5 Mindset Tips for David Cameron Post Brexit
Dear David Cameron,
I spotted you on the back benches the other day.
Well done. Seriously, I mean it.
Whatever my political leanings – and whatever my personal opinion of your management of our nation’s affairs – it took guts to show yourself in the House of Commons.
Life is tough for you right now in a way that none of us will ever experience. Yes, we’ll fail. Inevitably, we’ll let ourselves and others down. And yes, our actions will invite criticism.
But none of us will do those things on quite the scale you did, or under quite the same national and international spotlight (though see point 5 below).
The worst isn’t over for you, not by a long shot.
After the Brexit super-storm comes another hurricane – and that’s the one buffeting your own mind as you reflect on the mammoth own-goal that cost you your job and the respect of your country and the world.
While the rest of us wait to see what lies ahead for the United Kingdom, and the full extent and duration of the price we’ll pay for leaving the EC, you’ll be fighting your own demons.
David Cameron, you’re at serious risk of being swallowed by some pretty hefty toxic emotions
Each of the eight big “stuck” emotions has a theme:
- Reactive depression is linked to loss and failure. To say you’ve experienced both is an understatement.
- Anxiety follows the theme of a threat to you or yours. Again, it’s pretty understandable if you’re feeling a tad concerned about what comes next for you.
- Anger happens when we or others have broken our rules, or when our expectations have taken a thrashing.
- Shame is about the threat or reality of being exposed or hung out to dry, or something mortally embarrassing being revealed about us.
- Guilt is linked to our failure to live up to our own moral code, or hurting or letting down those we care about. I won’t presume to know what your moral code is but I can imagine some guilt might be present.
- Hurt occurs when we feel we’ve been badly or unfairly treated. Can you think of anyone who might have let you down like that?
- Envy is triggered when someone else has something that we want. Something like our job, for example. (Or maybe it was a relief to get rid of it?)
- Jealousy is about a threat to a personal relationship. You and Mrs Cameron seem pretty robust so I’m not going to assume that this emotion is part of your current mess.
That leaves you with (possibly) 7 out of the 8 big, toxic emotions. That adds up to a potent cocktail of feel-bad and if you don’t take steps to deal with these feelings, you could well find your wheels parting company from your chassis.
How do you save yourself when the world has fallen in?
There are things you can do to support yourself and stay resilient through the difficult days and months and years to come. You’re going to need stamina because I’m afraid this one will keep rearing its head for the rest of your life.
Here are my five mindset tips for getting yourself through the nightmare without losing your mind:
1. Accept that it happened.
People resist accepting terrible events and behaviour because they confuse acceptance with approval. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you agree with something. It simply means that you stop fighting the fact that it happened. It’s about removing, or at least downplaying, our tendency to evaluate things as being good or bad.
Acceptance means we can reflect and look for solutions to challenging situations in a healthy and flexible way, rather than demand that they shouldn’t have happened. “Musts” and “shoulds” and “it can’t be” thoughts won’t get you anywhere except extremely wound up.
Accepting that the worst has happened allows you to shift from running-on-the-spot reactive mode into problem-solving reflective mode. Instead of fixating on how bad you feel, you’re able to focus your energy on searching for the best outcome, and then thinking and behaving in a way that can make that happen.
2. Acknowledge that you are resilient
Keep reminding yourself that you are stronger than you know, David Cameron. Despite possibly the biggest fall in British political history, you’re still alive. You’ve survived everything that’s ever happened to you in your life and you can survive this. We humans are intrinsically strong – nothing kills us except death.
What you don’t want to do is avoid thinking about what’s happened. If you continually push it away, you’ll send a message to your unconscious mind that it’s REALLY, REALLY SCARY AND BAD AND IT MIGHT KILL ME. The thing you’re trying not to focus on then becomes the only thing you can focus on.
So sit with your thoughts. Tolerate the discomfort, and you’ll send a different message to your mind – “I’m OK. I’m thinking about this and dealing with it and it’s not killing me. I am resilient. I will survive this.”
3. Develop awareness of your inner game.
Tune in to your mind and understand what’s happening up there. We all have thousands of automatic thoughts a day (which I call your inner radio) and churning through the same stuff over and over again can quickly lead to an anxiety habit.
Instead, when you notice yourself feeling anxious, miserable or any of the other toxic emotions listed above, take yourself off auto-pilot. You can make those thoughts and beliefs conscious by calling them out loud. “What am I thinking? What am I feeling?”
Name those thoughts and emotions, then ask yourself, “Is that belief consistent with reality? Is there cast-iron evidence to prove it? Does it make logical sense for me to think that way? Will it be helpful to me if I think and feel that way?”
Developing your self awareness is the first step to being able to challenge your thoughts and beliefs and swap them for ones that are more rational, logical and helpful. And the magical thing is that when you change how you think, it automatically changes how you feel.
Becoming self aware isn’t easy but it’s possibly the most important skill you’ll ever learn, so practise tuning in whenever you feel emotionally off-balance..
4. Live mindfully in the moment.
A lot of how we disturb ourselves is caused by dwelling on the past or projecting ahead to the future, and judging life as difficult, unpleasant or unsafe. The problem with that is we miss the NOW. It’s like focusing so hard on capturing an epic rock concert on your camera that you miss the actual experience of being there in the moment.
Some people struggle with the meaning of mindfulness but essentially, what it means is “pay attention”. Pay full and deliberate attention to whatever it is you’re doing – whether meeting your constituents, eating breakfast, going for a run or reading to your children. Honour the present. Make each moment as full and rich as it can by giving it your full focus.
Living mindfully is about cultivating our awareness and making what we think, do and say conscious and responsive, rather than automatic and reactive. So be present. Be curious and full of wonder. Be patient with yourself, with others and with time.
Don’t miss “now” because you’re so busy mourning what’s happened or worrying about what will happen. The past is a memory and the future hasn’t happened yet. Now is all we have.
5. Practise active gratitude
There’s plenty of evidence to prove that actively appreciating the good things and people in our lives is a fantastically helpful thing to do on so many levels. It improves our health. It makes us happier. It makes us less likely to die, for goodness’ sake. Grateful people are more resilient. And they’re slimmer and fitter – I kid you not, look it up.
I recommend that you buy yourself a beautiful journal and write at least three entries a day that offer heartfelt thanks to someone or something in your life. Try to make some of those entries about what you appreciate about yourself.
You can also carry out acts of meaningful gratitude, like visiting and thanking people who’ve shown you generosity in the past. One such act could be to send thank you cards to Messrs Gove and Johnson. In terms of media scrutiny and slaughter, things could have been so much worse for you after the Brexit vote if it hadn’t been for the distraction of their Laurel & Hardy double act.
That’s all from me for now, David Cameron. For other tips on how to manage your mindset, search for my name here on Birds on the Blog or browse through my other musings at www.carolineferguson.com/blog.
If you need more mindset support than you’re able to give yourself, you can always contact me here.