Dealing with lots of change can be stressful and scary. There’s no question about it, and given the circumstances of today, there’s quite a lot of it. This brings up several questions: Why is this so? Why do we fear change? And, more importantly, what tips are there to better cope with situations involving lots of change?
Elizabeth Richmond-Garza is an expert on change. She is an associate professor in the English Department, the director of the Program in Comparative Literature, which works across cultures and languages, and a teacher of courses in Human Dimensions of Organizations (HDO).
“Whenever you’re working across cultures and languages and time periods, you become very aware of what is different — or change, if you will,” she said. Furthermore, her work in HDO focuses on things that organizations today are often most challenged by, and at the top of that list is change.
“Human beings are very disposed to familiarity. Familiarity makes a situation feel inherently less risky, even if it’s not ideal,” said Richmond-Garza. Today, with the sudden transition to online learning, remote work, new obligations to care for young children at home, and isolation from friends and relatives, life seems more unfamiliar, causing upticks in stress and anxiety. To help you regain a sense of stability, she offers these tips:
1. Understand your perspective and realize that change is constant.
The world is highly interconnected, any small change in one area may effect change in others, and as a result, our lives actually are always in flux. Sometimes we think we see everything, but in actuality, we only ever know our particular perspective. From our point of view, everything may seem suddenly to be changing, but that is simply not true. It has always been changing, and we are simply focusing on it most now.
2. Reshape your orientation to change.
We control our orientation to change, and that power gives us all kinds of possibilities for intervening. Instead of resisting the future, or longing for the past, we can redefine our idea of change and accept it as a different opportunity. Remember that people will oftentimes accept a disappointing status quo just because it’s familiar and imagine something as risky just because it appears different.
3. Find familiarity in small things.
Never underestimate how critical something very small but concrete can be. Life is an accumulation of familiar moments and feelings. We can ground ourselves in these, whether it be your daily cup of coffee in the morning or your evening stroll around the neighborhood.
4. Keep connected.
While physical isolation may be necessary given the circumstances of the pandemic, we can avoid becoming socially isolated or totally disconnected from the world. Most people need more social interaction for a healthy mindset than they think, so we can design creative ways in which to safely and responsibly connect with others from time to time.
5. Be cognizant of what you are consuming.
We need to take note of what sorts of media we are consuming and try to avoid “doom-scrolling,” or getting too intensely plugged into the amplification of unhappiness.
6. Know yourself. Do what works for you. Avoid things that don’t.
We need to do activities that we know we enjoy. To get our minds off things, we can even pick up a new hobby or revisit an old one, but if something stresses us out even more, then simply stop and realize that everyone is different and what may relax some people may not work for everyone.