We all know that change is inevitable, and there are plenty of hackneyed quotes I could find on “the googler” to make the same point. I suspect that coping with change is different for everyone, in the same way that people have different levels of tolerance for change. Me? I love change, even thrive on it. BUT, that doesn’t mean it is always stress-free. In fact, in going through several changes over the last couple months, I noticed myself experiencing much more stress than I usually do. And I’m a pretty laid back dude. The changes I experienced were mostly career-related, but they affected me on an emotional and psychological level, too. I’m not ambitious enough to believe that I could create a blue print for dealing with change, but in reflecting on the strategies I implemented over the last few weeks, I can at least share how I cope with change, it hopes that it might be helpful for you. Keep in mind that this is a retrospective, and isn’t a “path” I consciously follow. It might be something I return to, though, now that I’ve reflected on my coping processes. So, here goes…
Step One: Accept the Changes and Associated Feelings
Accepting change has always been easy for me. Accepting the accompanying feelings has been more difficult. I don’t like to admit feeling uncomfortable, even to myself. As Dr. Nathaniel Branden would say, “You can’t leave a place you’ve never been”. That means accepting ALL the feelings, good or bad, associated with changes taking place. As an example, I have found myself rationalizing avoiding certain places or clients, coming up with reasons not to see them. Was I scared or nervous?? No way, not me! But actually, I was. So once I accepted that nervousness and discomfort, I was able to move forward because I was being honest with myself.
Step Two: Control Your Environment
For me, this meant cleaning my room/workspace. One can waste a lot of time and energy looking at a mess and trying to figure out when the tornado came through. I have to dig in and get organized before I can operate at my peak. That being said, I have some very organized friends for whom this would never be a problem. There is, however, another aspect to this step. When experiencing a change of location, e.g. a new work environment, place of residence, etc., there is a certain amount of what I call “mousetrap anxiety”. For me, this is the fear of making a wrong turn, getting lost, going to the wrong place, or falling into a deep hole and dying. And above all is the fear of looking like a complete idiot as this is taking place. Of course, these fears are mostly irrational, and the ones that are not can be managed with relative ease. I sometimes go “exploring” to get a lay of the land. I do this in towns I’ve never been to, large buildings, small buildings, you name it. Also, people are incredibly helpful. I like to find a navigator/mentor to help me in times of question.
Step Three: Take Care of the Essentials
This is pretty straight forward, and should probably be step one. It’s easy to get caught up in a new job or situation and forget silly things like eating lunch, exercising, and paying bills. But unless the essentials are covered, you can’t maintain optimal physical, mental, or emotional performance.
Step Four: Make a Checklist and Get Going
Change is often accompanied by new and/or different responsibilities. I am guilty of forgetting how productive I can be. When I log off of Facebook, close the Hulu tab, lock up my guitar, and silence my way-too-smart phone, I can burn through quite a few tasks. And it’s EXHILARATING. Knocking off 15-20 items in a day is a total rush. Starting is the hardest part.
Step Five: Soak, and Don’t Sweat
I’m not talking about a bath, but go ahead if it suits you. I try to “soak” in my new routine, environment, or situation, and it just starts to feel normal. But a sponge can only hold so much, so don’t hate on yourself for the small things. That’s the “don’t sweat” part. Changes take a while to get used to, period. I have to remember to treat myself like I would a friend, which means granting some wiggle room for mistakes and then learning from them.
What do you find helpful in coping with change? Please comment!