When it comes to change, we often shy away. We fear the unknown, the inevitable disruption that it brings. Worries about our resilience, our confidence, and our ability to adjust appear. But what happens when change is thrust in your face? When your reality transcends into something completely new and entirely out of your control; what do you do then?
In terms of unexpected change, none of us could have been prepared for 2020 and the coronavirus outbreak. Speaking to Business Insider about the Covid-19 pandemic, philanthropist Melinda Gates admitted, “our psyches are going to be permanently changed.” The inevitable truth is that this isn’t a temporary disruption, but instead the beginning of our new normal.
These future changes move in a direction of no real certainty though, and as such the situation creates completely valid anxieties around how we navigate it. So, to help you manage the change in the face of this significant uncertainty, here are five practical tips we can all implement into our daily routines.
Control What You Can Control
Whether there is a pandemic happening or not, we can often find ourselves ruminating in the what if’s; immersing our energy into thoughts and situations which we have no control over. By doing so we build worries and anxieties; we stress about the potential problems each possibility could create. And as such your thinking becomes unproductive and unhelpful in managing the situations that present themselves in your daily lives.
“Imaging catastrophic outcomes over and over again isn’t helpful. But solving a problem is,” notes psychotherapist Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. By redirecting our attention to the problems we can solve, we reduce our anxieties, fears, and worries as we address the problems actually within our control.
Take action then by becoming more aware of your thoughts. Make a note and address whether you are ruminating about the uncontrollable or problem solving for the controllable. Be conscious of what triggers the former and when you do recognise them coming in, get up and go do something different for a few minutes to refocus your brain back to what is in your control.
Plan And Prepare
As you focus on the problems and concerns within your control, begin to consider the list practically. “Planning is a major (but often overlooked) opportunity,” conclude Jack D. Kartez and Michael K. Lindell in their paper, Planning for Uncertainty.
It is to your advantage then to carefully consider the varying scenarios that each concern could bring about and plan accordingly. By doing so you can implement the correct preparations and provisions needed if said scenario were ever to occur, which in turn can mitigate stress in the knowledge that you are ready for whatever may happen.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Our stress levels naturally rise when faced with overwhelming uncertainty for a prolonged period, a feeling exacerbated by spending this time away from many of our loved ones. Some may feel isolated and lacking appropriate levels of communication to help them navigate the situation. This, in turn, can have a deep impact on our mental health.
However, in their paper on stress management education, Hayes and Eddy recognise the need for effective communication skills when dealing with stressful situations. Its important then to keep seek out friends and love ones and stay in communication with them in order to combat your stress and anxieties.
The world has adapted beautifully to the lockdown, by shifting even more so to a world ‘online’. This enables us to keep our communication channels open, so use them. Organise calls with friends, zoom chats, join online book clubs or societies. As you express your concerns and emotions, how you are coping, and what you are practically doing to help yourself; learn from each other to help navigate the uncertainty. Or if you feel it appropriate, connect with professionals such as therapists who are there to help you better manage your stress.
Practice Gratitude And Reflect
It may seem counterintuitive to suggest practicing gratitude during a pandemic, but research suggests that benefit- finding can help people cope with disasters.
It may seem difficult to ignore the daily influx of negative news, but by practicing gratitude daily and reflecting on the positives in your own life, you can build personal and interpersonal resources for coping effectively with stress and adversity. By adopting practices such as journaling, meditation, or healthy daily affirmations, we can begin to build a greater sense of gratitude which in turn supports us through times of uncertainty.
Embrace The Change
There is a definitive inevitably about the change we face in the wake of Covid-19. Systems will change, routines and habits will have to adapt; our whole way of life will be different.
However, if we live in a place of denial where we disregard the unavoidable changes that have and will occur, we risk creating greater levels of stress. The author Richard Luecke notes that “accepting the necessity and inevitably of change enables [us] to see times of transition not as threats but as opportunities”. Acknowledging, embracing, and adapting to change is therefore not only crucial to managing it but also offers a platform for new opportunities.
Whilst change is never an easy process it can be made significantly easier by leaning into it’s inevitably. Through consciously adopting appropriate techniques to manage the situation, we can better control the outcomes and in turn support a more positive emotional response.
Fiona Moss is a life coach, speaker and writer. If you want to learn more about managing change, why not go and watch Fiona’s webinar on change management to develop your understanding of the change process and help work towards the best outcome. You can follow Fiona on her Instagram (@FionaMoss_) and find our more about her work at fionamosshealth.com.