Experiencing major change creates stress – and we know that the negative emotions associated with stress, such as fear and anxiety, activate the amygdala in your brain that switches you into fight-or-flight mode. When your brain is constantly in this survival mode, your resilience will be eroded.
So what can you do to counter this and boost your resilience? Perhaps we could take inspiration from the Barreleye fish.
The Barreleye lives in extreme conditions in the deep sea. It gets its name from its tubular, luminescent eyes nestled in its transparent head. This fish has built extraordinary resilience to overcome the challenges of deep-sea life. Below are three tips that we can take from the Barreleye:
- Filter out what’s important
The eyes of the Barreleye fish are green and embedded in its head. Scientists believe that this helps the fish filter out sunlight from the surface above it, ultimately helping them to notice the glow of their prey.
If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by your workload, focusing only on the most important items on your list of projects and to-dos, filtering out anything else, can make a big difference. Pareto’s 80/20 principle states that success isn’t equal to the amount of input – a small amount of carefully selected, focused effort actually creates most of the results. Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, authors of the book ‘The ONE thing’ take this a step further with the ONE concept – when you force yourself to focus on one thing, it helps to clear the clutter and get things moving.
To help hone in on your most critical priorities (at work or at home), ask yourself these questions:
- What one thing can I do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?
- What one thing can I do to make my team successful?
- What one thing can I do to achieve my goals?
Going back to these questions every day will force you to act, to make decisions that are at the heart of success, and that can have real impact on achieving your bigger objectives.
- Change your perspective
The Barreleye fish’s eyes are actually not fixed – they rotate. Researchers believe that the Barreleye looks upwards to locate its prey and then as it starts rising to meet its target, it shifts its eyes forward.
When we’re weary, we have the tendency to take a negative, or at least a less positive, perspective. Break that cycle by taking the perspective that every outcome or circumstance can be turned into an opportunity. Ask yourself these types of questions:
- Even though I’m currently struggling to make sense of this new project, what’s the opportunity in it?
- What knowledge or skill am I learning that I can benefit from in the long run?
- How can I structure my communications in a way that makes employees see the opportunity in the changes they’re going through?
When you feel circumstances starting to wear you down, change your perspective. The Barreleye can’t control how dark the bottom of the ocean floor is, or any of the other challenging factors in its environment. But it’s learned how to not only survive, but thrive in these conditions. Similarly, you can’t control the size of the waves charging at you, but you can learn to surf those waves. It is all a matter of perspective.
- Turn inward and illuminate
Finally, researchers noted that some species of the Barreleye have special organs on their bellies which are covered with pigmented scales. They act as reflectors that deflect light from the ‘glowing’ organs inside the fish, illuminate the deep sea around them, and help them to camouflage.
Turn inward. Shine light on yourself by taking short, 2–3-minute self-care breaks throughout the day. These breaks could be as simple as taking a couple of deep breaths, looking out of the window and getting lost in the colour of the sky, or just going for a quick walk around the house.
Whichever you choose, these breaks will activate your pre-frontal cortex, allowing you to be more resourceful and to choose a more appropriate response to certain situations. It’s a quick brain reset! Make this part your daily routine and as you continue to practice, you’ll feel more relaxed, focused, and centred. Your productivity and resilience will improve, and you’ll be ready to face life’s constant challenges.