26 September 2023

Flex time: How to be more adaptable during difficult times

Start the conversation

Heidi Hanna* says that in uncertain and stressful times like these, we need to reframe how we look at challenges.

Photo: Martinan

As a scientist researching human adaptability, these unprecedented times provide the most extraordinary opportunities for learning.

I grew up with intense bouts of anxiety and depression, and I would never have considered myself a poster child for learning how to adapt.

But what I see clearly now is that it is exactly this path, and my willingness to stay curious along the way, that has helped me develop the adaptability skill sets necessary to thrive in the midst of challenging circumstances.

The tools and techniques I use on a daily basis to stay focused and flexible feel like superpower assets in a world twisted upside down.

What is adaptability?

Adaptability is an adjusted state of being.

When someone is adaptable, they are able to grow as a result of challenging circumstances.

In times like these where we face daily uncertainty and elevated levels of stress, discomfort, and disorder, we need to reframe how we look at challenges.

Each challenge is an opportunity to evolve and grow.

By taking steps to be more open and flexible, you will retrain your brain and your body to be more adaptable.

The following mindset makeovers reflect new ways of thinking and working — specific pivots you can make to better navigate the world’s new normal.

#1 Get to know your relationship with stress

Ultimately, our experiences with stress are based on the relationship we have with the circumstances of our lives.

This is based on our actual demand/capacity ratio in any given moment, plus the lens through which we see it.

When we are able to stop, assess the situation, appreciate that our stress reactions are trying to help us and only hurt us when they linger for too long, we can then be strategic about the specific adjustments we can make to shift our stress in better directions.

This allows us to quickly close the gap between stimulus and response.

Utilising our whole brain processes to make better decisions and navigate stress more effectively over time.

#2 Learn to rest as if it’s a new skill

As we shelter-in-place during the pandemic, we can take time for a much-needed chance for rest, recovery, and restoration.

We used to see pushing through as something to be admired, even when it created more problems as a result.

But working when you’re sick is not a sign of drive.

When you are not fully energised and engaged, your personal and organisational health and performance suffer.

No longer can we put health and wellness low on the priority list or nice-to-have perks for employees.

Your physical, mental, and emotional health are all work relevant.

Recognise that how you eat, move, sleep, rest, and connect impacts your ability to show up as your best self.

Make rest and self-care a part of your work-essential activities.

And put measures in place to make personal and collective recharge time a priority.

#3 Commit to spreading positivity

I’ve always said that stress and negativity are often contagious.

The same goes for love, gratitude, kindness, and compassion.

Positivity can spread through a text, an email, or a passing glance.

As the fabulous neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor shares in her book My Stroke of Insight, we must be responsible for the energy we bring into the space we share with others.

The more you notice and experience every micro expression of positivity towards yourself and others, the more you can see possibilities for growth in even the most difficult circumstances.

Simply by shifting your focus to what’s good in life, you can create a more flexible, and adaptable state of being.

* Heidi Hanna is a Senior Researcher at the Brain Health Initiative in San Diego, California.

This article first appeared at learning.linkedin.com.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.