Life change is unavoidable. The pace of change has increased to a record rate with the latest innovations and information technologies. Our body's primitive response mechanism has not been able to keep pace and we are living with “overwhelm" as a daily companion. We do not have time to adapt at a genetic level, so we must learn to use behavioral adaptations to survive and thrive.
Each of us is a unique person with our unique habitual response to stress. Some of us respond to stress with anger, frustration, rage, or fear. Some of us get “uptight" and hold tension in our jaws, necks, shoulders, backs, or legs. Some of us want to run away as a response. Sometimes we tighten our stomachs, hold our breath, feel our heart racing, our blood pressure may rise, or our hands and feet may get cold. Sometimes we withdraw as if we could hide from the dangers of newness of our transitions.
When we do not have any “control" over the transition and it is an “important" issue, then our stress levels increase. Our body responds, in the only way that it can, as if we were in a life or death situation. We must learn that in life's interactions, the only thing that we can control is our response to the event. If this situation is important to us, it is best if we can have some input in the change process. We must understand our role and importance of our contribution to the larger picture. And finally, we must be meticulous with our self-care.
If stress comes from an unclear picture of what the transition entails and what our role in this transition will be, then we can respond with fear and resistance which can hurt the project and often our credibility. Communication with higher ups, peers, and the personnel we must manage is critical. Make sure everyone really understands their value, their role, and their contribution to the success of the project. Honesty is essential. Open conversations about the fears of the new or the grieving of the things that have had to change to make way for the new policy or procedure. Dealing with these issues will enroll the participants more successfully.
In a perfect world, there would be time to honor all of these necessary steps for positive transitions, but often the reality is less complete. We must develop strong, uncompromising habits for personal survival and self-care. This might include non-negotiable time for exercise and stress management practice. It would include patterns during stressful transitions where there is enough time for sleep/rest and proper nutrition. Simplify your expectations and distractions. It may not be the best time to take on new projects that would add to the stress like: remodeling the house, moving, new relationships, or large family or social commitments. In other words, use your best common sense and do not over do non-essential activities.
Consider using the following checklist of eight tools for managing major transitions more gracefully.
Tips for Surviving Change
1. Self-Care Daily! See and Use the suggestions from the Ten Timely Tips page. Self-care is the single most important ingredient to maintaining balance as you go through transitions and change. Proper diet, exercise, and regular relaxations will allow you to be more productive with a higher quality of life!
2. Communicate. Keep yourself from falling into the pitfalls of life by giving and getting feedback about every major concern (change/transition) you are dealing with. Remember, listening is the most important part of communicating. Ask for clarification, so you can make good decisions.
3. Planning. . . Be Prepared. A productive journey through life's transitions can not occur gracefully without a plan. Long range goals can keep short-term setbacks from defeating you in major ways. Focus on your long term goals regularly to keep you focused and moving ahead. Plan in every area of life: Finance, self-care, education, relationship, emotional growth, creativity/aesthetic, and spiritual development.
4. Develop Positive Support Mechanisms. If you want to survive, in good health, you need to have proper feedback and support. The “Family" is not always the best place. Friends and professional counselors can sometimes be the best venue for honesty and appropriate support.
5. Develop Positive Rewards. Small and large rewards along your way help make motivation easier, especially with large, long-term goals. A real heartfelt pat on your own back with achieving a reward makes the difficulties easier to bear.
6. Use and Develop Your Humor! Positive Attitudes Really Help! Difficulties, when viewed as opportunities for growth and proving your abilities, are less harmful. But do not bury your anger, fear or sadness.
7. Deal with the Dilemma of Diversity! Every change throws you into a position of dealing with new people, teams, attitudes, emotional “stretches" and more new obstacles. Learning acceptance (through self-care) can help you to make the necessary adjustments and get along faster toward productivity and higher performance. There will always be a contrary attitude around, accept that other opinions exist and you are entitled to your own.
8. Maintain Balance in Your Life! Prioritize, acknowledge, celebrate, and follow through on every area of life, including your emotional and spiritual needs.
© L. John Mason, Ph. D. , 2002. Stress Education Center and Dstress.com
L. John Mason, Ph. D. is the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction. " Since 1977, he has offered Executive Coaching and Training.
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