announcement of the nationwide lockdown, companies have become despondent, and absolutely terrified that their business may shut down. It’s at times like these that optimists would say that ’n boer maak ’n plan, and, in some cases, this is true. Many businesses will rise to the challenge, make a full recovery, and inspire others to do the same.

Companies have been forced to become smarter and more flexible. Most have discovered that their teams can actually work from home. Some employees have adopted a new sense of work-life balance, and many others are more connected than ever before. Boomers have literally become Zoomers! Apart from that, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer experience companies are achieving accelerated growth, and e-health, e-legal, and other e-solutions are popping up rapidly. This is really good news if you’re in a business where you can ride the wave!

If you’re not, however, you may be one of those companies who will experience a defensive reflex to keep the spiralling losses under control, especially if you’re in high-impact industries like construction, tourism, and entertainment. It’s important to remember that no-one will be entirely spared from the impact of this pandemic. It will have a profound impact on all aspects of every business, and it is totally understandable that in times where demand is plummeting, and the future outlook is uncertain, companies will refocus all their efforts on the essential business processes to keep the business afloat!

Amidst these massive disruptions, a combination of short- and long-term innovation responses can provide a ray of hope for businesses. If history has taught us anything, it is that we are capable of finding interesting ways to reinvent ourselves – often bouncing back even stronger than before!

Just as the pandemic has revealed differences regarding the preference to work from home, experience with remote learning, entertainment, and consumption will also shape consumer attitudes toward digital and physical experiences. Differences in consumer preferences may generate valuable business opportunities, new products and services, and new business models.

To ensure that your company responds efficiently to new opportunities, you may wish to consider expanding your brainstorming to include external input. Ideas from customers, partners, and other external parties may offer invaluable insight, and a way to get ahead of the curve when it comes to market trends and reprioritisations. You might find that communication and collaboration are more crucial than ever, and that you’ll need to adapt your processes, find ways to streamline your workflows, increase productivity, and reduce wastage.

There’s no way around it. The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed our daily lives, and the same is true for our businesses. One thing is for sure, though. It has encouraged innovation, and we’re starting to see a true entrepreneurial spirit emerge. There’s a change from victim mentality to that of being a leader; businesses and communities are supporting each other, “local is lekker”, and sharing, collaborating, and innovating is at its best! And as the world begins to emerge from the crisis, we will find new ways to interact, entrepreneurs will actualise previously untenable business opportunities and reassess innovation strategies, consumers will be able to take advantage of new environments, and policy and regulations will adapt to keep everyone safer in the future.

The only way to discover the limits of what’s possible is to go beyond them to the impossible.” (Arthur C Clarke)

Five Easy Steps to Set Goals During Lockdown

Five Easy Steps to Set Goals During Lockdown

COVID-19 has turned everyone’s lives, hopes, and dreams inside out, and upside down. No-one, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity has been left untouched by the ramifications of this worldwide pandemic. Perhaps at the beginning of lockdown the thought of staying at home sounded exciting and different. We could finally do all the things we wanted, such as spend time with our families, pursue our hobbies, watch TV, or sleep late. But soon all those ideas became a little less exciting, and the novelty wore off. If we had ever thought about something like this in our lifetime, maybe it was associated with a “Big Bang”. I don’t believe that anybody would have believed that it would be an invisible virus that would have such a huge impact on the entire world!

Right now, everyone is experiencing an array of emotions ranging from high to low. We also have a steady stream of questions which don’t have answers, and an existential fear of what the future will hold. The media and social media platforms provide an overload of information, which we’re struggling to absorb, arrange, and understand. Every now and again, what we hear gives us a glimmer of hope that it will be over soon, and that the ramifications aren’t as severe. At other times, we’re overloaded with doom and gloom. Subconsciously, our minds are absorbing the news, but we can’t cope with the volume and negativity of it, and many of us feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, hopeless, and scared for the future. These emotions are all absorbed by our bodies, and we begin to show somatic symptoms of headaches, irritability, anger, lack of sleep, mood swings, or binge eating. Life with COVID-19 is testing us in terms of patience, compassion, self-love, empathy, and goal orientation.

I’m sure you’ve set some goals for 2020. These may be part of a New Year’s resolution, or your annual personal development process. These goals have now been turned on their head, and tossed out the window. Some may be on hold, others could be unattainable, and some may even be future dreams. Either way, your goals have undergone a change process. We need goals in our life because they give us meaning and structure. They help us stay motivated and focused, and, in the time of COVID-19, setting goals becomes a key coping strategy. That being said, we need to change our expectation of goal-setting in these times to ensure that our goals remain realistic and attainable. So, our goals need to be short-term, and we need to lower the standard of attainment. You might not agree with me on these two points, but we’re in an abnormal situation both emotionally and psychologically, and we can’t expect the same results as we would in any normal situation. You would be creating unrealistic demands on yourself, and setting yourself up for failure if you put more pressure on yourself; something you really don’t need right now. Slow and steady wins the race!

Five Easy Steps to Set Goals During Lockdown

I’m going to outline how you can set realistic goals during this time. These will make you feel more in control, with autonomy over the things you want to achieve. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” Begin with the outcome in mind, and then set the goals you want to achieve in the short-term. This easy and practical five-step process will help you turn problems into goals, and will allow you to take proactive control of your life.

Step 1: Define Short-term

You need to define what the short-term means for you. It can be as short as a week, month, or a quarter, but right now it’s not advisable to plan for longer than six months. Life is too fluid and unpredictable, so planning for longer can be too ambitious.

Step 2: Set the final goal

Setting goals isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most of the time we aren’t sure what we want or really need. So, you can approach it in one of two ways, and choose the method that feels natural to you, knowing that there is no right or wrong way – just your unique way. You can either say what you don’t want, or you can work from the point where you wake up in the morning and you’re living your ideal life. If you choose option 1, where you write down everything you don’t want, your next step is to list the things you have direct control over. Focus on these, and discard the ones you can’t control. Next, re-phrase what you don’t want to what the opposite would look or feel like. So, “I don’t want to continuously feel anxious,” would be “I want to feel calm and in control.” Continue until you have completed the entire list. If you choose option 2, you have visualised the final outcome and need to write down what you would like and need to get to the final destination. Complete this sentence: “I need to have …”. As an example, you could write, “I need to have a reliable income.” The power of these two approaches is that you have made a list of what you want to focus on, and what you need in your life right now.

Step 3: Prioritise your goals

You’re likely to have a long list of wants and needs, and this can sometimes feel quite overwhelming. You cannot realistically focus on everything on your list in the short term, and this means that you have to decide what’s important and urgent right now. The things that are the most pressing can be attended to quickly, and the more important ones will require some more planning and time. Research has proven that we can’t actively focus on more than three or four goals at one time. When one goal is attained, then you can relook at your list and add a new one to work on.

Step 4: Further rank your goals

Differentiate between whether the goal means that you need to act or think differently. Is it about behaving differently to get to the end result, or does it mean that you need to think differently? This information will help you to deepen your plan of action, what support you may need, and the length of time required. We all know that changing our thinking might require a big adjustment and getting into action.

Step 5: Plan of action

With your goals set out in front of you, brainstorm some things that you can do to move one step closer to achieving the goals. Don’t judge your ideas; simply write them down. You’ll revisit your ideas many times, and will adjust them as you go along. As mentioned before, focus on small incremental progress steps rather than huge leaps. The continuous progress, regardless how small, will assist you to feel positive, experience positive emotions, reduce worrying, and make you feel more in control.

 

In Conclusion: Short-term and small goals provide stability

Thanks to COVID-19, you’ll have to reassess old goals and introduce new ones. Having small goals to focus on every day will give you stability, purpose, and meaning. You’ll start to feel in control over your problems, and notice that you’re proactively addressing them. Becoming active also reduces anxiety and feelings of overwhelm, so get that piece of paper out and start with your five-step goal plan now. The positive outcome will surprise you.

We wish you awareness, resilience, and perseverance during this time. Please reach out to us via info@4seeds.co.za with your questions and feedback.

The 4Seeds Team

 

Three Simple Mindfulness Practices to Relieve Anxiety During Lockdown

Three Simple Mindfulness Practices to Relieve Anxiety During Lockdown

After the address by President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding our economic rehabilitation, and the update on the lockdown conditions in South Africa on Tuesday 23 April 2020, it’s understandable that as business owners and employees, we’re nervous about our future. We know that in order to flatten the curve, we’re going to need more time to recover, and for most there will be an uncomfortable feeling when we look into this uncharted and uncertain future. Finding ways to relieve anxiety is the best we can do for now, and we’ve put together three simple mindfulness practices to do just that, and to help you keep calm while in lockdown.

Before we dive into these three practices, we need to unpack the why, what, and how of anxiety. Having a solid understanding of anxiety is already a step in the right direction towards relieving its effects.

While depression is concern about past events, anxiety grows from having overwhelming feelings of stress, fear, and worry about the future. These thoughts and uncomfortable feelings can manifest into the following symptoms:

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Racing, or unwelcome thoughts
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increased body tension
  • Irritability

Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?

Diagnosing anxiety disorders needs to be done by a trained health professional, and usually you should approach it from a holistic perspective when wanting to reduce the symptoms of prolonged anxiety.

This article in no way aims to provide an alternative to conventional medical intervention; however, through it we will increase your awareness of the symptoms of anxiety, and offer three simple mindfulness practices to relieve anxiety during this challenging time.

 

What’s Mindfulness?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”

Before moving into any mindfulness practices, please remember that it’s not about judging your thoughts, or trying to push them away. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s the non-judgemental observation of your thoughts; noticing the impact they have on your body and emotions.

This approach may sound simplistic, but it’s not. Mindfulness requires the constant and repetitive retraining of the brain from being involved in the thoughts and stories, to becoming a quiet and non-judgemental observer. This takes time, practice, patience, and self-compassion. However, there are many benefits of practicing mindfulness regularly.

 

Three Simple Mindfulness Practices to Relieve Anxiety During Lockdown

 

Practice 1: Pay attention to your thoughts

A strong starting point for relieving your anxiety is to become aware of the thoughts you have that cause anxious feelings. As humans, we think rapidly and continuously. This has served us in our survival as a species because it allows us to predict threats, and plan our escape. However, despite the power of the mind to think in creative and adaptive ways, most people stick with similar, familiar thought patterns. Our brains tend to follow the most used pathways, so, when you start to pay attention to your thoughts, you’ll notice similar sequences and patterns of reasoning.

This first practice of mindfulness is to notice the thought patterns that elicit an anxious response in your body. Start noticing the unconscious and unhelpful stories your mind is looping through. This is a powerful first step in developing your mindfulness practice.

 

Practice 2: Do what makes you happy

In unprecedented times such as these, we’re being given the opportunity to engage in activities outside of our usual routines. Being able to play, relax, laugh, read, or cook, has become more rare in society over recent years as workplace demands and digital communication have increased. However, during lockdown, we’re being given the time and space to remember what we enjoy doing. This in itself may require you to shift your mindset around lockdown. If you do more of the things you enjoy, you’ll not only have time to move more easily, experience more positive emotions, and feel a deep sense of accomplishment, you’ll also be actively, consciously relieving your anxious symptoms.

This second mindfulness practice we’re encouraging you to try is to engage fully in what you enjoy doing. Use this time to completely release any thoughts while doing it. This is the practice of flow; it allows you to become completely absorbed in what you’re doing, and performing it for the pure inherent joy of doing it, rather than its outcome. Take the time to remind yourself of what you enjoy doing, and do it often. This simple mindfulness practice will allow you to combat your fears and worries for the future by helping you to stay present. You’ll experience more joy and positive emotions in your day. Give it a try – you’ve got nothing to lose!

 

Practice 3: Be Grateful

Gratitude has, over the past decade, become a common household concept. From social media posts to art and spiritual teachings, gratitude has become increasingly more recognised as an important emotion to experience and express.

The feeling of gratitude has been found to have dramatic physical and psychological benefits, and requires relatively little effort to practice.

Our final mindfulness practice to relieve anxiety during lockdown is to take the time to acknowledge and appreciate what you already have. Whether it’s taking stock at the end of each day as you get into bed, writing letters or journal entries, or simply expressing it to your loved ones, taking the time to notice what you’re grateful for is a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety. It reminds us to be in the present moment, find meaning and pleasure in the past, and feel positive emotions and hope for the future. Whether it’s as simple as being grateful for your morning cup of coffee or the roof over your head, finding at least three things that you’re grateful for will help you to remain calm, and keep an optimistic focus on your situation.

If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, and the various techniques which have been developed to combat depression, anxiety, and stress, look into the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn.

 

In Conclusion: Mindfulness Practices Relieve Anxiety

During these challenging, isolating, and worrying times, it’s imperative that we find ways to manage our anxieties and worries about the future. While traditional medical diagnosis and treatment may be necessary to manage stress from this uncertainty, what we’ve provided are three simple practices to relieve anxiety during lockdown. Each practice is not only simple and practical to do, it will help you to experience greater ease with your current situation, and help you to grow and become more resilient as we step into the unknown future.

We wish you awareness, resilience, and perseverance during this time. Please reach out to us via info@4seeds.co.za with your questions and feedback.

The 4Seeds Team

How to curb your anxiety and fear during lockdown

How to curb your anxiety and fear during lockdown

The current worldwide pandemic has brought about fear and anxiety in many people around the globe. With the changes in our routines, our work life, social distancing, mandatory lockdowns, shopping, kids, and our homes, the coronavirus has become a brutal psychological test for many. We’re worried about life, finances, our jobs and our health, running a family, and so much more. While in lockdown, working from home, and not having to go out might be easy for some, it’s not that simple for others, and causes much distress.

Fear, anxiety, worry, and many more emotions come up for many people. But how to deal with it? How do you ensure your mental peace and physical health don’t take a toll? How do you make sure everything is good around you, and that you remain strong for yourself and your loved ones?

We’re all wired to follow a certain set of patterns, so this change and uncertainty is bringing up a lot of insecurity; this will obviously lead to anxiety. It’s essential to remember that you’re not alone. We’re all going through this, and to help you to control your anxiety and fear during lockdown, we suggest the following strategies.

 

Tell yourself that this is not permanent

While problems and crises do happen, we must also remember that we have had our share of good times too.

Everything in life goes in a cycle. So, while there are ups and downs, none of it is permanent. It will eventually fade out, and life will return to normal. Keep telling yourself this; it will give you a sense of hope and long-term security.

 

Stay away from unnecessary information

While it’s good to be updated on what’s happening, and to take precautions accordingly, too much disturbing news, and the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases has a very strong impact. It brings up all the stored traumas in our subconscious mind, which will lead to more anxiety and fear.

Our advice is to limit your time on social media and the news, so as to avoid its impact on your mental health. You can, however, still adhere to the basics to help curb the crisis.

 

Practice gratitude

The benefits of practicing gratitude are endless. People who do this, taking time to notice and reflect on the things they’re thankful for, experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and have stronger immune systems.

Gratitude helps release serotonin (called the ‘happy chemical’, it contributes to well-being and happiness) into the bloodstream. This instantly elevates a person’s state of mind, and helps them to release their fears and worries.

Gratitude is not only about being thankful for positive experiences. In fact, sometimes thinking about negative or difficult situations can help to really nail down what you have to be thankful for.

Be grateful for your house, your body, food, and your family. Remind yourself how significant these things are, and how quickly we forget how important they are in our daily grind. Notice the good things, look for them, and appreciate them. Savour, absorb, and really pay attention to those things. Express your gratitude to yourself in your journal, or thank someone personally. Remembering these things and feeling grateful will also help switch your focus from a sorry state to a pleasant state of mind.

 

Create a flexible but consistent daily routine

Working from home sounds like a dream — pyjamas all day, slacking off, maybe even working from the couch! But it can get bleak and unproductive pretty quickly if not approached in the right way.

Even if you don’t have to keep the same hours you did when you were going into the office, try to have some kind of regular routine. Wake up and go sleep at the same time, exercise, watch TV when you usually watch TV, and eat regular meals. Dress for work! You can’t feel and act like a professional while wearing pyjamas. You’ll stay productive, and the more you stick to that routine, the easier it will be when you return to work.

 

Exercise and eat right

While we don’t have access to gyms, fitness classes, sport facilities, stadiums, public pools, and playgrounds, it doesn’t mean we should stop being physically active. There are plenty of online workouts you can do from the comfort of your home, and doing so can help your mental health. There are any number of exercises you can do without any equipment, and YouTube, Instagram and other social media platforms have channels that offer instruction in everything from yoga to Pilates to strength training. And, if you can still go outside to your garden, nothing beats a bit of gardening, and the extra Vitamin D is great for your immune system. These activities will not only keep you in shape, but they’ll also release toxins from the body. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and will release all your stored energy.

When it comes to eating, include more greens and water-based fruits, as they keep your mind and body balanced, active, and healthy. Your food does not have to be boring, and it’s actually the perfect time to experiment with new and exciting recipes.

 

Keep a clean and positive environment

A clean home really lifts our mood. Also, cleaning helps us feel a sense of accomplishment, and diverts our focus from what we’re feeling.

Do a deep spring-clean, and get rid of things that you no longer need. Organise and de-clutter your home and workspace. Not only will this protect against the spread of illness, but it also makes being cooped up in your home a lot more pleasant. Finish that list of chores you’ve been putting off, or never had time for. Also, find ways of putting out brightly coloured things, and play uplifting music. This will definitely enhance your environment, and make you more cheerful and relaxed.

 

Focus on what’s really important

And just like that, money, social status, and all that superficial stuff means absolutely nothing.

We often talk about our priorities in life. How many of us have actually stopped to really think about what’s most important to us (relationships, jobs, money, status, material objects)? Never mind how much time we spend on our priorities compared to the less important things. Well, now is as good a time as any to invest in what really matters.

Stay connected to your support network, and make sure it’s a healthy one. Check in with your close friends and family. Get on the phone, Skype, or FaceTime, and make time to connect regularly. You’ll probably need it, and so will everyone else.

Ask yourself what works for you. What are the circumstances that allow you to be your happiest, calmest, most energetic, and most productive? Try create the most favourable circumstances for yourself. Remove the things you don’t need, don’t use, and don’t love. You may find that you have more space to be creative, and you might get a boost in focus too. It’s irrational, but it’s true: There’s a lot we can’t control, but being able to manage the things we can control in our life will help lift heavy burdens, allow us to reconnect with what’s really important, and will bring a lot more peace and joy.

 

Use this time to visualise and create your future

We’re all worried about countless things at the moment. Our next paycheque, taking care of our loved ones, paying the bills, our relationships, and stability. Now’s the time to visualise and think about building a future.

Create a foundation of what you’d like to achieve once the pandemic is over. Visualisation helps us get clarity. It also helps in actualising our dreams and reality. This is the perfect time to think about our goals, and as we do that, our focus will shift from fear to what possibilities can be created. All of this will help us feel a sense of hope and positivity.

This is an unprecedented time, and you’re doing the best you can. We don’t know how long this isolation will last, but think about how much better things are going to be on the other side. We’ll be able to visit people, go to our offices, and most importantly we’ll have a better understanding of what matters and how we want to deal with the future. Be grateful for this time, think of the end goal, and take things day by day.

We’re resilient people, and we will get through this!

These techniques are there to help you to deal with fear and anxiety. If you feel as if your emotions are building up and they’re too much to handle, it’s advisable to talk to someone or seek professional help. The team at 4 Seeds is here to help with personal and business coaching to provide the support, expertise, and resources you need to manage yourself, your business, and your employees in this challenging time.

Watch Out: The Five Pitfalls That Impair Resilience

Watch Out: The Five Pitfalls That Impair Resilience

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension to the nationwide lockdown, we were all forced to find internal resources to manage our stress, and our worries about the effect this will have on our companies, the South African economy, and our country as a whole. What we all need now is strategies to build resilience in the face of uncertainty, and to find ways to not only cope, but to thrive through this adversity.

This article will outline how South Africa is already a resilient nation, and will make you aware of the five most common pitfalls that impair resilience, and that reduce our ability to manage and grow from adversity.

 

South Africans Are Already Resilient

Because of our challenging and tumultuous past, South Africans have developed an incredible level of resilience, compared to other nations. According to the 2019 FM Global Resilience Index, South Africa ranks number 47. Updated annually, the FM Global Resilience Index is the only tool that compares risk in nearly 130 countries. While you may wish South Africa featured higher up on the scale, it’s important to note that we’re within the second quartile, which for a small developing nation really puts us on the map. The FM Global Resilience Index assesses businesses in different countries according to the following measures:

  • Economic Resilience
  • Risk Quality
  • Supply Chain

It’s estimated that the coronavirus pandemic will potentially cause an estimated drop in our economy of between 2% and 4%, which is extremely high. However, we have the ability to bounce back from this tragic global pandemic.

South Africa has a highly innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. We have overcome many challenges  in the past, and have continued to grow despite our many setbacks.

We have the capacity, the energy and the will to overcome this global shutdown by further strengthening our resources, and building resilience in the face of uncertainty.

 

Watch Out: The Five Pitfalls that Impair Resilience

Resilience is one of those traits that we admire in others, and often wish we had more of in ourselves. It’s a key ingredient that we use as a buffer to ensure that we don’t spiral downwards too much when challenges or traumas happen. Resilience is a crucial coping tool that helps us to manage daily life with much more ease. Most of us learn to become resilient through life experiences, but how can you start building resilience in the face of uncertainty right now? A powerful way is to start noticing these five pitfalls.

  1. Jumping to conclusions

At times like these, we’re being asked to slow down and not act in haste. While it may be extremely challenging to make decisions during this time of uncertainty, it’s important to remind ourselves that we must not respond reactively.

We don’t have the facts, and we don’t have a blueprint for how to manage these uncharted waters. Rather, we need to keep our cool and not make rash decisions or come to unsubstantiated conclusions.

Become aware of where you may be falling into this trap. Not only does it impact your mental health, but acting reactively can prevent you from being resilient and moving in the right direction with conviction and with confidence.

  1. Tunnel vision

In times of stress, it’s normal for the human brain to go into fight-or-flight mode. When we’re in a place of fear, we’re not able to see the bigger picture, and can quickly only see doom and gloom, or the worst-case scenario.

While preparing for the worst may seem like your only option, it’s important to remember to take a step back and to look at the bigger picture. Look for ways to innovate, solve problems, and respond with resilience rather than with fearful tunnel vision.

Use this opportunity to learn to be open-minded. Direct your energy towards innovative and strategic conversations based on resilience, forward-thinking, and your organisation’s vision for the future.

  1. Personalising

While the coronavirus pandemic is a global issue, we can still make the mistake of personalising it, and thus reducing our capacity for resilience – and tolerance.

When we personalise things, we will only see our own faults and how we have not been proactive or resourceful enough to prepare for what’s happening. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to remind ourselves that no one knew this would happen, and no one could have adequately prepared for this uncertainty.

You and your organisation are not the problem! We’re all in this together, and there is nothing you could have done that would have prevented the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

  1. Externalising

This is one of the most common pitfalls. Externalising is the process of blaming outside factors for the problem, and not considering your own contribution to either the problem, or the solution.

At times such as these, it’s easy to look at authority figures and government officials with a magnifying glass, seeking the faults in their actions, and only putting a negative perspective on how the situation is being managed.

A key part of building resilience is being aware of the positive aspects of adversity, remaining optimistic, and finding the lessons in the challenges. The best way to get around this pitfall is to pause when you feel like criticising the actions being taken by decision makers, and be humble and proactive about how your actions could help to improve things. We’re all affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s up to each of us to look for solutions and to develop strategies to manage this situation.

  1. Assuming

While this may be the hardest pitfall to avoid, we need to become aware of what we assume others are thinking or feeling. The truth is we’re all responsible for our own well-being, resilience, and solutions. There is no advice you can give another person right now. If you feel you have advice to give, perhaps it’s YOU that needs to hear it.

Be careful of telling others how you think they should be managing their stress or feelings. Don’t assume that you know or understand. Take responsibility for your own situation, and find your best strategies for managing this uncertainty.

 

In Conclusion

At this time of nationwide lockdown and ever-increasing uncertainty, resilience is our best resource for managing stress and finding positive solutions and ways forward. As South Africans, we’re already a resilient nation. We’re enthusiastic, optimistic, and creative, and we need to harness these strengths during this time.

These are some key behaviours and limiting beliefs which we need to become aware of. We need to preserve our energy and maintain our well-being, individually, organisationally, and collectively in order to manage this uncertainty. Remember to keep a check on these things, and in return you’ll be giving yourself greater resources to build resilience and bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.

Five Ways You Can Manage your Negative Emotions During Lockdown

Five Ways You Can Manage your Negative Emotions During Lockdown

Emotions are highly contagious, and it’s at times like these that we need to be vigilant about the emotions we’re experiencing and sharing with the people around us. Whether it’s fear, anger, frustration, or sadness, learning how to manage your negative emotions has never been more important than it is right now. In this article, we share five ways that will help you manage your negative emotions during lockdown. Why? Well, let’s first have a look at the impact that these powerful emotions can have on our system.

 

Unprocessed Negative Emotions Can Make You Ill

Emotions are high at the moment. They could either be fear of the future, or gratitude for privileges that allow us to be safe and healthy. All emotions are OK right now. However, it’s good to be aware that negative emotions like anger, anxiety, or fear create energy and movement in the same way that positive emotions like joy, love, and forgiveness move us forward.

The challenge is that negative emotions are generally not seen as socially acceptable, whereas positive emotions are favoured. The reason for this is that negative emotions drain us and make us feel low and uncomfortable. They also reduce our overall level of well-being, and the extent of bodily damage caused by suppressing negative emotions can crystallise into cardiovascular diseases, or even cancer. We’re not telling you this to scare you; rather to help you to see the value of processing, rather than suppressing, your emotions.

Now more than ever, we need to give ourselves permission to feel the negative emotions and allow them to flow without repressing or holding on to them. It’s precisely this state of suppression that drains our energy and leads to health problems like stress, high blood pressure, or digestive disorders. In very simple terms, disease is triggered by the right side of the brain which in turn spills over into our glands and hormones, and results in the entire body being affected with negative emotions.

It’s therefore vital, especially now when we’re in such a difficult time, to share ways to manage your negative emotions during lockdown.

 

Five Ways You Can Manage your Negative Emotions

We need to learn to cope and manage our negative emotions by making them felt, and letting them come and go. We must give ourselves permission to have emotions move through our body without stopping them or attaching to their stories. The only emotions which will serve us at this time will be calm, humour, and gratitude, and we need to find strategies to increase our experiences of these over this global lockdown.

 

1.     Use water wisely

Whenever we wet our face and neck, we activate the vagus nerve which has a relaxation and reset function on our body. So once you’ve washed your hands, you can also splash water on your face which will immediately provide you with an emotion reset.

 

2.     Limit the time spent on social media

While it’s tempting to spend this “free” time trolling the internet for the latest reports, updates, regulations, or friends’ posts, it’s vital that we monitor the amount of time we spend on social media. It is a precious resource at this time of social distancing, but we need to be aware of all the information that we’re receiving – not all of which is true, healthy, or helpful. Be mindful of your screen time, and take this time to challenge yourself to engage in creative, handy, and physical tasks around your home. Bake that bread, read that book, or spring-clean that cupboard in your garage. Start that novel you’ve always wanted to write! Make the most of this time at home. Spend it with yourself or your loved ones. The positive emotions from these experiences can quickly and easily outweigh the fear mentality which can be in overdrive at this time.

 

3.    Write it down

Journaling about a negative emotion allows us to process and order our thoughts. This makes it easier to make sense of a situation and to let it go. Be aware of sharing these writings on social media! This can make your emotions more contagious to others. Be sensitive about what you’re sharing, and with whom.

 

4.    Give yourself space to reflect

There’s no better time than the present to be developing your emotional intelligence. When emotions rise, start asking yourself:

“What emotion am I feeling?”

“Why am I feeling this way?”

“How can I best release this emotion and not attach to it?”

Give yourself time to process this; however make a cut-off time for your reflection. Spend the time you need, and then consciously stop mulling over it. Your time is up – you’ve had enough time to dwell.

 

5.     Practice gratitude

Bring your emotions into balance by looking at the positive moments in your day. Don’t give the latest update on the news the power to ruin your entire day. Try and counterbalance all the negative news by identifying three positive emotions or situations for each negative one you feel. There’s plenty to be grateful for – whether it’s as simple as Cape Town rain (or a Highveld thunderstorm), the turning of the seasons, or the sound of birds outside. Take time to reconnect with what you have, rather than tuning in to what you don’t.

 

In Conclusion

Emotions are just that: emotions. They exist, and they’re part of us. Embrace them, and learn to manage them. Don’t repress or ignore them. Rather, use these five ways to manage your negative emotions, to acknowledge them, and to take in the lessons they have to teach you. Unprocessed emotions are silent carriers of disease and psychological illness, so find ways to express and process your emotions in healthy but effective ways.

Our negative emotions aren’t bad. They’re powerful indicators of our fears, shadows, and frustrations, and can help us to know ourselves better.

Be safe. Be vigilant. Be compassionate. Be brave.

Wishing you all luck during this time of national lockdown.

From the 4Seeds team.

 

 

Five Techniques to Boost your Leadership Confidence

Five Techniques to Boost your Leadership Confidence

Confidence has many faces. We’re generally drawn to confident people because we associate confidence with success, and find confident people charismatic, approachable, and inspirational. A confident person has an aura of trust and knowingness about them, which makes it easy to follow them, listen to them, and not question their decisions.

If we look back in history, we see many confident monarchs, military officials, politicians, and enlightened leaders. Now, in current turbulent times, where decisions are made quickly, and technology changes all the time, leaders still need to appear confident and assertive. Truth be told, though, deep down many of them aren’t. They’re riddled with self-doubt, question their own competencies, skills, and actions; they feel like they aren’t good enough and don’t have all the answers. They doubt their actions and behaviour, which doesn’t help their decision-making ability and their efforts to create positive change in their organisations.

Leaders search for an ideal balance, without wanting to appear overconfident because that can be perceived as arrogant by their team members. They also don’t want to have an over-optimistic risk appetite which leads to them not considering everything before making a decision. On the other hand, they don’t want to come across as lacking confidence because then they may be perceived as weak, a pushover and unable to make decisions.

 

What is Confidence?

Confidence is the optimistic self-belief that we can perform a task to our own standard or that of others. It is made up of two components: 1) self-efficacy, and 2) self-esteem. We develop self-efficacy through learning, and by acquiring skills that we then use and develop during our lifetime. Self-esteem is how we perceive ourselves based on the approval and recognition we receive from the outside world.

 

Confidence in the Body

Confidence is more than just feeling good about ourselves or thinking positively. It’s built on the foundation of our past achievements and successes. As with most human behavioural elements, there is a nature and nurture aspect to it. Nature gives us our genetic make-up, and is something that we can’t influence at all. Thankfully nurture comes into play, and we can grow and develop our level of confidence. Most confidence is developed through things like our upbringing, culture, value system, life experience, emotions, past memories, and stress levels. Growing and developing confidence starts by training our brain to become more attuned to our way of thinking and acting. Research shows that confidence activates the rewards and pleasure part of our brain, thus signalling that it wants us to repeat confident behaviour because we feel more cheerful, enthusiastic, energised, and happier. Confidence rewards us with positive emotions, and this will encourage us to repeat the behaviour.

 

Techniques to Boost your Leadership Confidence

Now that you have a clear understanding of what confidence is, let’s look at some practical steps to boost your confidence. Remember, though, that with all behavioural change items there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. These are only suggestions, and you need to personalise them to suit you.

Technique 1: Surround yourself with positive, confident people – This sounds very obvious, but we seldom apply it. Look for friends, colleagues, or mentors who exude confidence. Hang out with them! Bask in their energy, and be encouraged to set goals that you would otherwise be fearful to achieve. It takes a mere seven minutes to absorb their confident energy and for you to start believing in yourself. Do this as often as you can, because the environment that you operate in plays an important role.

Technique 2: Accept compliments graciously – Many people feel very awkward when receiving compliments, and brush them off as nothing special. Stop doing this! People will stop giving you compliments, and you need them to boost your confidence. Say thank you graciously, and reflect on how you can repeat this behaviour.

Technique 3: Review past successes – Confidence is built on past successes and achievements. We learn more from our success than we do from our failures, so look at what you did, how you did it, and who you surrounded yourself with at the time. Don’t limit yourself by only remembering the big successes; rather review the ones that made your heart swell, and that you are really proud of. Become aware of the strengths that you applied at the time.

Technique 4: Visualise your success – Close your eyes and see that success, feel it, and then drill that image into your mind. Make sure that you can remember it easily. Your brain doesn’t know whether it’s reality or not, so it will react as if it is, and will behave confidently. This is where the saying “Fake it until you make it” comes from.

Technique 5: Reframe what you want – We’re naturally really good at saying what we don’t want, but find it challenging to say what we do want. Confident people are able to express what they want, by when, and how, so you need to learn to reverse your thinking. Articulate what you need, from whom, how, and by when, and you’ll be surprised at the outcome. People will really appreciate this clear level of communication.

 

In Closing

Seventy percent of leaders build confidence through work experience and conscious effort. This means that you can do this by beginning to set bite-sized goals that will enable you to be successful.

Take the first step… but remember to keep the momentum going all the time.