Fight or flight: how to stop fear from driving decisions

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The pandemic has put mental wellbeing into sharp focus. The unavoidable truth is stress, depression and anxiety are more damaging to humanity and the economy than any infectious disease. The UK economy lost almost £92 billion in 2019 as a result of ill-health. That was pre-Covid-19. Now, most of us are just tired, burnt out, stressed out. Heading for an inevitable crash, or maybe not? Perhaps there’s a window of opportunity in all this misery? Hold that thought. 

The crisis has put an insurmountable strain on our mental wellbeing. A recent report by the Office of National Statistics stated 25 million people in the UK have experienced high levels of anxiety over the past few months. It’s not surprising really. What we need as humans to maintain a happy, healthy, havoc-free life has been hindered and it’s taking a toll on our emotions and behaviours. This is bad for many reasons. We need to rally together to take care of ourselves and others right now. This is where you come in. “If you don't take care of your employees, they won't take care of your business.”  

180 mindsets

Most of us are human behind the scenes at nudge so we’re navigating the same murky waters as you. One thing’s for sure - we’re all in this together. We also spend lots of time analysing our data and discussing psychology - things like instincts, circumstances, fears - all aspects that make us who we are and influence the actions we take. Our analysis tells us that within the space of four months, March to June this year, our financial mindsets made a 180

So where’s the window here? Some of us are still struggling to see any light. We propose there’s an opportunity, amongst this adversary, to understand our collective behaviours in the face of crisis. Then we can be equipped to address our fears, learn to cope better and make stronger decisions post Covid-19, and against other threats. If we’re prepared, with a plan, we’re in a more powerful position to respond without letting our emotions drive us. Didn’t you know - having a plan is proven to alleviate stress? Hence why budgets bring us so much joy - or is that just us?

Higher state of anxiety

Let’s face it, we are all suffering from higher levels of stress right now. Most of us didn’t see Covid-19 coming, although it was predicted by many. It’s been a massive shock to the system. Individuals coping with increasing levels of stress and anxiety are operating within fight-or-flight mode. It’s an instinctive response to a threat - our primitive brain pushing us to survive. The problem is, other parts of our brain, important ones, tend to shut down and we become laser-focused on the threat. When we try to problem-solve while our sympathetic nervous system is kicking into overdrive, unless we genuinely need to run, we’re near useless to anyone. 

Fight-or-flight also means decision making becomes challenging. Simple decisions are how we navigate our daily home and work-life. Without the ability to respond quickly, we lose a big component in our productivity and command. Weakening our position at work and perhaps impacting personal relationships. In fact experts expect, “divorce rates to spike post-pandemic when courts are open and operating again.” This is following reports of record-high numbers of divorce filings in central China in early March, the rest of the world is sadly expected to follow suit. 

Actually you can scam a scammer

To add to this myriad of mind flips and homelife hassles brought on by the crisis, we’re battling our way through a growing number of online threats to our finances. The City of London Police reported a 400% increase in Covid-19 related fraud within a month and that’s not even the half of it. The Aviva Fraud Report found that 46% of people didn’t report suspicious communications, even though they suspected it was a financial scam.

The collective financial loss across the UK is an eye-watering £16 million since lockdown began. All crime is alarming but fraud and scams can be far-reaching - it has no bias. Thanks to technology almost all ages, backgrounds and locations are vulnerable to fraud. The recent high-profile Twitter hack proves just that. Our Co-Founder Tim wrote an article in response to the hack that targeted billionaires and public figures like Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk, Ex-President Barack Obama, amongst others - if these guys can fall victim - anyone can. 

We believe there is much that can be learned from the crisis, not only from public health or economic perspective but on a personal wellbeing level. We need to learn to stay calm, even in the face of fear. We can’t allow fear to control aspects of our home and work life. Ultimately, we need to empower ourselves, our families, our people to stay mentally and financially well. 

Here are some thoughts on how to monitor and maintain mental health concerns.

Monitor behaviour changes through regular communication

Maintaining regular communication between managers and teams will not only reduce isolation but identify any issues early. If individuals start to miss meetings or deadlines - it could be an indication that they are beginning to burn out.

Ask senior management to make a commitment

Business leaders needed to initiate conversations about mental health. It helps demonstrate an open culture on those matters and that it’s acceptable to speak out. In fact, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace report revealed employees were more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and sleep problems if they did not feel supported by their line manager.

Activate useful benefits rather than gimmicky perks

Although meditation and yoga have their place in wellbeing, why not ask your people what support they need to elevate any unnecessary work/life strains. It might be flexible working, counselling services, or financial wellbeing. Everyone’s circumstances are different so give your managers autonomy to grant individual wellbeing requests.

Offer resources

Create a centralised platform to store guidance documents, videos, links to helpful websites. We find that regular communication on the resources is key. So don’t forget to remind and train your people to get the best out of the education available to them. For example, when it comes to financial wellbeing, Vodafone use nudge to communicate with their people. It ‘nudges’ them when there’s been an announcement that they need to know about.

Take time to reflect

Opening up about mental health is impossible for some, particularly when it’s to a colleague. A mental health sentiment survey can help you to gauge wellness - without making people uncomfortable. Surveys will ensure you are taking everyone on the wellbeing journey - not just those who feel confident enough to speak out. When everyone feels considered - we feel united.

Data data data

Employee engagement feedback, productivity, absenteeism, reasons for leaving and benefits update. Only 50% of employers are using analytics to predict employee performance, engagement, interests and turnover. Data is the key to keeping our people and your manager happy.

More on mindsets

If you’re eager to hear more on this topic. Our Co-Founder Jeremy invited Katie Lynch and Liz Crilley from Apiary Life to discuss supporting employees through difficult life events. Apiary Life is a life crisis consultancy for employers. Have a listen to, ‘Are you there when your people need you the most?’ and get practical insight on supporting your people through dark times.

To conclude, if nothing else, Covid-19 is a reminder that in times of emergency, a threat to one - is a threat to all. We must unite in our efforts to care for ourselves and others.