The whole world knows by now: our President has fired James Comey, the head of the FBI. This was surprising news to almost everyone. It is unsettling. Kind of like the way the election happened: unexpected and dramatic.
Regardless of how you voted, when unexpected things happen—especially on this scale—our brains take the wheel and start steering our minds. Kind of like when the person you went out on that great first date with does not answer your carefully-worded “so-grateful-to-be-with-you” text for three days. You do not ordinarily think “Wow, he loves me, and is just taking three days to prepare a love note back!” This is largely because of how our brains work. They are responsible for our survival and they take that job very seriously.
It does not matter whether we like or dislike him, when our President fires a fellow–especially with the context of this situation–it is troubling for some of us. Unless you are a Buddhist monk who has been meditating for 30+ years, you are likely to have some subtle inner anxiety. You may not even feel it. But it is there.
Comey, said he felt “slightly nauseous” at the idea that his letter might have impacted the election.
I feel slightly nauseous reading the news of this event and the reactions to it. Have you noticed more people seem sick lately? And there appears to be a higher level of under the surface anxiety at work and at home? Have you seen people who are not normally ill who are sick? Have you also noticed that some people are slower to do business with you? To sign a simple contract?
If you observe some of this it could be because there is a heightened level of stress and anxiety. I do not believe our President intends to raise the level of fear in our country, it just is what is happening. What can be done about it? Plenty.
Anxiety is not good for children or adults or business. One of our main jobs right now is to do all we can to reduce our anxiety. I am doing so by gardening and reading kind words many people have written about me and my work. I took half of today off to prepare my straw bales for planting this weekend. What can you do?
Here are seven ideas that will help you now:
1. Breathe. This still one of the simplest, cheapest and best ways to reduce anxiety and create a sense of calm. 10 deep breaths usually does it for me…from your lower belly, not your upper chest. Eyes closed. (try it now)
2. Exercise. This is the wrong time to skip your exercise. I am making sure to get at least an hour of vigorous exercise at least three times a week
3. Show appreciation to co-workers. This may be extra challenging, because the stress meter may be higher for many right now. Take the time to share what you appreciate about one co-worker, and include how what they do well makes you feel and what need of yours it meets. At your next meeting take the time to appreciate the contribution of each person there. 30 seconds per person.
4. Hold others accountable. Do not let Minnesota Nice, or any other excuse keep you from being gentle and direct with someone who is misusing power, or just not getting the job done. (call me for help on this one).
5. Take control of your anxiety. Because of how our brain’s work (especially our amygdala) we need to proactively move towards positive things. Dig out the notes from the stress management class. Practice mindfulness and yoga. This is the right time to do all that stuff you used to think was unnecessary “hippie fluff”. Do the hippie fluff.
6. Realize that others also have a high level of anxiety right now. Be extra careful when doing anything new at work. Frame comments with extra care. Practice empathetic listening and compassionate speaking. Remember your rank, both internal and by virtue of your title.
7. Heal trauma. I have a theory that one of Trump’s unintentional jobs is to step on as many “broken toes” as he can. He is doing a great job so far. A lot of people who were traumatized by people who act like our President are feeling re-traumatized. This could be an invitation for them/us, to deal with that original trauma.
Our President is not a saber-toothed tiger. We can manage our emotions. We can practice all those calming things that we know will help us stay balanced.
These ways of managing stress used to be considered extra-curricular things for certain people with a lot of spare time. They are becoming more essential now than ever, for us all. And they will help us grow stronger businesses and make a positive impact on our world, which needs calm leaders who have interest in the common good.