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, whether they’re potential or actual, positive or negative. You may be gearing up for a promotion, staring at a wide open field of new prospective clients or launching new products and services. Or you may be hunkering down in the face of outsourcing, downsizing, mergers, takeovers, and local and global competition. Dealing with change at work can be very stressful.
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, including fear, anxiety, overwhelm, excitement, distraction or denial.
In turn, these feelings can manifest in your behavior. You may, unconsciously, act out with aggressive or passive-aggressive communication, both at work and home. You might feel compelled to push yourself and others to overwork, or take the opposite approach and procrastinate, avoiding the work that’s on your plate.
On a personal level, your self-care may suffer. You may reach for unhealthy substances or behaviors, get less sleep, skip meals or overindulge. You might cut yourself off from friends and family and spend more time alone or with other people who have unhealthy habits.
Both positive and 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. If you’re also engaging in unhealthy behaviors and poor self-care, you’re at an even higher risk for serious illness and injury.
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. Whether you lash out, cry, or pound on your desk behind closed doors, it’s incredibly uncomfortable to feel so out of control.
Consider, also, the impact on the people around you. Emotional outbursts, whether at work or home, can irrevocably damage your effectiveness, your reputation and your relationships.
Strategies for Dealing With Work Change
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.
2. Take care of your mind. Stay in the present moment by practicing deep breathing and/or meditation. Challenge your negative thinking and keep things in perspective; when the doom and gloom sets in, ask, “How important is this, really?”
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. Vent your negative feelings by exercising, banging on a drum or pounding on a pillow.
4. Treat others well. 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, but then accept the reality of the moment. Think back to other challenges that you’ve come through and remind yourself that everything will work out okay this time, too.
Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications