How are you at change? Some change is exciting; other kinds of change aren’t too involved. Some people adapt well to change and are able to move forward quickly. They learn what’s necessary, discontinue with the old and plow forward with the new.
However, for most, during times of change, including crises, it is not always easy to simply turn off a switch and start over and begin something new. Not everyone adjusts well to change.
We recognize in business that change is constant. We might learn a process, but once we understand it and adapt to the routine and everything associated with it, it changes. This temporarily throws us into a state of confusion, and it might take us a little time to readjust our thinking and revamp our mindset to move forward.
When it comes to change, why can it be challenging to accept? When change affects you psychologically, how can you work through this and adapt? How can establishing a routine and boundaries be helpful?
The challenges of adapting to change
Change involves transforming, modifying, rebuilding, rebranding and, essentially, starting over. Change can be gradual. This gives people time to adapt to new routines and methods.
But it’s challenging when change happens quickly, such as in a crisis. A change that breeds stress affects our mindset, productivity and focus. The routines we’ve become used to alter, and suddenly we’re thrown into what seems like a vortex, and we’re not sure whether we’re coming or going.
Other challenges that test our patience include working with different team members, adapting to a new role and adjusting to a new environment.
But even more difficult are the psychological effects.
When change affects you psychologically
Change creates stress, and everyone reacts to stress differently. Stress affects us physically, as well as mentally and emotionally.
Here’s something to consider: It’s been shown there are a few steps in the grieving process. But the process can apply in other settings, not just the death of a loved one. Change is a loss, and therefore, the grieving process applies.
For example, when we’re confronted with a crisis, we might end up in a state of disbelief or shock. How long this period lasts is up to each individual. Other emotions could include depression, denial, anger or resentment. Everyone has a coping mechanism, and often we don’t realize what that is or what we have to face emotionally until we’re in that situation. And with each situation, every behavior and individual is unique.
Recognize that you will deal with some unwanted and surprising emotions. Once you understand those emotions and from where they are stemming, the next step is to learn to cope and deal with those emotions.
Working and trying to be productive when you are in shock (or balancing other emotions) is similar to swimming against the current. You fight dynamics, you grow tired, and you get nowhere. Therefore, it is best to wait until the waters calm before trying to swim.
In other words, take a respite if you need one — unwind. Focus on your mental and emotional health. Get plenty of rest, eat healthily and exercise. Enjoy some nature if you are able, even if it’s in your backyard, and use this environment to help you refocus on where you are and how you want to move forward.
While others might tell you to “focus on the positive,” that is difficult to do when you’re feeling depressed and your head seems cloudy. But you can achieve this by learning a hobby or doing something you enjoy that might even be mindless. Cook a healthy meal, enjoy a bike ride, read a novel or do a craft project.
Only when you take care of your mental health will you be able to deal with the psychological effects of change. Keep in mind if your mental health continues for a couple of weeks or more, you might want to consider seeking professional help from a qualified doctor.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some excellent tips for managing stress you might want to review.
Establishing new routines and boundaries
Once you’ve been able to understand and cope with your mental health needs and your emotions associated with change, you will then be ready to move forward with renewed vigor.
The time we take to understand what we want to do and where we need to go can often empower us to take charge of changes we need to make to achieve those goals.
When we’re faced with a crisis or traumatic change, it helps to try to quickly get back into our routine. However, if that routine went up in smoke with our house, for example, we need a new routine. The closer we can get to our original routine, in some cases, the easier it is to help us cope with stress.
Dealing with change, though, might force us to create a new routine. When you do, consider how to apply what you know and what you have been doing to what you can learn. Try to embrace the new and actively seek the positives that come with it. Listen to others who are familiar with certain routines, environments and methods, and apply what you need from that knowledge.
As you establish new routines, make sure you implement boundaries for yourself. For example, instead of spending hours on one project, consider cutting your time into chunks to break up the day to give yourself some needed rest.
If your environment has changed, make sure you create a productive space. Keep that space specific to its intention. For example, if you designate an area of your home for work, don’t use it for something else. Communicate with those around you so they’re clear on what you need and even expect. And respect their boundaries as well.
In addition to separating workspace from personal space if you’re new to working from home, you might also want to establish boundaries with your phone and email communications and your exposure to news and social media.
Social interaction and its psychological effects
Remember to put your physical and mental health on the top of the priority list. Only then can you be productive and discover fulfillment in what you’re trying to achieve.
A further way to adapt to change and feed your emotional health is to have regular interaction with your friends and family in fun settings. Laughing and doing something enjoyable, especially with friends and family, can be excellent healing mechanisms when we’re stressed.
If circumstances do not allow you to be with your loved ones and support system in person, take advantage of video chats. Seeing friends via video can often do more for us mentally than simply chatting on the phone. With video, we can see facial expressions, including their concern for us when we pour out our heart.
When you’re with friends or family, try to talk about things unrelated to your work. If you have faced a recent change, feel free to confide in ones you trust when you need a listening ear. However, avoid dwelling on the subject and focus instead on the bigger picture.
Being surrounded by ones we love can remind us what’s important in life. And it can reinvigorate us to accept change with a positive outlook.