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Science of Adapting to Change

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What is it about change, and trying to adapt to it, that make it so stressful?

The Phases of Change are filled with polarizing emotions, self-talk, viewpoints and perspectives.  One day you’re hopeful, the next doubting every decision you’re making. You see your surrounding world as full of opportunity and then too big for anyone to find you. The roller-coaster ride is daunting and has significant wear and tear on your body and mind. This level of uncertainty triggers the stress response and creates intense consequences until the situation is resolved or you learn to adapt to the type of change.

Research has identified that you’re much more likely to become stressed during a change event when it has a greater impact on your sense of self; how you perceive, comprehend, and interpret the world around you. The greater the impact the higher your stress levels climb and can easily transform into a chronic condition.

Consider an organizational change at work. The further you are away from leadership and direct knowledge of what’s happening, the more assuming you do and stories you tell yourself. Depending on your level of confidence and how you see your value within the company (sense of self), you may/may not be worried about losing your job, which determines the positive or negative stories you tell and slant of your assumptions which finally controls your stress response.

The phases of change are simple and small or multifaceted and complex. There is no consistency, predictability, or reliability with change, except that it will happen, so it is our fear of the unknown that has our fight-flight-freeze response in overdrive. When you take the Stress Fundamentals course you’ll learn more about this, for now, know study after study shows fear and anxiety have a direct line into our stress response system.

Lastly, sometimes we manage the phases easily, even without knowing of our success. Other times we find it so incredibly difficult we become paralyzed by the task. Uncertainty of our ability to navigate change brings more doubt and unstable behaviors. The more episodic and continuous types of change flow through our daily lives, the harder it is to manage all of the transitions. You become overwhelmed and reach your stress threshold.

Key Takeaways

In summary, the following are the reasons why change stresses you out:

Polarized thoughts and emotions
Low, personal view of self
Fear or anxiety around change
Uncertainty due to episodic or bombardment of change events

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