Permacrisis: Navigating Uncertainty with Adaptability

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In 2022, the term "permacrisis" took center stage as the Collins Dictionary's word of the year. A fusion of "permanent" and "crisis," it succinctly summarized the perpetual challenges that have defined our recent history. Well into 2023 and looking towards 2024, we still feel the blanket of a state of permacrisis upon us.

In this post, I’ll delve into the scientific underpinnings of permacrisis, its ramifications for mental health, the prolonged impacts of crises on lifestyles, and adaptability's pivotal role in helping us cope.

What is Permacrisis?

Permacrisis characterizes the perpetual state of facing one crisis after another, reflecting the collective experience of navigating unprecedented events. The term was initially noted by European policy analysts in 2021; by 2022, it had become a defining descriptor of the global atmosphere. David Shariatmadari aptly describes permacrisis as embodying the sense of lurching from one unprecedented event to another, leaving us anticipating what new challenges might emerge.

When you look at the past decade's events, it’s easy to see how a term like this has come to be. From the economic crisis of 2007, the ongoing climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of the wars that have been an endless source of news in the past decade, from the Syrian crisis to the war in Ukraine and now Israel & Gaza, it’s no wonder we collectively feel a state of ongoing and never-ending turmoil. 

Impacts of Prolonged States of Crisis:

The perpetual nature of permacrisis takes a toll on mental health, with chronic stress being a central concern. Many studies illuminate chronic stress's long-term effects on the body and mind. Elevated cortisol levels, associated with prolonged stress, contribute to various health issues, from cardiovascular problems to cognitive impairments. The implications for mental health are equally profound, with increased rates of anxiety, depression, and burnout in the face of sustained uncertainty.

Historically viewed as an opportunity for progress, the concept of crisis has undergone a semantic shift. Modern philosophy, influenced by thinkers like Karl Marx and Thomas Kuhn, associates crisis with contradictions between opposing forces accelerating transitions from past to future.

In the current context, the term "permacrisis" represents a contemporary inversion of the historical idea of crisis. It suggests that crises are now so complex and interconnected that they resist easy resolution and blend into each other. 

‘Permacrisis’ implies that crises are deeply embedded within a network of interlocking systems. The shift from "polycrisis" to "permacrisis" signifies a new realism, acknowledging the difficulty of fully understanding and resolving multifaceted challenges.

How Adaptability Can Help Us Manage:

In the face of permacrisis, adaptability is a fundamental skill for managing the complexities of our rapidly changing world. Neuroscientifically speaking, adaptability is rooted in the brain's capacity for neuroplasticity — the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. In the past, I’ve discussed the importance of adaptability as the key to an incredible life that aligns with neuroscientific principles.

Neuroplasticity is nature's most powerful gift, enabling humans to adapt regardless of age, circumstances, or mental health issues. Research has consistently demonstrated the brain's ability to rewire itself in response to experience and environmental changes. The dynamic nature of the brain allows for continuous adaptation, which is essential for thriving in an ever-changing world.

Adaptability is crucial for several reasons:

Calm and Focus in Uncertainty: 

Adaptable thinking allows individuals to remain calm and focused even in confusing and new situations. This is rooted in the brain's capacity for abstract thinking and emotional regulation. All humans have this capacity, and it’s even seen in mammals like dolphins. 

Career & life Satisfaction: 

It enables individuals to find jobs and make life changes they're passionate about despite stressful or new conditions. Neuroscientifically, this relates to the brain's ability to form new pathways associated with satisfaction and fulfillment.

Innovation and Development: 

Adaptable thinking fosters innovation and individual development, aligning with the brain's problem-solving and strategy formation capacity.

Adjusting to permacrisis: 

In the context of the permacrisis, adaptability is crucial for adjusting to changing circumstances. The brain's ability to adapt and change becomes paramount for individual and collective well-being. Adaptability and resiliency are synonyms and essential for learning to thrive in a world that could be 3-6 degrees warmer, have different cultural borders, and involve new technology like AI in ways we can’t imagine. 

Becoming Better Versions of Ourselves:

Finally, adaptability is critical in personal growth, allowing individuals to adapt and change to become better versions of themselves. Neuroplasticity plays a significant role in this continuous process of self-improvement.

Call to Action

Recognizing the neuroscientific principles behind adaptability provides a foundation for managing chronic stress and thriving in the face of ongoing challenges. My role as a speaker and facilitator at corporate and education events has become even more valuable in light of these insights. I have seen how brain science and mental wealth knowledge can help individuals develop the tools to enhance adaptability, find balance, and thrive in an era marked by permacrisis.

Are you ready to embrace adaptability and navigate permacrisis with resilience? Join me on a transformative journey towards a more adaptable and balanced life. Get in touch today.

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