Reengaging the brain

Lockdown has meant different things for people. For many it has meant some time out of work, or a change of work or even a change of career. Perhaps it has meant homeschooling kids instead of working.

Many of us were limited by what we could do and therefore had to reduce our work input or simply take a few steps back. I certainly had to put some focused time into redesigning our family schedule and needs to support a busy partner and homeschooling children. My brain had to make space for teaching children, quite a different skill (mostly) to coaching adult executives. I’m not sure which is easier! While time out from coaching didn’t feel like it changed much, the reengaging in business development did take me some time.

For those who have been taking a bit of time out of the regular engagement with work, reengaging the brain into a work setting can be challenging. We have to remember all the ‘lingo’ associated with work as well as physically getting ourselves back into a routine, perhaps waking up at a regular time and getting organized efficiently. Some tasks may take longer than you think they should. Even typing can seem a little foreign.

Neural pathways

This slower processing is because the neural pathways to our brain have changed. They have reformed based on our more recent behaviours to support what we needed at the time. So, the instincts that we have now are more related to the behavior we have been using rather than our previously-required work behaviours.

Our minds cleverly adapt to what we most need to keep us safe and effective. This may seem frustrating when we go to switch back but like us, our minds are flexible. We can exercise them, strengthen them and adapt quickly when needed.

Getting your memory back

It does not take long for your memory (both muscle and mental) to come back and all the ground work we laid in learning what we needed to for work pays off.

When we are learning a new skill or behavior, we repeat it over and over until it becomes second nature. This is creating clear pathways in our brain to make it easier for us to do the task.

So, if you are starting back at work, or you are starting out in a new role, try not to worry about seeming ‘slow’ or taking your time to absorb the way things are done. This is simply your body and your brain seeking to recall the pathways that have already been developed.

For me, it was remembering how comfortable I am with business development conversations and allowing the words to come flowing back. When the didn’t at times, I simply acknowledged that it had been a while since I had these conversations and that often put the other person at ease with their own reengagement in the process.

Your colleagues will barely notice and most likely are concerned about themselves and how they’re showing up to be interested in minor mistakes that you might be making. For those who were able to keep up some level of work or even regular brain-engagement activities like reading and writing, the instincts will come back even quicker.

Otherwise, I encourage you to reintroduce yourself with work-like behavior before you get back to it. Begin reading small amounts every day, pick up the phone and talk to people. Warm up for your big day back so that you can feel prepared, then let your instincts kick in and it will be like you never took time out – unless there were things you DID want to change?