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a blog by Chris Barrow

Covid-19, PTSD and The Chimp

I'm beginning to think that lockdown 2.0 has become more challenging to live and work through then lockdown 1.0.

The first time around, we were in a panic - but able to sit at home to think and plan a way forward (aided by countless forums and webinars to share the pain and generate expert answers).

Second time around, we have to show up to work IN our businesses in challenging circumstances and then either stay late or arrive home to work ON our businesses, to the detriment of family and self-care. No time, either, to catch up on reading or attending online meetings to stay abreast and/or feel part of a community.

My observation in the last few weeks has been a form of Covid-19 related PTSD that is sapping the enthusiasm and energy of owners, managers and team members alike.

This week I have had a number of quite separate conversations with Principals during which I have waved at the Zoom screen my copy (never far away) of "The Chimp Paradox" - the 2012 groundbreaking book by psychiatrist and sports performance coach Prof. Steve Peters.

The Chimp in question is the limbic (emotional) brain. The Paradox is that The Chimp can be our best friend or our worst enemy. The book is about dealing with what happens when The Chimp whispers in our ear that we are not good enough, that our plans will fail, that we are the imposter. When we start comparing our inside with everyone else's outside.

I've recounted this week the story that my Chimp attacks me every September, when we begin marketing our coaching programme(s) for the following calendar year. Phillippa and Rachel will tell you that I repeat the same behaviours every 12 months, fantasising that we will have no clients and I'll be out of work, revealed as that imposter.

Rachel Turner will also confirm that we have the same coaching session every year during which she asks me to grab and pen and paper and:

"Make a list of the top 10 reasons that The Chimp is wrong."

Every year the list.

Every year I'm cured in 30 minutes and then gird up my loins and carry on.

This year no exception - anxiety at the start of September, followed by three months of head-down marketing, resulting in confidence before Christmas that we are going to have a good 2021.

Four times this week I've had clients create the list for themselves and I've seen the effects on confidence, body language, tone of voice - even facial expression.

So there we have a trend - Covid-19 PTSD, leading to a lack of confidence, which requires a recalibration of The Chimp.

As a friend said yesterday:

  • Depression - is about the past;

  • Anxiety - is about the future.

They are both curses for those who suffer and yet completely useless emotions - nothing gets better or changes.

Today - that's about exhaustion for many of the people I speak to and I suspect that sometimes it is just that complete exhaustion that creates the vacuum into which depression or anxiety can step.

It is essential that you make the list and stop The Chimp. Then take action.

Once you have written your list and realised that your Chimp is wrong - you then have to be able to do something to prove it - and that requires a close attention to;

  • Balance (SNEF - sleep, exercise, nutrition and fun);

  • Priority (not time) management (make a list, A, B, C the list - do the A's first);

  • Boundaries (DND time and time to work ON the business as well as IN the business).

Your Chimp is wrong - you can do this - make the list.

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