Welcome to the last in our series of resilience bites. As we enter the next phase in our emergence from lockdown, we thought it appropriate to cover the topic of getting comfortable with change. In this article we reference our previous ‘resilience bites’ articles – all of these can be found elsewhere on this blog.
We’re starting to hear conversations about ‘getting back to normal’ and ‘returning to the old ways’. This is a normal response to change. Our brains want the certainty of returning to what we know, but we need to reset our expectations. Some things will be different, some will stay the same. One thing that we can guarantee is that we will all be adjusting to the new ‘normal’ and this itself will keep evolving.
So how can we develop ourselves to be more agile and resilient to deal effectively with ongoing change?
Each of us perceives the changes differently
Each and every one of us has our own individual reaction to change. Some of us are more optimistic than others and see the positives more quickly. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, our ability to be optimistic is about 50% genetic, 10% life circumstances and 40% intentional (which means it can be developed).
If we have had a positive or negative experience of change before, this can colour our reaction. Other factors that impact our change agility include our core values (e.g. if we like stability) and our attitude to risk. The more risk averse we are, the more we may be uncomfortable with change.
Our personality can also influence what aspects of a change we may like and what we might struggle with. For example, returning to a physical workplace may be a joy for some people, and for others, it will require letting go of something they would prefer to keep.
We want to help to develop a more optimistic perspective and build greater change agility by taking a few small steps to strengthen resilience. So here are some resilience bites to help do this:
Let’s Make Change Fun (or make fun of Change!)
In our dealing with change programs we invite participants to start getting comfortable with change in fun ways (they don’t always see this as fun in the beginning though!). Our suggestions include:-
· Brushing your teeth with your non dominant hand (you WILL have to clean the mirror afterwards)
· If you wear a watch, try wearing it on the other wrist
· Changing the cutlery in the drawer (and seeing how many times you go to get the knives in their ‘old’ spot!)
· Changing the furniture around your home if you have space
· Taking a different route home from work (if you end up going back to work in an office)
· Looking to make some healthy changes in your diet (see resilience bites #3) – especially after lockdown expansion!
· If you sleep with a partner, considering not having a side of the bed (at this point our participants are usually up in arms!).
It may seem a bit of harmless fun but what we are really doing is training our brain to get comfortable with change, we’re rewiring habitual neuronal patterns to notice what’s new, what’s different, repeat it and gradually become used to it.
If any of our suggestions are out of bounds for you, what might this say about how you will deal with major change at work?
One of the very positive things to come out of the last few months has been the increase in community gratitude (resilience bites #7). When we are acknowledging others, we experience a dopamine hit and we build our ability to notice what is good and positive in our worlds.
We might not realise it but we are already becoming more adaptable at dealing with change and this is noticeable in the gratitude we are feeling and showing (resilience bites #7) for the changes in restrictions we look for each week from our State Premieres.
Control and Connect
We can adjust to the uncertainty of any situation by thinking about what we have control over, or at least, what we can influence in this situation and by doing so, we can redirect anxiety and worry to strength and purposeful action – what can I do about the situation? (resilience bites #4)
We can make sure we are staying connected (resilience bites #5) with others. Kelly McGonigal in her TED Talk and her book ‘The Upside of Stress’ showed that when we help others, we help ourselves. We increase our ability to deal with stressful situations through supporting others and we know that there will be people who are going to struggle more with this ongoing change. (resilience bites #1).
Rest and Digest
Energy is not an infinite resource. We need to give our mind time to rest and reset as our best thinking, performed by the executive function of the Prefrontal Cortex (resilience bites #2) becomes depleted as we use it. We can commit to building in time for fun activities which give us pleasure. This could be physical exercise, playing/taking up an instrument or whatever feels good for you.
Maintain a good diet (resilience bites #3) which will support positive moods and maintain stamina to deal with ongoing change. You can contact us for a copy of our ‘Top 10 Foods for Brain and Mood’ infographic.
In resilience bites #8, we talked about the importance of being aware of where we are focusing our attention. Are we ruminating on the past or worrying about the future? What is the impact on us if we are? We can’t change the past and we can’t control the future, so energy is not being well spent.
When we are mindless, our thoughts are often scattered and anxious, increasing our cortisol levels when the best fuel for the brain is access to dopamine and serotonin. Training our attention to bring it back to the present will allow us to choose what we prioritise and focus on and avoid wasting energy on things that we can’t do anything about.
Finally, Consciously choose Positive Thoughts
Train your brain to look for the positives in any given situation. Reframe a challenge or change as an opportunity to grow, develop and learn – “What will this give me? What opportunities do I see in this change?” If you are struggling to do this, connect with someone else who has a different and less subjective view of the change and ask them to help you see the gift.
Remember there is always a gift – sometimes it just takes a while to unwrap it!
We wish you well on your onward journey and if we can ever be of help, please get in touch