Making Change Work for You

Working for any large organization means that change is constantly swirling around us in an amazing choreographed form of controlled chaos. By adopting a few helpful beliefs and habits, you can navigate unrelenting change in a healthy way.

The following characteristics describe change events for most people:

  • Change created by others can magnify our distress.
  • Change takes us outside of our comfort zone.
  • Change requires us to learn something new in order to adapt.
  • Change often requires a decision or commitment before you have enough information to guarantee your success in the future.

Change created by others can magnify distress.

The most uncomfortable nature of change occurs when that change is created by a decision someone else makes that impacts your life without your input. We are thus confronted with the reality that we can’t control everything in our lives. Experiencing the notion that we are out of control (whether true or imagined) can be uncomfortable.

Tip: During times of rapid or surprising change, focus upon those parts of your job and life that you can control to regain a sense of stability. This usually includes most of your regular job duties, healthy eating, adequate rest and a stress-busting exercise schedule.

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“Instead of eating out, cook at home,” suggests Helga Van Herle, MD, MS, a cardiologist at Keck Medicine of USC and associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Most medical societies and government advisory guidelines recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity a day.”

Interestingly enough, there is a term called “eustress” that describes those life decisions and life events that we create to make life better. Examples of eustressful events include:

  • Getting a new car or moving to a new home
  • Going back to school for an advanced degree
  • A change in job at work
  • Getting married or starting a family

Eustress is not emotionally distressing because we are in the driver’s seat for creating that positive change, but we still experience most of the remaining characteristics of change listed below.

Change takes us outside of our comfort zone.

Most people prefer to stick to regular routines, enjoy a reasonable amount of structure and feel safe with things that are familiar. Change shakes that up, and introduces a transition time of discomfort until the “new normal” starts to seem familiar and safe.

Tip: First, be realistic in your evaluation of whether this change presents a threat to you — most changes don’t pose a threat, but our fight-or-flight response can get triggered at times of change. More likely, change will bring inconveniences, hassles or barriers, but rarely true threat. This accurate evaluation will help you reduce your discomfort.

Change requires us to learn something new in order to adapt.

One of the hassles of change is that we need to learn something new. Remember when you first heard about a new computer system and found the idea daunting? The risk of not embracing learning is the very real possibility of your skills becoming obsolete.

Tip: If you haven’t already, adopt and act on a belief that you are a lifelong learner. That is, we don’t stop learning once we get a degree or finish our new job training. Be open to constantly learning more — it will serve you well.

Change often requires a decision or commitment before you have enough information to guarantee your success.

You’ll never get enough information about your success in a future that hasn’t been created or imagined. Delaying or procrastinating with your decision or commitment may lead to someone else making key decisions that affect your life. This brings us back to the first characteristic — the sense that someone else is making decisions about your life without your input.

Tip: Relax and appreciate that your best problem-solving skills will be available to you when you need them. Adopt the belief that any future change that you might need to make along the way is not a failure, it’s just a recalibration based upon new facts and experiences that weren’t available to you (or anyone else) earlier. Know that at any given time, you are making the best decision you can with the information you have.

If you have tried to implement these changes, but change is still keeping your stress levels up, it may be time to see a primary care physician. There are other courses of action that can help you cope with change.

by Jeff Harris

If you’re in the Southern California area and looking for a primary care physician, make an appointment or call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273).