A coping strategy for change
As an Executive Career Transition coach, I see lots of clients who are struggling to remain confident, resilient and motivated in the face of change. Redundancy takes our life out of our control, so no matter how much we are ready to move on, it still often feels like a blow.
Clients can feel stressed and will quickly grasp the impact the change is having on their whole life, both at home and at work. How to combat the signs of stress and cope with the change by becoming more resilient is what this article covers.
The psychological term for those people with an exceptional ability to weather stress and trauma is' resilience'. Resilience is not about a stiff upper lip but instead a bounce-back quality that enables us to take setbacks in our stride and to move forward with our confidence intact. Resilience enables us to; maintain a sense of perspective, be centred, flexible and adaptable, to maintain a positive outlook with a balanced view, be versatile and adjust well.
With so many changes in our workplace, increased hours, more technology, jobs are changing all the time within the same organisation. So, how do we keep our heads above water and develop resilience?
The very first thing you have to do is decide to help yourself. Give yourself plenty of time to adapt to the changes. When the going gets tough, be willing to ask for help, keep adding to your 'tool-kit' to build on your current strategies for managing change and promote your well-being; continually investing time in yourself is one of the critical success factors in leading any change!
By sharing your experiences with others and learning from each other, you lessen the burden - and talking helps. It is also a factor in coping with the internal fear you could be experiencing. When change occurs where you work, it is easy to get swept up with everybody else's emotions, around the event. Instead, ask yourself the following questions to decide for yourself how you feel about the changes, try not to internalise your thinking making it about your successes or failures, keep to the specific facts.
The A B C of change:
A. Acknowledge - acknowledge your current perceptions/approach objectively.
B. Balance - striking a balance by minimising stress and maximising resilience.
C. Control - taking control and taking action to move forward.
Ask yourself these questions, try journalling the answers, to keep to the facts and reality of the matter:
- What has been happening?
- What has actually changed?
- What has it meant for you?
- What is different between the past and now?
- What is likely to be different between now and the future?
- What are you thinking?
- What are you feeling?
- Are there any common themes?
- What has been good? And bad?
- What has helped? What has hindered?
No matter how resilient you are, your contract ending or not being renewed, being made redundant, taking early retirement, can all be tough. Almost like a bereavement, people are losing their 'other' family, their routine and their stability all in one go. This is a test for the most flexible of people. Full retirement can also bring the same feelings and can be a massive adjustment for people to grow in to, whatever your circumstances give yourself the time to adjust. Be kind to yourself.
The transition stage, where you are experiencing confusion and chaos and asking for help can feel tough, but is essential. Feelings of pride and shame and anger all surface. It's where you start questioning your 'fitness' for roles and your abilities. An action you can take at this stage is: make a list of all of your skills and read your old reviews focusing on the positive comments around your strengths and achievements. Do this to remind yourself of your abilities and focus on your positive attributes.
Please keep an open mind on what you could do next. Don't leap at options; consider them carefully. Explore new options, alternatives and possibilities, of which there can be so many more than you can see at first.
Letting go of the old and coming to terms with the new reality is made easier when you realise your thoughts create your feelings. If you focus on feeling positive, despite your situation, you will feel much better during the transition to the next phase of your life.
New beginnings are where we need to start testing new thinking and behaviours. Integrating new experiences, embracing new and exciting goals. Becoming productive again will kick-start your resolve and using your tool-kit, you will be ready to deal with the changes.
Demonstrating your new positive outlook will mean you:
- Tend to exude a positive, optimistic view, being hopeful and confident about the future.
- Balance several tasks at once, life starts to get back into proportion.
- You can see a new perspective and possible solutions to problems.
- Maintain a positive attitude to the relevance and importance of things with a sense of humour.
- Recognise your own stress and pressure signs; headaches, fatigue, confusion, chest pains, breathing difficulties - and use appropriate specialist care and support networks for assistance.
- Appreciate and recognise the need for adaptability. You have the capacity to modify your behaviour for a new purpose: being flexible during times of change.
Someone who can maintain a flexible approach and is prepared to adjust work to assist colleagues is showing they are resilient and that they can readily and easily adapt their communication style and approach to others. They are ready to review and reorganise priorities/tasks as required and are excellent at keeping an open mind.
People with low self-esteem tend to see the world from a perspective of "nothing will work out for me as it never does". As a result, they are reluctant to express and assert themselves, they miss out on experiences and opportunities, and feel powerless to change things. All this lowers their self-esteem still further, sucking them into a downward spiral. If you think that your self-esteem is low, try the following: make two lists: one of your strengths and one of your achievements. Try to get a supportive friend or relative to help you with these lists, as low self-esteem can impact your perspective and judgement.
Please keep the lists in a safe place and read through them every morning or evening to keep your thoughts positive. Think positively about yourself. Remind yourself that, despite the changes, you are a unique, special, and valuable person, and that you deserve to feel good about yourself. Identify and challenge any negative thoughts about yourself, such as 'I am a loser', 'I never do anything right', or 'no one really likes me'. Replace these with new mantras which support you to become more resilient.
To summarise ways to increase your resilience:
- Becoming more aware of your strengths and development needs.
- Developing an action plan.
- Experimenting and trying out new behaviours.
- Looking back and reviewing whats happened to learn for next time and asking for feedback.
- Think about your own self-management, demonstrate you are resilient.
Other points to remember
- Be aware that reputation and credibility is an essential foundation for change.
- Seek to understand and manage the personal impact of organisation change.
- Set goals to achieve a successful outcome for the change and organise yourself to achieve these.
- Lead the challenge between work and home life through addressing what is important to your employees.
- Empower yourself to be proactive in getting needs met.
When you find yourself in a situation where resilience is required - it's a time to reflect and plan for the future, take stock and build a structured plan to achieve your goals and aspirations.
What can you do to ensure you remain upbeat, positive and driven?
Practical steps you can take to develop resilience: recognise the signs of stress, fatigue, appetite changes, headaches, insecurities, insomnia, withdrawal, anxiety, irritability. Identify what's making you stressed.
What to do:
- Decide what's beyond your control and put that to one side.
- Change the way you look at a situation. Reflect and learn from the last time you dealt with a 'change' situation.
- Get support from colleagues.
- Look after yourself with relaxation and exercise.
Change is inevitable. Building your resilience for the future will be time well spent. Remember you can't take the same actions and expect a different outcome so you need to adjust to help yourself.
If, after you have worked through the above recommendations you still feel that managing change in your life is something you are not coping with, then why not speak to an expert? A qualified life coach can guide you through the process of dealing with changes in your life. Start your journey and find a professional life coach near you.