If you find dealing with change and uncertainty difficult, you are not alone. That’s simply part of the human condition. Some people find this harder than others, but it generally isn’t that easy for any of us because change and uncertainty is potentially threatening, and our systems are wired to avoid threat.
The idea of ‘stability zones’ comes from a book written fifty years ago called Future Shock. The authors, Alvin Toffler and Adelaide Farrell, define ‘future shock’ as basically too much change in too short a period of time, which leaves us stressed and disorientated. In fact this is the book where the term ‘information overload ‘ comes from.
The speed of change since the 1970s when they wrote this book has been exponential. And, over the last year, things have sped up even more. For example, there was already a shift towards people doing more online, but suddenly lots of people who had never zoomed or ordered online grocery deliveries are finding themselves having to make these kinds of changes too.
Toffler and Farrell say that we can cope with huge amounts of chaos, change, pressure, or uncertainty, provided that we can still access what they refer to as ‘stability zones.’. These are safe, familiar, reliable places where we can feel relaxed and protected.
Our home is a key stability zone. Remember that sigh of relief when you shut the front door on those problems at work? However, for many people working from home it has now also become a place of great change. The kids may be at home all the time, needing home schooling., work may be taking over the kitchen table and so on.
Maybe going to the gym was a stability zone for you that you no longer have, or meeting up with friends regularly?
I don’t want to make us all feel bad about what we don’t have at the moment. However, it’s a useful thing to think about because if we don’t have our usual stability zones, and we are facing more uncertainty and even chaos than before, we need to consciously think about and make sure that we create stability zones for ourselves.
What kind of thing can be a ‘stability zone’?
These zones are often physical places, but they actually don’t have to be. They can be things, people, objects, organisations or even just ideas.
A stability zone might be a particular meditation that you like to listen to, or a favourite book you read again and again, or a TV show- in our family we’ve been re-watching the nine seasons of The American Office – the familiarity is comforting.
It might be an online place, like my Confident ELT Freelancer Collective, for example, where you can meet with other people who ‘have your back’. It might even be a place in your head. Perhaps you always imagine yourself lying on a particular beach relaxing in the sun when things get a bit too much for you?
It could be certain people. Even if you can’t see them physically for now, are you in contact with people who make you feel good, safe, relaxed? If the people you spend time with don’t make you feel this way, then maybe you need to ask yourself whether now is the moment (if there ever is a moment) to spend so much time with them.
Your safety zone might be an object, such as a smooth stone you carry with you, or worry beads. Or even a smell, such as an essential oil like lavender or ylang ylang.
The important thing is that you have some stability zones, some routines and rituals, which make you feel secure and safe at times like this when everything is up in the air and so unpredictable.
So, what are your stability zones? And are there any others you could add?