The SCARF model was developed by neuroscientists to frame and address the responses of threat and reward.

Research and findings in social neuroscience, and the potential negative response in challenging situations, has resulted in practical, impactful and sustainable solutions. These are more relevant now than ever before.

These studies reveal that the body’s neurological, physical and emotional responses when facing a life or death situation, or when under other forms of physical threat, are similarly experienced when our personal or professional lives are under sudden, heightened and/or extended degrees of change or stress.

This model comprises of 5 domains which are listed below indicating how they specifically relate to the COVID-19 threat that we are currently experiencing.


This is our perceived position in relation to others in terms of importance. This can be impacted in various ways during COVID-19:

  • losing our position of influence
  • being unable to assert our status when working remotely
  • by not having all the aspects and representations of status present as we would have in our normal work scenario.


This is defined as our ability to predict our immediate future. This is impacted by various factors, such as uncertainty about our jobs, the economy and how the well-being and that of our families will be affected by this.

There is little or no clarity of how long this will carry on for and what our world will be like when this eventually passes.


Autonomy is our ability to make our own choices and to be in control. This is severally felt by the lockdown and associated restrictions that were not of our to choosing.

  • How are our choices and freedom reduced due to these restrictions?
  • What can we do to improve each of our situations?
  • Having not chosen this we can easily feel like victims.


This reflects how we value the acceptance of ourselves by others as well as our sense of connection with and being part of one or more groups. Being socially distant can lead to being isolated. However, every person can potentially be a threat of infection for us and us in turn for them.

  • Will we be accepted by others if we become sick?
  • What can we do to keep our sense of connection with others – particularly if we are remote from some of our loved ones during this time?


Each one of us is affected differently by this. Some businesses have increased sales due to the epidemic. Some will not survive and many will struggle.

  • Is this fair?
  • Am I losing my livelihood because of anything that I have done or mistakes made by me?
  • How can something that started on the other side of the planet so negatively and profoundly affect my life?

In the future, successful and significant leaders will be highly aware of how they are influencing the brain function and chemistry of others. We share this framework of future leadership which gives stakeholders a heightened sense of awareness of how they act and the influence this has on others, which in turn will increase the social awareness of the group.

Providing insight and understanding of the effects of stress on the brain and how best to introduce and manage change is needed now more than ever.

Companies eager to please the workforce have ‘templatised’ this vexing question of work-life into a set of deliverable actions – flexible working hours, working from home, Friday bars, generous paternity leave etc.  All of these mask the core issue, isolating work and life as two opposing states of being.  This separation is rather unrealistic when you are plugged in 24/7. 

If you turn one of the deliverable actions on its head, then the flexible working model is essentially designed for the company, you are simply trying to fit in.  What it has achieved is getting people to choose what time to come to work and not balance life in the true sense. 

It is important to understand what your needs are for work-life balance.  Remember, you are paid to work, not to give up your family and life.  The work-life equation is more personal and should not be left to businesses to solve.  Only you know best about the kind of life you want to lead.

The fulcrum of work-life balance is a priority and not conflict. Generally, those who are happier are those who are accepting and pursuing a blended idea of work and life. 

 If one of your priorities is to spend more time with your family, then you need to balance it with engaging in deep work when you are at work or running your business. Learning to prioritise is knowing your path and empowers you to decide what you say yes to and what you say no to. This self-actualisation is a vital part of the work-life balance that keeps you more productive and healthier. 

When you are involved in deep work that is aligned to your priorities, any stress or distractions play second fiddle to the enthusiasm and energy you bring. Moreover focus and flow from knowing your priorities promotes excellence both at work and in life. 

Neuroscience has given us incredible insight into how our minds and brains work.

We are not our brain. We are just the user of it.

The greater our understanding of it, the better we can use it.

Take neuroplasticity for instance. Simply put, it is the brain’s ability to learn and develop at any age. This is great news for us because it means that learning isn’t exclusively for the youth (but perhaps only for the “young at heart” then).

Neural pathways develop by the constant firing between synapses in the brain. These are electrical charges that send information throughout the nervous system. When these charges happen continuously, a permanent link is formed the way a river is carved out through the land by the consistent force of water.

The opposite is also true. If there is a link that remains unused, the ‘river’ dries out and the connection is broken.

Thus we can physically change our brains through learning and creating habits. The old adage that it takes 21 days to instil a habit is possibly where this came from.

What then does it mean to be able to change our brain?

The possibilities are endless.

In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and ensure longevity  – to create new connections or ‘rivers’ in your brain – try incorporating some of these tasks into your daily routine:

  1. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand
  2. Learn how to say “hello” in 5 different languages
  3. Building physical balance is key to a healthy nervous system, so stand on one leg while waiting for the kettle to boil.
  4. Stir your coffee or tea in the opposite direction
  5. Read out loud

The more we can utilise our brains, the better our overall health and wellbeing will be.

The New Year brings with it opportunities to reflect and rethink the way we live our lives. Many of us take some leave from our endlessly busy schedules to find a bit of balance and sanity. With this small break, we often find renewed energy and the intention to take a firmer stance on the things that take up our time.
This is where we adhere to the notion of resolutions; of reinventing ourselves and transforming our lives, the adage of – A New Year, a New You.

This phrase highlights modern society’s biggest flaw and the biggest blind spot.

We are constantly bombarded with information about the latest trends in fitness, the newest superfoods we should be consuming, more advanced technologies and endless workshops and courses available to improve our skills and get ahead in the competition.

People have forgotten that – we are already enough. We have everything we need to make the changes we want.
This year, instead of trying to improve or reinvent yourself, why not try being more of You? “But how?”, you may ask. This is a fair question given that this is rarely spoken about.

These three suggestions may give you a good starting point to being more of you:

  1. Meditate

I’ve sat in many seminars and workshops where the presenter spoke about the amazing benefits of meditation and the importance of integrating it into our lives. They tell us to wake up 30 minutes earlier to practice meditation and suggest that if we really want to improve ourselves, we should wake up an hour earlier to meditate and exercise. But looking around at all the attendees and even noticing my friends, colleagues and family, everyone is tired. If anything, people need more sleep.

Rather than trying to fit meditation into an already chaotic schedule, instead, integrate it into the things you already do. For example, when you’re having a cup of coffee or tea, focus only on drinking it and nothing else. When you’re standing in a queue, focus only on your posture and nothing else, when you’re stopped at a traffic light, for those few seconds, focus only on your breathing and nothing else.

Meditation brings you back to yourself.

  1. Create

We are, by nature, creators – although mostly of disorder. Humans are the only species known to invent and design. It is astounding to observe the progress that has taken place over the last mere 50 years. Everyone has creative gifts and it’s up to the individual to test and explore what those are. Don’t be limited to the conventional forms of creativity like drawing or painting. Creativity also comes in the form of music, language, movement, strategy, organising, dressing-up, gardening and cooking.

Discover what you have.

  1. Engage

Connect with people on a deeper level and have conversations that leave you feeling refreshed and contemplative. People are craving more intimate relationships, not sexual but spiritual. Hearing someone out and being heard in return are vital components  to our wellbeing and sense of purpose. When we get the opportunity to be heard, we gain clarity. When we give others the opportunity to be heard, we fulfil our need to belong.

Connect with something greater.

These are very simple and basic actions but form the very foundation of a healthy, functioning society.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with aiming to improve yourself, just don’t let it be at the cost of your true nature.

Happy 2019!