As the saying goes, "Change is inevitable," and so is the stress it produces, particularly during these turbulent times when we are entrenched in yet another economic crisis. In a 2008 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, eight of 10 Americans reported that the economy is a significant cause of stress.
At times like these, an important reminder is that you are a change expert! Think of the changes you've experienced in your lifetime - some chosen and others that were foisted upon you. You have survived them. In hindsight, you may even consider some of them blessings in disguise.
Self-awareness is the key to functioning well in today's high stress environment, when many of us are challenged to move in directions well beyond our current comfort zones. Ask yourself, "Which of my attitudes and habits are hindering, rather than helping me navigate this difficult period?" "Is resentment limiting my ability to explore creative solutions?" "Am I allowing fear to keep me isolated?" "Have I lost all sense of optimism?" Then, "What can I do differently for a more positive result?"
Consider these questions:
"How can I increase my optimism?" Though it may seem like a stretch, find ways to concentrate on the positive. Consider, "What new relationships can I build as a result of these changes?" "How can we use our limited resources most effectively right now?" "Are there any possibilities for strategic alliances?" "What are some new services or products we might be able to offer?" "How can I help and encourage others through this change?"
Your answers will spark your creativity and may help open the door to exciting opportunities for the future.
"In what ways can I be more flexible?" Though you may face disappointments, be willing to take risks. Learn to bounce back, recognizing that setbacks can make you stronger. Work at being resilient enough to change direction when the situation calls for it. Know when not to attempt to over-control an uncontrollable situation. While we may not have chosen the change, we can choose how to respond.
"How can I keep fit?" Healthy habits are often the first to go when we feel pinched for time or overwhelmed, yet these are the times when consistent self-renewal is most valuable. Eat healthy. Exercise. Get enough rest. Allow yourself at least 20 minutes of "protected time" each day to enjoy a favorite form of relaxation. Keep emotionally healthy by finding ways to spend more time with people who lift your spirit and enrich your life.
"What can we do to help each other?" Lend a hand or an ear to others who may be struggling, and ask for help if you are having a hard time. Know who you can turn to when you need to talk through a problem or challenge. Consider engaging a career counselor, forming a study group of people in a similar situation or simply enlisting a trusted friend. You may also gain inspiration through reading, listening to music and exploring intriguing Websites.
"How can I restore my confidence?" Sometimes even the most confident among us can feel shaken in our abilities. Remind yourself of how capable you are by doing something each day in which you know you excel. Master a new skill, or take an existing one to a higher level. Olympic athletes will tell you that positive self-talk and visualization practices are also powerful techniques for building confidence and self-esteem.
"What can I do to lighten up?" There is nothing like a good laugh to ease tension and get us through tough times. Finding ways to avoid negative thinking by interjecting the healing power of humor into even the most difficult situations is likely to be your best self-management tool during these times of stressful change.
June Kriviskey is a senior consultant at Vernal Management Consultants LLC in Milwaukee.