Stress & Avoiding Burnout, Well-being

Life is a Daring Adventure or Nothing

How did you feel as the first lockdown began last year? I felt huge uncertainty, a great deal of existential dread, a sense of being inadequate to all that was unfolding. I don’t know about you (you might be exceedingly old J) but this was my very first pandemic, my first lockdown and the strangest new territory I’ve encountered thus far. It was very challenging and for many around the world it is still ongoing.

When my experience, abilities and expertise encounter a new unknown stimulus, things are going to get interesting with my ability to perform and I may need help to function well. At this point I need to remind myself of the Adventure and Gaps Models. Understanding where I am on these models can help me assess my needs and make wiser decisions.

These models tell me that when things are routine and predictable, with little or no gap between the situation and my ability to deal with it then I can virtually be in ‘play’. I am relaxed, cool, calm and collected and functioning well day to day, in fact I may be a little bored.

If things get a bit more challenging and the gap between my expertise/knowledge and what is required of me widens then I can be said to be in ‘adventure’ mode. There can be a sense of excitement and extending myself a little. I am learning, I am pushing into new territory, but I am ok. My performance actually grows. If the gap between my abilities/experience/skills and the situation I am in gets even wider then I move to ‘frontier adventure’. At this point I am reaching the limits of my skills/performance and being pushed way further than my comfort zone. For most people the changes brought by our lockdown, changes in employment, our isolation from friends and family, our fear of getting the disease or passing it on, our existential dread, pushed us well into this territory at times. To function in this, we may need help. Our problem solving may suffer, our general performance drops to a lower level than normal and our ability to plan well can head for our boots. We can keep going, but only just.

Add in one more thing, which on its own may have been manageable like a loved one’s illness or even a home renovation, or dare I say it, ‘home schooling’ and suddenly we move from frontier adventure into misadventure where we find ourselves in trauma, sleepless, paralysed emotionally and physically, or wildly making poor decisions. Adventure is growth, misadventure can be life changing in the worst possible way. If it continues too long, we may need therapy and help to begin again.

The adventure model gives us a language to express where we are at. Whether it’s through pandemic, isolation or just too many challenges at once, we need to head misadventure off at the pass, using strategies we implement as we feel ourselves moving into frontier adventure or even high adventure.

  • We need to be aware of the changes in our bodies and minds as we pioneer, are thrust into, or venture out into, new territory. Recognise the danger signs in tiredness, irritability, feelings of overwhelm and disconnectedness.
  • We need to allow ourselves ‘margin’ as much as possible, building in times of rest, play, spiritual connection, freedom from screens, times in nature, as much as our lives will allow in the less stressful periods.  The more we have of these things the less likely we will find ourselves pushing out into frontier and possible misadventure.
  • We need people. Whether the connection is online or face to face, we need community. We need people to walk alongside us, not just to tell us when they see us slipping into ‘frontier, but to help us go forward.  Having a coach can be truly helpful, especially as we enter adventure mode.  A coach can help us navigate the way ahead so that we remain in the adventure mode and make the most of all we have to bring to the challenges of our lives.

By Linda Harding

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