Thought for the Week: Start by establishing some ground beneath your feet

Working hard at social change can't be sustained if you don't look out for yourself, too – so, in our new series, we're inviting experts to share guidance, reflections and exercises to help social impact leaders through difficult times. This time, leadership coach and mindfulness teacher Tim Segaller offers a simple exercise to rest and reboot.

You hardly need me to tell you that these are times of great turbulence and uncertainty. Social enterprises will be facing their own particular challenges in the short, medium and long term. I don’t pretend to have solutions for these. But I hope I can help you weather the storm, and take care of yourselves in the process.

In this first piece, I want to help you establish some ground beneath your feet. It has to start here, particularly at times of great challenge. Sure, this doesn’t directly impact cashflow or contracts, but if you’re feeling steady and clear in yourself, you’re better placed to find the creative solutions you need.

The Covid-19 crisis is a classic example of what may seem like an overwhelming external challenge – potentially leading to frantic fire-fighting and plate-spinning, leaving you and your teams stressed, exhausted and inefficient.

This exercise gives your brain a ‘power rest’, allowing the mind to become clearer and sharper, and the body more energised. It’s like rebooting yourself

It needn’t be like this. The key is to step out of the automatic, fear-based reactions of the brain’s more primitive parts, and to open up access to our wiser neo-cortex. Neuroscience research has demonstrated that the most effective way to do this is by training ourselves to pay gentle, curious attention to our present-moment physical experience. This creates space for reflection and reframing of our experience. In the process, it builds new neural pathways that activate brain parts associated with wellbeing, calm and clarity. This is exactly what mindfulness training does. At Rising Minds, we use a simple ABC formula for resilience:

  • ​Awareness – of your mental and physical experience
  • Being with experience – creating space to deal with intractable problems and challenging emotions
  • Choosing wisely – by responding flexibly instead of reacting automatically

For a taste of this approach, try this short exercise: Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Notice sensations of breathing in your belly. If your mind gets distracted – by thoughts, memories or plans – just come back to your breathing. Keep doing this for a few minutes.

This exercise gives your brain a ‘power rest’, allowing the mind to become clearer and sharper, and the body more energised. It’s like rebooting yourself – to approach whatever is ahead of you with more clarity and resolve. This is what resilience is all about, and it’s arguably the most important capacity you need right now to help you adapt wisely to fast-changing conditions.

You can cultivate resilience by practising mindfulness techniques daily. Feel free to use our guided meditations here.  You may also find helpful our specially designed free video course on effective working from home.

In my next two pieces, I’ll explore the importance of staying true to your deeply-held social vision and purpose, even when there may feel like other factors forcing you away. And I’ll look at how social enterprises can and must connect and join forces with others at this critical time.

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