The world of work is changing at an extraordinary pace. The old rules no longer apply, and new rules are being written and rewritten all the time.
These changes can be unsettling, no matter what the challenge in front of you. You may be facing downsizing, outsourcing, mergers, takeovers or a suddenly more competitive market. Likewise, you may be gearing up for what seems to be positive in nature, but can also cause negative stress, like a challenging promotion, a complex new project, or launching an entirely new line of products and services.
How We Respond to Change
As soon as something nudges you out of your regular routine, or challenges your understanding of how the world works and where you fit into it, it will likely trigger a deluge of feelings, which can include excitement, fear, anxiety, overwhelm, distraction or denial, among others.
In turn, these feelings will tend to manifest in your behavior. You might feel compelled to push yourself and others to overwork to meet the new challenges. Or, you may act out with aggressive or passive-aggressive communication, both at work and home. Falling into a dynamic of procrastination, avoiding the work that’s asking for attention without really even understanding why, can also be a possible reaction.
On a personal level, your self-care may suffer. It is not uncommon when under the stress of change to reach for unhealthy substances, get less sleep, skip meals or overindulge.A tendency to cut yourself off from friends and family can also be a natural response to change.
Negative stress can have immediate and long-term detrimental effects. Stress inhibits proper digestion and the absorption of nutrients, impairs your body’s ability to ward off germs and illness, can cause insomnia, and is guaranteed to worsen any preexisting health conditions.
Dealing with change requires flexibility, resilience and an ability to think on your feet. Unfortunately, when you’re caught up in your reaction to change, these mental abilities are affected as well. When you’re preoccupied, worried, and focused on the future instead of the present, it’s much harder to concentrate and apply your brainpower to what’s in front of you.
Great leaders are admired for their serenity and confidence even in the face of uncertainty and upheaval. For many of us, though, when change is afoot serenity is far from our reach. Instead, emotions are much closer to the surface and can flare up at the most inopportune times. Emotional outbursts, whether at work or home, can potentially damage your effectiveness, your reputation and your relationships.
Strategies for Success
Here are five strategies to help you remain flexible, resilient and serene in the face of change:
1. Take care of your body. Eat well, sleep well and refrain from harmful habits like smoking, excessive drinking, recreational drugs or other risky behavior. Exercise and outdoor activity can help greatly. Natural sunlight has been proven to have positive psychological and physiological effects and can be the catalyst to better moods.
2. Take care of your mind. Stay in the present moment by practicing deep breathing, positive visualization, meditation or mental state anchoring techniques. Challenge your negative thinking and keep things in their proper perspective. Think back to other challenges that you’ve come through and remind yourself that you have, in yourself or at hand, everything necessary to move through this as well.
3. Keep your emotions in check. Find reasons to smile and laugh, even when you don’t feel like it—especially when you don’t feel like it! Funny movies, blogs or videos can help. Keep your negative feelings in check by exercising or talking them through with a trusted advisor, coach or friend. Other options can include playing a musical instrument, painting, dancing or any other hobbies that engage body and mind.
4. Nurture relationships. Strengthen your good relationships so you can draw on their support, and work at your challenging relationships so they don’t add to your stress.
5. Take charge. Be proactive and prepare the best you can for the changes that might come, while accepting the reality of the moment. Make a list of the people who you believe might be able to help you overcome the challenges at hand. Approach them openly and ask for their advice or support.