Inspiration

WHY CHANGE IS SO HARD

sws warning lights embraces change

Change is an inevitable part of life. Still, most of us react with resistance. We get comfortable with our habits, routines, and ways of thinking, and when something new comes along, we feel threatened. We don’t know how to handle the unfamiliarity of it all– and so we resist it.

In today’s blog, we’ll explore why this continues to happen to so many of us and list several ways we can resist this tempting urge and instead, push through the discomfort to achieve our goals.

Why Dealing with Change is Hard

Change is a part of life. And it requires adjustments.

Sometimes they can be small and inconsequential, like cleaning something up right away. Other times, though, they can be big and disruptive, causing a major upheaval in your life. For some, this can instill feelings of stress. However, this isn’t to say that it’s a bad thing. In fact, even good change can leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

The stress that arises when our routines are disrupted and comfort zones are raided, can be a lot to handle. It can have a detrimental effect on both our physical and mental well-being. As a result, individuals undergoing change may find themselves experiencing one, or a combination, of the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Muscle pain
  • Stomach upset
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Tension headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Depression or sadness

Our Brains and Change

Over time our brains have evolved to prefer certainty. This stems from our basic need to survive. Researchers have spent a considerable amount of time investigating what happens in the brain and body when we experience changes. They found that there are at least two ways we recognize change:

We Perceive Change as a Threat

When we perceive change as a threat, we experience distress– a feeling of being overwhelmed, out of control, or unable to cope. Often this distress manifests in physiological changes: our heart beats faster, vascular resistance makes it harder to push blood through our circulatory system, and the body releases cortisol-the stress hormone- into the bloodstream. While cortisol is an anti-inflammatory known for reducing inflammation in the body caused by stress, when levels remain high for too long it can be detrimental. Muscle loss, depression and heart disease are just some of the ways excess cortisol can wreak havoc on our bodies.

When perceived as a threat, change can also cause us to feel frustrated and experience negative emotions like anxiety. Thoughts like, “I can’t do that” are increasingly common.

We Experience Change as a Challenge

However, when we experience change as a challenge, or an opportunity to learn or do something new, we are more likely to experience eustress. Eustress is a positive form of stress, that helps, rather than hinders, us. During eustress, our bodies respond efficiently to pressure. Our hearts beat faster, but with a decrease in vascular resistance, which means the blood can flow throughout the circulatory system with greater ease.

Therefore reframing change as a challenge allows us to feel more positive towards change, or at the very least, better about the transformation we are undergoing.

Is There an Age When We’re More Open to Change?

Ever wonder when we start to become resistant to change? The answer may surprise you. According to a multitude of studies conducted by personality researchers Paul Costa and Robert R. McCrae of the National Institutes of Health, people are most open to new experiences during their teens and early 20s.

A lot of us fantasize about far-reaching adventures like backpacking through Thailand or descending into an Icelandic volcano. But after a person’s 20s, the openness to pursue these wild voyages declines, and resistance to change increases.

recent survey confirmed this theory. Using standard psychological tests, psychologists analyzed the Big Five personality traits of more than 130,000 participants. They found that openness increased up to age 30 and then declined slowly in both men and women. The results also highlighted that men enter adulthood slightly more open to new experiences than women, however, they decline in openness during their 30s at a faster rate than women.

4 Tips For Embracing Change

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by change, it can be helpful to have strategies in place to cope. It’s one thing to know intellectually that change is a part of life; it’s another thing entirely to take action on that knowledge when you’re feeling the effects of change.

When you have a plan, you’ll feel more in control and less anxious, which will help you adapt to change more easily.

To help get you started, here are four tips for embracing change at home or at work:

1. Change Your Mindset!

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” It’s a common saying that implies people aren’t capable of learning new things as they age. However, studies show that this is simply not the case.

In fact, according to the term growth mindset, coined by American psychologist Professor Carol Dweck, the exact opposite rings true.

A growth mindset is the idea that our talents and skills are constantly being developed through hard work and guidance. These people see opportunities, rather than obstacles, and choose to challenge themselves to learn instead of staying content in their comfort zone.

Dweck’s research has also shown this way of thinking to be more effective than a fixed mindset, which is the belief that our abilities are innate and unchangeable.

Consider the following tips to achieve a growth mindset:

  • Harness the power of ‘yet’. The whole premise behind a growth mindset is that you’re constantly evolving. While at the moment you may not be the best at something, soon you will be. So keep your eyes on the prize and harness the power of ‘yet’!
  • Learn something new. It’s easy to get comfortable in your routine but taking the time out of your day to challenge yourself will help keep you fresh and ready for anything.
  • Make mistakes. Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. No one is perfect. When you make a mistake, instead of feeling defeated, identify where you went wrong, and find ways you can improve for next time.
  • Look at your own improvements. Consider something you’re better at now than you were in the past. How did it feel when it was difficult? What did you previously find difficult? Why does it feel easier now? How did you achieve this change?

2. Maintain Routines

When everything else is changing around you, it’s easy to forget that there are some things in your life that can remain constant. And we’re not just talking about your morning cup of coffee.

When everything else feels like it’s in flux, upholding a sense of routine can help you maintain some semblance of control over your own life– and that can make all the difference when it comes to managing stress symptoms.

Research has found that holding onto routines can help people better manage symptoms of stress and anxiety. And it doesn’t have to be complex! Simple things like waking up and going to bed at the same time every day can provide a sense of structure when other areas of your life feel like they’re lacking it.

Other activities you may want to consider incorporating into your daily routine that may help during periods of change include:

  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Establishing realistic daily goals
  • Eating healthy meals
  • Setting time aside for mindfulness or deep breathing
  • Getting plenty of rest each night

Remember, what works for you, may not work for someone else and vice versa. Think about what specifically brings YOU comfort, whether it be an outdoor run, a few laps around the pool or closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths.

3. Find Social Support

Social support is fundamental for mental well-being as a whole, but it can be especially helpful when dealing with change.

Count on your friends, loved ones and other social connections to support you in the following ways during times of change:

  • Emotionally. Friends and loved ones are always willing to lend an ear. Confide in them and they’ll return the favor with empathy and support.
  • For encouragement. Your support system can offer wise words of encouragement to get you through periods of difficult change.
  • For Advice and Information. Take notes from your social connections. Maybe they’ve undergone the changes you’re currently going through.
  • Physically. Don’t hesitate to rely on your loved ones for physical support. Whether it’s to drive you to an appointment or pick up your groceries.

Research has found that social support interventions can be specifically helpful for individuals dealing with health-related changes.

According to a study, group meetings and phone calls help people feel less lonely and isolated after a severe diagnosis. These supports also promoted health behaviors, like getting regular exercise and taking medications, and were linked to increased survival rates.

4. Opt for Change Management Models

Change impacts all facets of our lives– from work to personal relationships. It’s inevitable, but it’s also something we can manage. Change management draws on theories from psychology, behavioral science, engineering, and systems thinking to help people adapt to new circumstances in a way that will make them feel more comfortable with the transition. It helps organizations prepare for change by identifying any potential problems ahead of time and adjusting accordingly.

While there are many change management models to choose from all successful ones rely on four key principles: (1) understand change (2) plan change (3) implement change, and (4) communicate change. Let’s look at each further.

Principle 1: Understand Change

Before you can promote the benefits of change within your organization, you must first understand it yourself. Consider the following:

  • Why you need the change. What are the key objectives?
  • What benefits will the change provide the organization?
  • How will it impact people positively?
  • How will it affect people’s everyday work?
  • What will your team need to successfully achieve this change?

Principle 2: Plan Change
Change doesn’t happen by chance. It takes time and preparation. When organizing for change, it’s important to account for the following:

  • Sponsorship. How do you plan on securing, engaging, and using high-level support and sponsorship of the change?
  • Involvement. Who is positioned to help you design and implement the change? For example, does this form of change require external resources, or can you rely on internal support?
  • Buy-in. Having business-wide support will the change a lot smoother. Is there any way you can achieve this?
  • Impact. What should success look like?

Principle 3: Implement Change

Implementing change is a process. It’s not as simple as flipping a switch and expecting everything to change, nor should it be. There are many strategies for putting change into practice, from Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model to the Change Curve. Whatever tool you use, it’s essential that everyone understands what needs to happen and that they’re supported throughout the entire process.

Principle 4: Communicate Change

Communication is key in change management. It’s important that you are clear about the changes you want to make, and why. You also have to be sure that your employees understand the impact those changes will have on them, as well as how they can work together to make it happen.

It’s not a bad idea to link the changes to your organization’s mission or vision statement. This may help your team see the bigger picture while providing them with an inspiring shared vision of the future.

SWS Warning Lights Embraces Change

As a company that has existed for over 50 years, we believe in the importance of change. At SWS, we understand the fear of change, but we believe that if you don’t roll with the punches, you’re going to get left behind. That’s why, we want to help you change your life- while protecting the lives of others- one warning light at a time.

Contact us today to learn more.

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