All Change... Please!

Emma shares three practices in handling the impact of change and uncertainty

Change. Why is it so hard?

There’s comfort in familiarity; we like control, order, predictability, certainty. The neuroscience informs us that our brains are wired for this; preferring the well-trodden and more established neural pathways.

We live in uniquely unsettling times. This has been sudden change thrust upon us, traumatic change in many respects. No time for planning. No period to review and check in, just keep on keeping on.

Never mind the pandemic, we’re living through social change movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter and our response to the climate emergency. We are in a state of flux. People are resistant, nervous, exhausted. The challenges of managing change in this context are amplified.

So, what can we do about it?

As a coach, I prefer to look at what we can practice, rather than what we can do. When we practice something, we take our time and build our response, we notice what’s helpful and what isn’t. We resist knee-jerk action or re-action.

Here are 3 practices in handling the impact of change and uncertainty:

Practice No. 1: Control what you can

There are many things that happen during times of change and transition that are beyond our control. We can’t control the behaviour of the virus, our governments, leaders, our family or neighbours. Many coachees tell me their challenge is not knowing the timescale of change. In times of crisis, our brain wants to focus on the ways our lives seem to be spinning out of control and so our thinking becomes super keen to get some control.

Ask yourself:

1) What one step can I take today to control my current experience?

2) What am I trying to control that I need to let go of?

Action:

  • Identify one thing you can control and focus on that. Keep it simple, perhaps it’s the timing of breaks in your day or when you will switch off notifications and for how long.
  • Acknowledge the opportunities to make choices each day. Plan your lunches for the week, what clothes you’ll wear, or the days you’ll have a walk.
  • Create and maintain a daily/weekly routine. This can help raise our sense of autonomy and introduce more certainty.

Practice No. 2: Maintain positive connection with others

In these socially distanced times and continued working from home for many, it’s more important than ever to maintain healthy connections and relationships. Values shift as we respond to changing circumstances and staying connected, sharing experiences with others, is the glue. It’s also important to disconnect ourselves from unnecessary negativity. Social media and accessing news may feel like connection but might not be good for us.

Ask yourself:

1) What is the one action I can take today to feel more socially connected?

2) How will I connect? And how might I disconnect?

Action:

  • Working from home might mean more opportunities to connect with your local community through voluntary work or WhatsApp groups.
  • Virtual meetings, happy hours, and other events (with the camera on) can help build relatedness and a sense of community. Get out-and-about again and meet face-to-face where that’s possible.
  • Pay attention to who can help or who can relate to you or who simply makes you feel better and is good to be around. Reach out to them.

Practice No. 3: Take your time…& reflect

In a recent coaching session, someone offered me this – I like to take the time to know my emotions and thought patterns and work with these first. That’s self-knowledge and awareness right there! Taking time to focus on what’s important to us, what anchors us and also allowing time to reflect is an on-going practice, not a one-off. It’s been a passive time as we wait to hear more on restrictions or future announcements but we can be proactive again.

Ask yourself:

1) What strategies have worked for me in the past during a major change process?

2) How could I effectively use those strategies now?

Action:

  • Give yourself a break – figuratively and in practice – to take time to pause, notice, reflect. You might want to use an App to help you create time for this, or try journaling, maybe it’s a spiritual practice like meditation and prayer time that will help you.
  • Any progress through change is deeply personal and relates to how we handle transitions. Be mindful of this as it will impact on your pace.
  • Review. Which strategies are working for you? Which do you need to ditch?

Even though these times probably feel like the most all-encompassing change we have experienced - blasting into our work, home and social lives - it won’t be the last.

We may as well get practising…

Emma Willars, Coaching & Development

Emma designs and hosts Work+Family Live events alongside her coaching work for Bright Horizons and others.