“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, which has for centuries occupied the minds of academics as a time of renewal and new beginnings. The change of season has an undeniable impact on our emotions and day to day performance. As we find ourselves in the full flow of Autumn, especially after a summer of uncertainty, we can often feel somewhat desensitised. But do remember that change is good – and the seasons changing is visually one of the best ways for us to feel as if change has happened. It’s healthy for us to recognise that, despite the uncertainty caused by everything we might have been through, we’re still moving forwards. This month, we will focus on how you can embrace the change that Autumn brings, and ask if a season of low mood is inevitable, or if there is anything that we can do to change it. We also address why our experiences over the past eighteen months may have triggered a guilt or shame response, and share some science-based tools that will help you to navigate through these feelings. If you feel you need some support or assistance with anything you have read today, either from a coaching point of view or as an organisation wanting to implement mental performance training (don't forget World Mental Health Day is fast approaching and will take place on October 10, 2021) just send us an email here - we'd love to hear from you.
Guilt - A Lingering Effect of the Pandemic? The cumulative nature of Covid-19 related stressors may be a perfect storm to result in a guilt and shame response. Many of us will be feeling an unwanted remorse for the things that we have not been able to control, and these feelings may be further impounded this month as we focus on World Mental Health Day on October 10, and this year's theme of ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’. Guilt and shame can present themselves in many different ways. It might be that you feel self-conscious about the good things in your life — or even your own survival — when others have suffered so greatly. It might be that you feel guilty over your choices you make as you try to live your life again; enjoying an evening with friends, attending a gathering or event, or even feel guilt over having to say ‘no’ to friends and family in order to prioritise your own wellbeing. According to Forbes, many entrepreneurs are currently experiencing 'Pandemic Success Guilt': as spending habits changed during 2020, so did purchases, changing the fate of those that supplied them. So for some, the pandemic itself grew their business and was positively transformational. Feelings of guilt may be particularly prevalent among healthcare professionals - an October survey of 14,000 healthcare staff in the United Kingdom, including clinicians consultants and nurses, found that 51 percent had sought mental health support during the pandemic. The report highlights that feeling unjustified guilt is often caused by a sincere desire to help others, combined with a sense of helplessness. But the good news is that there are ways that we can pull ourselves out of the pandemic guilt spiral. We recommend these tips from the experts at Hackensack Meridian Health, or you can download these 3 Self-Compassion Exercises from Positive Psychology.com. These science-based exercises can not only help you increase the compassion and kindness you show yourself but will also give you the tools to help your clients, students, or employees show more compassion to themselves. If helpful, to identify if self-compassion may be a challenge for you, you can access a measurement tool here. It is important for us to understand that we are wrestling with guilt due to loss of control and wondering what more we could or should be doing. As we regain our confidence, these feelings are likely to ease.
Seeing SAD in a New Light It’s been known for a long time that changing seasons affect our circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. Although a bout of the bad-weather blues can be normal as we approach autumn and winter, you may also be suffering from the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This can have a remarkable impact on our daily lives and often, prevent us from performing to the best of our ability. Firstly, you need to establish whether you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, as this is different to the winter blues. Kelly Rohan, PhD, is leading a five-year study on people who suffer from SAD and highlights the differences in this short video. SAD is sometimes assumed to have a purely biological basis – levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin are generally lower in winter than in summer. This is why SAD is often treated using standard antidepressant drugs, as well as psychotherapies. Regardless of the cause, it's important to ask ourselves: is suffering inevitable, or is there anything you can do to change it? Studies have shown that the further north people live, the more positive their winter mindset. During the darkest periods of the polar night, Tromsø in Norway only receives two to three hours of indirect sunlight, yet the citizens’ wellbeing barely changed during the course of the year. The findings build on decades of previous research showing that the mental framing of stressful events can powerfully influence the ways we are affected by them. People who see stressful events as 'challenges', but with an opportunity to learn and adapt, tend to have better coping mechanisms. These differences in mindset not only influence people’s mood, but also their physiological responses, such as changes in blood pressure and heart rate, and how quickly they recover after the event. So, although there’s nothing you can do about the external environment, how you respond to what’s happening is entirely within your control. There are several approaches to help treat more severe cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, for milder symptoms, the answer could also lie in rethinking your daily routine (including taking off the sunglasses in the Autumn sun, and daily Vitamin D). These simple lifestyle tweaks from Psychology Today may be worth a try, if you suffer from SAD or are prone to the winter blues. The mental health charity, Mind also have some helpful suggestions on how you can practice self care as the days get shorter.
Choose Your Mindset this Autumn 'Life is flux', said the philosopher, Heraclitus. The Greek philosopher pointed out in 500 BC that everything is constantly shifting, and becoming something other to what it was before. Heraclitus concluded that since the very nature of life is change, to resist this natural flow is to resist the very essence of our existence. 'There is nothing permanent except change', he said. How we handle change is the essence of our existence and the key to happiness, particularly in our current times of uncertainty. Following the lead of our Scandinavian friends and according to Forbes, there are many ways that we can actively look to embrace the change of season, by being aware of how we are responding to change and adapting our mindset. One way of doing this, is to remind yourself of pleasurable winter events, and make a list of the activities you enjoy during the cold months – perhaps ice skating, winter walks or curling up beside a fire with a mug of hot chocolate. Smell the crisp winter air; enjoy how the cold makes your skin glow; and watch the flickering flames as you savour a warm drink. This exercise is a great form of mindfulness, and will enhance your pleasure when you actually undertake these activities, making you less likely to stay stuck in a negative frame of mind. Sometimes, simple actions can have effective outcomes. Planting some seeds indoors and watching the seedlings wake up can be a helpful reminder of how naturally change and growth happen. Food can have a detrimental effect on your mood, so don't forget to nourish your body from the inside, and get outdoors – nature is proven to benefit our mental health, and its enjoyment is not exclusive to the warmer months. If you’re still reluctant to leave the summer months behind, you can try watching 'Why You Should Embrace Autumn' – a video brought to us by Huffpost.
Our Book of the Month is 'Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance' by Alex Hutchinson. In 'Endure', Alex Hutchinson, Ph.D. reveals why our individual limits may be determined as much by our head and heart, as by our muscles. He presents an overview of science’s search for understanding human fatigue - both emotional and physical, and what we can do to stretch these perceived limits. This book seeks to discover what really defines a person’s limits and their ability to perform. The author examines the extremes of human endurance as we evolve as a species, constantly testing both our physical and psychological limits and performance outcomes. This unique book presents us with scientific evidence which will challenge any existing beliefs you have about the limitations of your own ability - we hope that you enjoy it as much as we did!
The Performance Club wishes you and your teams all the best as we transition, once again into the next phase of our lives. Wishing you a happy and prosperous month ahead.
Kind regards, Stacy Thomson Founder of The Performance Club sent on behalf of all of the team