Coping With Change
Sid Madge shares five simple tips and pointers to help you cope with change, no matter what
In the last year or so, many of us have been forced to change the way we work, the way we socialise, our holiday plans and the way we keep in touch with friends and family. Some of this change has been heart-breaking, some has been unsettling or disappointing, and other changes have delivered unexpected silver linings.
No one knows what’s around the corner, but we can guarantee it involves more change. We may as well get comfortable with it. I’m a great believer in instant change, little ‘micro-moments’ of learning or adaptation that allow us to actively take charge of our situation and emotions in the moment, to reset and to bring more of our best to help ourselves and others. Each micro-moment of intervention is designed to be actionable in just one minute. With that being said, here are a few simple ways to cope with change and build resilience in just a few minutes per day.
The Natural Health Service
We’ve all been in awe of the National Health Service through the pandemic, but the Natural Health Service is also worth shouting about. Change – even positive change or change that we are excited about – can cause disruption and elevated stress. Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone, and too much of it can cause havoc to our health and mental wellbeing. Cortisol also creates negative feedback loops which means that the more cortisol we create in the body, the worse we feel – which in turn creates even more cortisol in a downward spiral.
It’s important to break that downward spiral as quickly as possible. One great way is to get near nature – even if you live in the city, a park will do. Pay attention to the sounds and smells, and simply enjoy some quiet time and the fresh air. As autumn is with us, one thing I love doing (especially with my children) is trying to catch a falling leaf. It looks ridiculous to anyone watching, and is also a great game. The bigger leaves like sycamore and horse chestnut are far easier to catch, but we offer great kudos if you manage to catch a smaller one like an oak leaf. You might even create a game with points awarded for the how many you catch and how difficult they are based on their size. Being outside in or around nature has restorative powers that allow us to get back on an even keel, so we can more forward constructively with the change.
Instead of sitting inside to eat your lunch, why not go to a local park with some work friends and enjoy lunch al fresco. If possible, add in a little walk too. Just breathe and listen to the sights and sounds of nature.
Change requires us to do, think or be different in some way. This often means mistakes, failures and slip-ups along the way. It’s rare that we move seamlessly from one position to the next without some stumbles. Learning to ride a bike is a change – change from walking to a new form of transport – and it doesn’t just happen miraculously, like the flick of a switch. It’s a journey of anxiety, questionable balance and a few scrapes. Everyone fails their way to riding a bike.
We all know this, and yet when we become adults, we dread failure. It is seen as a weakness, or something that must be hidden. And that is rubbish. Failure is the only way to succeed at anything, including successful change. This is known as having a growth mindset – the idea that everything is possible and we can get better at anything if we stick with it and persevere.
Next time you have to make some changes, recognise that going from A to B is never linear. There will be days that you stuff up. There will be times when you feel that you are taking three steps forward and two steps back. That’s okay. Just keep going. Take a minute to think about how many times you have embarked on change and created unrealistically high expectations for yourself. Stop expecting immediate perfection and instead settle for consistent effort.
What do you love? What makes you happy? Is it meeting up with friends, listening to really loud music or singing at the top of your lungs in the car on the way to work? Do you love taking some time out and reading a good thriller? Or do you just enjoying some family time at the end of a challenging week? Whatever it is, do more of it.
Change can be disconcerting. It can feel like your whole life is being shaken up, so deliberately hang on to the positive habits that already make you feel happy and safe. If you don’t have any of those, make them. Take a minute to think back to a time in your life when you felt especially peaceful or happy. What exactly were you doing? Have you stopped doing that? If so, why?
Another great habit to get into is appreciation. In the shower in the morning or on your daily commute, take a few minutes to think about the three things that you are most grateful for in your life. Relish those things in the midst of change.
Take care of the basics
If you want to emerge from change fighting fit and raring to go, you need to take care of the basics. That means eating healthy food, getting enough micro-nutrients, enough sleep and drinking plenty of water.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t have take-outs or go out for a few drinks – just take care of the basics most of the time. Getting enough rest is also crucial. To help with sleep, make sure you don’t have a TV in your bedroom – and no checking Facebook or TikTok before bed. Ideally, leave your phone outside of your bedroom. Get an alarm clock and charge your phone in the kitchen. Trust me – the world will not tilt on its axis if you are not within touching distance of your phone for a few hours.
Make eating well easy for yourself. Take a few minutes to plan your meals for the week and make sure there are plenty fresh fruit and vegetables in the house. Also consider a social media detox for a day or so. You might be surprised at how much better you feel.
Remember that pesky cortisol. Another great way to disperse cortisol in your system is to move and get physically active. You don’t need to go overboard – there’s no need to pound the pavement at 5am if you struggle with the idea of that. Just move your body. Put on a favourite song and dance around your living room like no one is watching for a few minutes.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy demonstrated that changing what your body is doing for as little as two minutes can massively reduce cortisol levels. In her study, half of the volunteers engage in a ‘high power pose’ for two minutes and the other half engaged in ‘low power poses’ for the same time. Neither group was told what they were doing. High power poses are anything that increases the physical space we take up with our body. The classic high power pose is the Superman pose. Stand up strong with your legs hip-distance apart, hands on your hips as though you’ve just landed to save the world.
Low power poses are the opposite and take up less space, so these include being hunched over looking at your phone. What Cuddy found was that using baseline levels for testosterone (confidence hormone) and cortisol (stress hormone) before and after the experiment, those who did high power poses experienced a 20 percent increase in the confidence hormone (testosterone) and a 25 percent reduction in the stress hormone (cortisol). Those doing the low power poses for just two minutes experienced a 10 percent reduction in the confidence hormone and a 15 percent increase in the stress hormone.
Next time you need a hit of confidence during the change process, go to the bathroom and engage in two minutes of superman pose. You may feel like a complete idiot, but it will do wonders for your health and wellbeing.
By taking just a few minutes a day and following the suggestions above, you can put yourself in the best possible state of mind to manage change successfully.