We’ve been reading for years about how the pace of change is accelerating, creating mounting challenges for businesses to stay flexible, agile, and relevant. Now experts predict even greater changes, both good and bad, as generative artificial intelligence advances.
With the world of work constantly changing, leaders face tremendous pressure to stay ahead of the waves of disruption. How can we respond when the old rules no longer apply, and new rules are being written and rewritten all the time?
Change can be unsettling, no matter what challenges you face. You may be dealing with downsizing, outsourcing, mergers, takeovers, or a suddenly more competitive market. Or you may be gearing up for a challenging promotion, a complex new project, or launching an entirely new line of products and services. Whether we perceive it as positive or negative, change brings stress — and the need to up our game when it comes to caring for ourselves. November 1st was National Stress Awareness Day, so let’s take a look at some of the dynamics of stress.
How We Respond to Change
As soon as something nudges you out of your regular routine, or challenges your understanding of how the world works and where you fit into it, it will likely trigger a deluge of feelings. These may include excitement, fear, anxiety, overwhelm, distraction, or denial, among others. These feelings will tend to manifest in your behavior. You might feel compelled to push yourself and others to overwork to meet the new challenges. You may act out with aggressive or passive-aggressive communication at work and at home. Or you may feel so overwhelmed that you freeze up or procrastinate, putting off decisions you know you must face.
The more stress we are under, the more we need to take care of ourselves. Yet many leaders tend to do the opposite, neglecting self-care as they push themselves to work longer and harder. They overindulge in unhealthy substances, lose sleep, skip meals and exercise, or cut themselves off from family and friends as they focus on work. If this sounds familiar, it’s a sign you need to make some changes to avoid burning out.
The Impact of Stress
Stress can have immediate and long-term detrimental effects. It inhibits proper digestion and the absorption of nutrients, impairs your body’s ability to fight off germs and illness, can cause short-term and chronic insomnia, and aggravates preexisting health conditions.
Dealing with change requires flexibility, resilience, and an ability to think on your feet. But when you’re preoccupied, worried, and focused on the future instead of the present, it’s much harder to concentrate and apply your brainpower to what’s in front of you.
Great leaders are admired for their serenity and confidence even in the face of uncertainty and upheaval. Yet for many people, serenity goes out the window when they need it most. Instead, they grow more reactive and prone to emotional outbursts, damaging their effectiveness, reputation, and relationships. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Strategies for Success
Here are five strategies to help you remain flexible, resilient, and calm in the face of change:
Take care of your body.
Eat well, sleep well, and refrain from harmful habits like smoking, excessive drinking, recreational drugs, or other risky behavior. Exercise and outdoor activity can help greatly. Natural sunlight has been proven to have positive psychological and physiological effects and can be the catalyst to better moods.
Take care of your mind.
Stay in the present moment by practicing deep breathing, positive visualization, meditation, or mental state anchoring techniques. Always remember, “We become what we think about.” Think back to other challenges that you’ve come through and remind yourself that you have, within yourself or at hand, everything necessary to move through this as well.
Keep your emotions in check.
Find reasons to smile and laugh, even when you don’t feel like it — especially when you don’t feel like it! Funny movies, blogs, or videos can help. Keep your negative feelings in check by exercising or talking them through with a trusted adviser, coach, or friend. Other options can include playing a musical instrument, painting, dancing, or any other hobbies that engage body and mind.
Healthy relationships help us better cope with stress and weather challenging times. Reach out to people on a consistent basis and build relationships you can depend upon when you need them most. Strengthen your current good relationships so you can draw on their support, and continuously expand your network of diverse relationships to learn and grow.
Be proactive and prepare
the best you can for the changes that might come, while accepting the reality of the moment. Make a list of the people who you believe might be able to help you overcome the challenges at hand. Approach them openly and ask for their advice or support.
As a leader, you got this far through vision, persistence, hard work, and dedication. Taking care of yourself is an investment in your future and your ability to master change, no matter what tomorrow holds.