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Does It Feel As If The World Is Changing Too Fast?

Here are some tips for managing stress in a time of never-ending external change.

Here are some tips for managing stress in a time of never-ending external change.

Change seems to come at the speed of light, maybe even faster.  One minute, we’re all e-mailing like crazy, the next minute e-mailing is out and instead, we tweet.  Entire countries overturn leaders in a matter of weeks.  We read on electronic pads – no more books or newspapers for us. 

Change is happening at work as well.  When did our jobs become 24/7?  When did it become necessary to check for messages during non-working hours?  As a friend recently said when asked if he could check his calendar for an online conference call at midnight, “I usually pencil in sleep at that hour.”

We are global.  We are connected.  We are racing through life as fast as we can but it feels as if we’re just not keeping up.  Is that what we’re supposed to do, to hurry through our lives?  At some point, we all get weary; we all feel the stress of the pace and the change.  What to do?

To begin, let’s think about what change is. 

  • Some changes are huge and immediate; other changes are small and happen over time.
  • Some change is expected; other change is unexpected and surprising.
  • Some change is positive and has a good result while other types of change can produce a negative result. 
  • Some change forces us to change as individuals.

Next, let’s consider what change feels like – what are the physical and emotional sensations that result from change.  Think of a straight line.  At one end are the people who feel even the smallest of changes.  They tend to be change-averse, resisting any kind of change.  Change-averse people experience change in their bodies, for example, as anxiety or an adrenalin rush, and change in their minds as, for example, anger, betrayal or burnout.   

At the far other end of the line are the change-accepting individuals who are able to embrace change and adapt to it.  For some, change can be energizing.

  • Some change feels as if it is small and incidental causing only minor sensations.  Other change may feel immense and dramatic causing a sense of upheaval.  Some change can feel very personal. 

Enough!  We know what change is and we certainly know what it feels like.  Some of us would like to stop the merry-go-round and others would notch it up to a greater speed.  What do we do about our individual response to ever-present change?

As we’ve said, change can be experienced in the body and in the mind.  That gives us two avenues for managing the stress of change in our lives – mind-based techniques and physically based techniques. 

Mind-based stress and change management techniques:

  • If-then triggers.  Plan ahead by creating scenarios that show you how you want to handle a possible situation.   Here’s an example.  If I start to get angry because the change is making me do things differently, then I’ll remember to laugh out-loud, shrug my shoulders and say to myself, “this new thing is not my way but I’ll give it a chance.” Here’s the link to a deeper look at the “if-then” technique.  Planning “If-then” responses gives you the chance to anticipate your reaction just as it allows you to coach yourself through a difficult moment. 
  • Reframe the change.  Reframing allows you to see things differently.  That does not mean you have to see things in a radically different way.  Instead, reframing is often a matter of degree. 
  • Deep breathing and meditation.  If the change in your life feels as if it’s exceeded your capacity, then stop to take a breath.  Then, take another breath.  Experiment and find the breathing technique that works best for you when you are suddenly confronted by anxiety or stress.  At the same time, learn to take some quiet time every day to find your center, to recover your balance.  Whether it’s ten minutes or more, a quiet mental time helps you regain your center.  
  • Be specific about what is making you anxious or stressed.  Is it fear of something new or the unknown?  If so, try to imagine what will actually happen if what you fear happens.  If it is a realistic concern, prepare for it. 
  • Talk it out.  Share your anxiety and concerns with a loving spouse, family member or friend.  Sometimes, our angst is lightened when we put it into words.

Physically based stress and change management techniques:

  • Exercise.  There’s nothing better to manage a build-up of adrenalin or anxiety than a good workout.  Daily exercise helps you find a constant balance.  On the other hand, if a sudden bout of anxiety or adrenalin needs management, consider excusing yourself for a strenuous walk around the block.  
  • Breathing.  At the onset of a bout with adrenalin or anxiety, take a moment and breathe deeply.  Quiet your mind and allow the moment to pass.  To regulate your breathing, consider adding a meditative practice to your daily routine. 
  • Diet.  That’s right – avoid sugary food and drink.  To manage anxiety or stress-filled sensations, think of an apple or carrot to give you a satisfying crunch without a sugary high.