Pitstop Strategy for Mental Well-being

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Mental Well-being – Setting the stage

It is a beautiful Saturday morning and I am enjoying the crisp air with the sounds of birds chirping, only interrupted with the sound of my keyboard. Replace Saturday with Monday, and it would still be true.

In any other era, Saturday morning would have been very different from Monday morning. At least, in terms of my physical whereabouts. However, with remote working and the new normal, it’s the same setting each day. 

However, something is different about today – it is World Mental Health Day 2020! The physical health related risks of the coronavirus are quite obvious and well documented. So are the economic consequences. However, mental well-being is another story altogether.

The Anatomy of Mental Well-being

As I start to think about it, I have a realization. It’s simply because it is still taboo to talk about it. As if the mind and the brain is not part of our anatomy and is supposed to be working ‘normally’ under all circumstances.

We all accept that eating rotten food can upset the tummy. Then, what will happen if we are constantly fed with negative thoughts and pessimism? Pause for a moment to think of all the news headlines and WhatsApp forwards related to the pandemic, or other areas. And, what has it done sub-consciously to the way our minds work – individually and collectively?

So, on this World Mental Health Day, I thought of sharing a little bit about mental well-being. Specifically, about how I have kept my mind focused and served it healthy food.

My Story 

Let us circle back to 19th March, when PM Modi announced a ‘junta curfew’. In hindsight, it clearly was a soft landing into an extended lockdown. It started becoming clear with each passing day, that the pandemic was not going away in a hurry.

I realized that it will be a very difficult time for people, and the biggest challenge will not be keeping oneself safe from the coronavirus. The bigger challenge will be to keep oneself sane. In fact, I quickly published an article on 24th March on things to do during the lockdown. The encouraging response to the article prompted me to expand and document my thoughts. This led to publishing of my book How to Stay Positive and Productive in Your War against Corona, all within a few days of the lockdown. In the last 6-7 months, I have managed to stay more focused than ever and launched a slew of digital transformation initiatives at work. The accelerated pace of change has surprised everyone, including myself.

The Big Picture

So, how did all this happen? As I take a step back this Saturday morning, I can see the Big Picture. In order to counter the negative forces, and change our default mode of thinking, we need mental models or metaphors. These help anchor our thinking and align them to the desired direction and goal. 

I anchored my thinking to what I like to describe as a “pitstop mindset”. I found this to be an extremely apt and powerful metaphor. 

The Pitstop Mindset

In a Formula 1 race, the cars keep vrooming at an insane pace. However, what breaks or makes the race, in a lot of cases is the pitstop strategy. It is those relatively short periods of time in the race, which have a disproportionately high influence on the outcome of the race.

Stop running at full speed

We can draw many parallels between the pitstop and the lockdown. For instance, the race requires you to run at maximum speed, whereas the pit lane has a speed limit. Similarly, in the race of life, we keep running frantically to achieve our goals. However, the lockdown forced us to slow down. In fact, just like the races, there was a steep penalty on not maintaining enough (social) distance, while in the pit lane!

This, too, shall pass

I have personally derived a lot of benefit from using this metaphor. It has helped me put things in context. A pitstop lasts few seconds in a one hour race. Similarly, the pandemic will only last for a small portion of our lives. This realization helped me rationalize and come to terms with the lockdown. I did not find myself getting as frustrated about not being able to step out, as I would have otherwise been.

Deconstructing the pitstop

I also extended the pitstop metaphor in terms of the activities that take place in the pitstop. A winning team executes the pitstop to perfection, with a deep sense of urgency. And in a very short span of time, the car is made road-worthy for the rest of the race.

On similar lines, I convinced myself that this is a short window of opportunity. We need to fill our minds with the right fuel during this period to enhance our road-worthiness for the rest of the race. 

The New Normal – unchartered terrain

In fact, the terrain after the pitstop would have changed completely. Think of a race that is interrupted by rain. The teams need to replace tyres suitable for dry conditions by bringing the ‘wets’ on.

Similarly, the skills and the mindset required to succeed in the ‘New Normal’ will need to be different. So, extending the comparison, I thought of all the things that I needed to do to win the race that will continue on a different track after the pitstop is over.

One plus one equals eleven

Moreover, if you combine the two examples, you have a potent combination. On the one hand, I found that I was not cursing the lockdown. I had tricked my mind into believing that the lockdown was a window of opportunity. On the other hand, I kept reinventing myself by adding to my repertoire of tools that will be critical in the New Normal.

Accelerated Digital Transformation

This mindset resulted in acceleration of digital transformation initiatives at work, but that is a different story, and a much longer one. In a nutshell, I used the pitstop as an acronym, to revamp all the PITSTOP components:

  • Process
  • Information and data architecture
  • Technology
  • Strategy
  • Training and learning
  • Operations
  • People management

The moot point is that using a simple metaphor, I was able to transform the way my mind approached the circumstances around me. This triggered a virtuous cycle and the benefits kept accruing with a butterfly effect.

Simple Answers to Improve Mental Well-being 

On this World Mental Health Day, I hope my story will trigger beneficial thoughts in the minds of some of you. Sometimes, the most challenging situations can be overcome by the simplest of solutions.

It is alright, if you don’t have all the answers. The one silver lining of the pandemic is that people have become more humane and ready to help each other. We all realize that we are all in it together.

Beginning of a New Era of Mental Well-being

It is heartening to note that the discussions around mental health and well-being are becoming more open. So, as I wrap-up my note, let me hope that this is not the end. I hope this helps your journey of awareness and acceptance of mental health issues. And more importantly, you take the required actions to improve your mental well-being and of your near and dear ones.

Talking about these issues is a great start, so please leave your comments below and share the word!

Please Share the good word

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