Change fatigue: Expanding the limits of our change capacity

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2020 has been a tough roller-coaster ride for most of us. Our work and lives have been turned upside down, daily rituals have been disrupted and many have been unable to see family and friends for months. We have had to adapt to what some refer to as the “new normal”, a euphemism for what is a strangely unfamiliar and restrictive way of living and working for most of us.

Psychological studies show that people vary significantly in their ability to deal with change. But even the most change-ready, adaptable, and resilient amongst us have struggled this year. This is because change stressors are cumulative; the more stress that comes your way, the more you need to adjust mentally and emotionally to deal with it. Ultimately, change fatigue sets in for many and they experienced exhaustion, declining motivation and sometimes, a sense of hopelessness. However, there is a whiff of hope and optimism in the air. The vaccine rollout has begun, and we can see light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. So how can we keep ourselves going for another 4-6 months, until life returns to something resembling what it used to be, albeit different? Here are some tips we hope you find helpful:

Relax and recharge

Studies show that sufficient rest and sleep (7 hours in every 24 hour cycle is ideal) are crucial in times of high stress. So, if you are able, take time off over the holiday season to relax and recover. To boundary this time from work interruptions, try to disconnect or partially disconnect from your devices and emails. Commit to energy-giving and healthy habits including at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, ideally outdoors. If your mind struggles to rest and switch off, start practising mindfulness training using a mindfulness app like Calm or Headspace. Use the holiday season to amplify self-care by changing at least one or two habits that will strengthen your physical, psychological, and spiritual energy.

Master your mindset

Don’t allow yourself to become a victim of negative thinking and adverse circumstances. If you do, you’ll soon enter a vicious cycle of low self-confidence, pessimism, helplessness, and possibly even depression. Remember that you are free to choose your mindset and how you respond to any situation, no matter how difficult.

Even in the darkest moments when nothing seems to be going right, we have the power to find a positive way forward and not to be defined by setbacks, mistakes, and adverse circumstances. We can all learn from the great wisdom of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, who pointed out in his excellent book, Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Accept your frustrations and other unpleasant emotions

For many, the year has thrown up a lot of frustrations, disappointments, and other negative feelings. Learn to accept these rather than dwelling on them. As Susan David, author of the great book and HBR article Emotional Agility advises, trying to minimize or ignore negative thoughts and emotions serves only to amplify them. Instead, we need to learn to accept them by naming them and talking to others about them. This is especially important if you are a more introverted or emotionally controlled type of person. The other way to deal with them is to channel these emotions into proactive and positive action to try to change the source of these feelings. However, this only works if you have control or some influence over the trigger event/person. Remember though, by talking things through with others, most of us realize that we have more influence over our circumstances than we initially thought.

Spend time with people who lift your mood

Research shows that people’s emotions and mindsets are contagious. Spending time with family, friends and co-workers who are upbeat, caring, and supportive will lift your mood and positive energy. Over time, this will multiply your wellbeing, self-confidence, and optimism, leading to greater performance and overall happiness.

Enjoy a news fast for the holiday season

Put yourself on a news and social media fast for a few weeks during the holiday season or become more selective about the types of media you consume. A constant diet of negative news feeds our anxiety and makes us feel helpless about what is happening around us. Over time, this can undermine our positive mental health and wellbeing. Take a break from all this negativity and refocus your time on positive experiences like reading, spending time with your family, learning a new skill or starting a new hobby.

Embrace the spirit of kindness and generosity 

Charles Dickens captured the essence of the spirit of generosity magnificently in his much loved and famous book, “A Christmas Carol”. We all know the story of mean old Scrooge and how he is helped by visits from ghosts to discover his well-hidden spirit of kindness and giving. Studies show that we can derive tremendous meaning and happiness simply by giving love, kindness, and gifts to others. The holiday season is a time when we should all embrace this spirit and the joy it brings to those around us.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and relaxing break with your loved ones.  

James Brook 2 websize 1 - Change fatigue: Expanding the limits of our change capacity

About the Author

James Brook
Founder and MD | Leadership Consultant | Organizational Psychologist

James is a leadership consultant, organizational psychologist and executive coach. He has over 25 years’ experience working with leaders, teams and organizations globally to optimize their performance, talent and future success. He specializes in positive leadership, thriving workplaces, collaboration and influencing, organizational change and transformation, accelerating innovation and coaching executives and leaders in innovative sectors including Tech, Digital, E-commerce and Life Sciences.

Before setting up Plexus Leadership, James held leadership roles in HR and Talent Management in the UK and abroad with companies such as NatWest, Yahoo! and Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals. After this, he founded and led several talent and leadership consulting and assessment businesses, including Strengthscope®, an online strengths assessment and development business serving a wide range of UK and global clients. James grew this venture into a global market leader before selling the business in 2018.

James has supported, advised and coached leaders and teams globally across diverse industries and geographies. Clients he has worked with include Allen & Overy, Commvault, Equinor, Facebook, GSK, Hilton, John Lewis, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, NHS, Oracle, Sainsbury’s, Swiss Re, Tesco, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, WSP and Yahoo!.

James has a Master’s in Organizational Psychology, an MBA, an Advanced Diploma in Executive Coaching and a Harvard Business qualification in Sustainable Business Strategy. He is a member of the Institute of Directors, the Association of Business Psychologists and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD). He is currently undertaking a PhD in Organizational Psychology examining the start-up experiences of Tech and Digital entrepreneurs.

James is a regular contributor and speaker on leadership, coaching, innovative talent management and the future of work. His most recent book, Optimize Your Strengths, explores how leaders can create thriving workplaces by inspiring and supporting people to optimize their potential and teamwork to deliver breakthrough results.

Contact us now for an obligation free chat.

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