I observed an incident recently where someone reacted with force and distrust in response to someone else’s innocent error. There was literally no margin for error. No stretch to their tolerance. They snapped. Like a rubber band already thinly stretched out, they exploded with force.
I mentioned my observation to friends. They have had similar experiences. On reflection, I could recall several such experiences this year.
Perhaps you can too. If you’re on social media at all, you probably see it all the time.
Then I remembered studying a graph of volatility earlier. Theoretically, volatility is a measure of the size of the movements in the market. Practically, volatility is a measure of uncertainty. It measures how frequently and by how much we collectively change our minds about the prospects of the market.
There is a clear divide in volatility levels before and after the pandemic. Uncertainty spiked to unprecedented levels during the first wave of the virus and then spiked with every subsequent wave. And it never settled down again post-pandemic. It remained elevated and the spikes this year have emulated waves of the virus from this elevated level.
It can be likened to the graph showing the rhythm of a human heart during and after exercise. When we exercise our heartbeats spike but settle down again once we recover. However, if we start exercising before we have fully recovered our heart rates will spike from this elevated level.
This is exactly what is happening to humanity now. We are being asked to deal with even more uncertainty when we have not yet had the opportunity to recover. We haven’t fully recovered from the pandemic. Figuratively speaking, our heartbeats haven’t settled down and now we’re on the treadmill yet again.
There is a lot that is unsettling about the world right now. War. Cost of living increases. Rising interest rates. Economic slowdown. Political uncertainty. Currency fallouts. Financial market declines. Energy rationing, including load shedding in South Africa. Culture wars. Climate change fallout.
Alliances that have been in place for decades, even centuries are shifting. The belief in accepted economic thinking is dwindling. Trust in systems is broken.
It is all creating uncertainty for us. About our futures and the future of our children. And uncertainty is stressful for people.
Uncertainty saps energy – energy that would otherwise have been used to regulate emotions, apply reasoning, make decisions, work accurately, or even just comprehend an instruction.
We need to recognise that most people we come into contact with, are on the treadmill and they’re already tired. We must accept that they do not have the energy to do what we are asking of them. We have to adjust our expectations of each other. And of ourselves.
If we do this, perhaps we can be more empathetic toward others. We are all going through a lot. Be more understanding. Expect less. Park judgment. Lower expectations. We may even make things easier for ourselves.
Perhaps we can be kinder to ourselves too. Expect less. Make fewer decisions. Rest more.
We’re going to need all the energy we can conserve. It is not likely that things will settle down soon. Being hard on others and ourselves will use energy. Being kinder will increase energy.
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