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Break Down Or Break Through

Break Down Or Break Through - Carla Anglehart

Break Down Or Break Through

How you dooin’? When said like Joey from the television series Friends, that question sounds funny (or seductive), but certainly more playful than the same question when asked by colleagues, friends, family members, or even acquaintances we run into in the community. Thing is, laughter and playfulness are so important, but “How are you doing?” asked sincerely and genuinely waiting for an answer, is really crucial these days, since so many people are still struggling to get to some kind of new normal following the massive challenges of the past couple of years.

Take the global pandemic as an example: the community, businesses, schools, families, teams and individuals have all been navigating their way through the four stages of the crisis: 1) Escalation (when we became aware of the external threat), 2) Emergency (when local, provincial and global leadership emerged to respond the threat), 3) Recovery (where we are today, living with Covid-19 and dealing with the prolonged threat of new variants, and for many, burnout); and 4) Resolution (which will include development of strategies for living post-crisis). That’s a lot! And we haven’t even discussed the impact of the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, affordable housing, inflation, etc.; it’s no wonder burnout and mental health issues abound.

If ever we needed a map to help us navigate these unrelenting rough waters, the time is now. The Change Cycle ™ is just that! Based on research of the brain during times of change, the Change Cycle ™ helps individuals to identify where they are at and most importantly, how to navigate through the changes life presents.

Looking at the model above, what stage do you think you’re in right now? Between Stages 3 and 4 above, you see a danger zone. You can avoid the danger zone (breaking down), and breakthrough by using specific strategies to move successfully through each stage. A few strategies for stages 1 through 3 are described below.

Stage One: Loss

The key emotion experienced in stage one is fear. When we are fearful, we tend to focus on protecting ourselves. The opportunity in this stage is to channel our fear into appropriate action, while avoiding “victim" mentality. How do we do that?

First, we need to get a clear picture of the change i.e., what is the actual change versus my greatest fears? For example, “there is evidence of Covid 19 in the community, and people in Nova Scotia have become ill and died from Covid” versus “I’m going to die”. Next, we need to identify our fears related to this change, then sort out which fears are real versus imagined. A suggestion to help with this, ask, “is there evidence from the past that this could happen?”. Then we let go of the imagined fears and focus on what we can do to address the real fears (e.g., stay informed with valid information, follow public health advice and regulations).

Stage Two: Doubt

If stage one felt like it was being done to you (the victim), then stage two you’re ready to come out swinging! The key emotion here is anger. This stage is often brings an increase in blaming others and conflict. The main reason: lack of accurate, valid information. Add to that, your brain is actually creating a new “file” for this experience, and until it is complete, your brain distorts, deletes and adds information that does not belong. So, the opportunity is to gather and validate accurate information.

Stage Three: Discomfort

The energy surging through you (due to the anger) in stage 2, disappears in stage 3, much like air coming out of a balloon. In stage 2 you could multi-task, in stage 3, you’re lethargic, unfocussed and unproductive. The primary emotion is frustration. The challenge in this stage is to keep anxiety from becoming depression. The opportunity is to avoid negative self-talk, focus on self-care, and take small breakthrough steps. Physical activity that you enjoy is especially helpful here.

Using these and other strategies, you will breakthrough to the other side of the cycle where the energy shifts and focus and productivity return. For more information on the Change Cycle ™, check out their website: or call Carla Anglehart, certified, licensed Change Cycle ™ facilitator.

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