“The only thing constant is change” Heraclitus
Each and every day we are subject to the vagaries of our world. However much we may want to keep what we have constant, we have to accept that we are all subject to continuous change. Most changes are gradual and so we do not notice them so much, but other changes are significant, sudden and impact on us in a way that creates fear and stress.
We may have changes in our workplace with large scale projects that pull us along in fear of the unknown, or changes in our lives that are both frightening and exciting. However much change we go through, we never seem to be prepared for the next upheaval as much as we would like. Change often feels like it is being done to us, against our control. This adds to the fear as a lack of control is often the reason we feel so stressed.
So what is the answer? Positive psychology has a number of useful theories and approaches that can be used to help us manage any changes in our lives with less discomfort. For instance, we have a great deal of evidence that mindfulness helps lower anxiety and teaches us to be open and curious with what is happening to us, even the horrible experiences. We also have evidence that adopting a growth mindset will allow is to see all experiences as opportunities to learn and grow as a person. The ‘broaden and build’ theory teaches us that we can develop our ability to see the positive aspects of each moment by focusing our attention on what we are grateful for.
In my work I have developed a simple acronym to help people move away from feeling fear and aversion as they manage change, to instead embrace the experience in a caring way. The acronym is CLOC :-
Be curios about what is happening. It’s tempting to close down with the fear or discomfort of change, to protect yourself from being overwhelmed. Try instead to ease yourself into your curiosity of noticing what is changing, why it’s changing, and what your place is within that change. Notice how you are feeling, pay attention to your own emotions, good and bad. Don’t push them away.
A LEARNING opportunity
Use the change as a LEARNING opportunity. What new information can you gather from what is happening? Use the time as a way to grow your own strengths and understanding for the future. What are your emotions telling you? Develop strategies to move forward in a healthy and safe way.
Demonstrate openness towards the experience. Reach out to other people, familiar and new. Be open to stepping into new opportunities and experiences as part of your own growth process. Invite in all your emotions, accepting them and working with them. Take time to reflect and consider if there are opportunities from this change to do something new, something meaningful, something that you may not have felt possible before the changing circumstances.
Throughout the change, show yourself and others COMPASSION. Change is hard, scary and unsettling (even when instigated by yourself), so take care of yourself by being kind to all your thoughts and emotions (not be critical or judgemental). Physically and mentally appreciate the hardship of your circumstances, remind yourself that this is what it is to be human, and everyone else is also suffering through change. Reach out to others to help you, and look for ways to help others too.
About the author: Lisa Jones has a professional background in human resource leadership and employment law. She is currently studying for a MAPP at Buckinghamshire New University where she intends to combine her HR expertise with positive psychology to work with organisations and community groups to generate increased psychological well-being.