Coping with change

Mark Twain once remarked “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles but most of them never happened.”

A little bit of anxiety about the future can be part of a healthy and balanced outlook. It means that we are paying attention to the future, anticipating problems and making plans. But in times of change, there can be so many more problems to think about, so much more to deal with, and (yes I’m going to say it) so little time. This is then some people’s behaviour can become less than helpful, and any feeling of wellbeing can melt away by a poorly timed moment of dread.

Anxiety is one of the reasons why change is said to be painful. Even mild cases of anxiety can lead to reduced performance and mental capacity at a time when you probably need these resources most. If you are a leader, signs of your anxiety and emotional outbursts can have a devastating effect on the people who are looking to you for guidance and help.

Feeling anxious about change? Here are some things you can do:

  1. Get organised: Take the time to organise your problems and thoughts by writing them down. Basic prioritisation and brainstorming can help to break counterproductive thought cycles such as catastrophising (an unrealistic estimation that the worst things will happen), repetitive thinking, and self-doubt. Getting things off your mind and onto paper can be used as a practical first step in dealing with change.
  2. Manage fear: When stressed, people have a tendency to overestimate the likelihood and consequences of bad things happening. Recognising your reactions and challenging your initial judgments can help you again perspective. Having a rational conversation about your concerns is a great way to gain perspective and manage fear.
  3. Find a good listener: Talking things out is process where you can clarify your own thoughts and needs. A good listener is someone who lets you do the talking and asks questions that help you to clarify the situation and provide perspective. Someone who likes to solve your problems for you may not be that useful, especially if they boss you around and overload you with their opinions. If you start hearing too much of “what you need to do is”, consider finding someone else for the job.
  4. Challenge yourself to adapt and grow. The way you see yourself and how you want others to see you might need to shift. Perhaps some thoughts or ideals you have about yourself are unrealistic or overly demanding for you to live up to. Use the change as an opportunity to evaluate what’s really important to you and as an opportunity for personal growth – perhaps in a new direction.
  5. Take care of yourself: It’s obvious, but warrants a mention. Do some exercise, eat well, socialise, laugh and get a proper amount of sleep. Also, be on guard against using overindulgence as a way of getting through.

What advice would you offer to help people deal with change and to manage anxiety? Also, is there anything organisation can do to make things easier? 

One thought on “Coping with change

  1. Practical, simple, brilliant! Thanks Mark, that really is a simple approach to complicated scenarios all round, whether change or even a complicated challenge. I guess that opens up a debate about what constitutes change and what is another cause for anxiety.

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