We know that change can have a big impact on our wellbeing – both physically and emotionally.
I typically coach people who are addressing a wide range of significant change events, from very specific circumstances such as perinatal loss to the personal impact felt by broader change, as has been the case with the ongoing adjustment to the COVID crisis since 2019. All significant change can evoke grief responses when our body can go into fight or flight mode, and negatively impact our wellbeing.
Here are three practical ways you can proactively look after your wellbeing as we continue to navigate and adjust to a changing world.
1. Adopt a Growth Mindset
Our approach to the world can be viewed through two simple lenses in terms of mindset – growth and fixed. Carol Dweck is famous for her research and work in this area, and her books and TED talks on the topic are excellent.
People with a growth mindset believe that talent can be developed through hard work and application. These people thrive under challenge, perceiving challenge to be an opportunity to learn, grow and develop.
People with a fixed mindset believe talent is innate, and that any success we achieve is more likely to be considered an affirmation of the skills we are born with, rather than a recognition of the time, effort or practice applied to develop those skills.
When we are navigating change and uncertainty, this mindset becomes a critical factor in how we respond. Change is challenging, and if our natural response to challenge is that we welcome it and see it as an opportunity to learn and adapt, we are likely to remain more resilient than if we resist it or see it as an unwanted presence in our lives.
How can you take a growth mindset approach to uncertainty to support your wellbeing?
Learn how to recognise a fixed mindset view, and how to reframe it to a more growth mindset view. Here are some examples of what someone might say at the moment in a fixed mindset frame of mind:
- “I have no control over what is happening. So there’s no point trying to do anything”.
- “There are so many people out of work, I don’t stand a chance finding a new job”.
- “I hate technology – I’m rubbish at it. It just isn’t me – I prefer face to face”.
Consider the impact that these statements might be having on that person’s resilience and wellbeing? Would they feel more empowered and resilient if they took a different approach?
How might you reframe these statements to take a more growth mindset approach?
- “I’m going to figure out what I can control or influence and do something about those things”.
- “I may be one of many people out of work, so I will need to be very clear on what I want and what I need to do. I’m going to tackle this systematically and dedicate more time to it”.
- “I’m still getting to grips with tech, so I’ll spend some time practising so it gradually becomes more familiar. I know it won’t be perfect but I’m sure that’s the same for a lot of people?!”.
These adjustments may seem small, but they can have a very powerful impact on our wellbeing – both emotional and physical. Remember, our beliefs can also influence our physical response (anger, stress, calm, etc), and this can be seen in unwanted or unexpected physical responses to stress, such as panic attacks and anxiety.
2. Get Skilled at Managing Your Energy
The way we manage our energy is a system, which needs ongoing management. Think about your energy in four zones in terms of how much effort the emotion demands of us (high and low) and whether the emotion felt is positive or negative.
- High energy positivity – that feeling of ‘flow’ when we might be busy, and using a lot of effort, but in short bursts we feel energised and productive, and we are enjoying what we are doing.
- Low energy positivity – when we recharge by doing things that we find nurturing and nourishing to our wellbeing. This might be taking a break and going for a walk, spending time with family, reading a book, etc. Spending time in relaxation is essential to our physical and emotional wellbeing.
- High energy negativity – this is where negative and highly demanding emotions like stress or anxiety become overwhelming and draining.
- Low energy negativity – where we feel helpless and lacking in motivation or energy to lift ourselves – possibly ‘burnt out’.
To best support our wellbeing, the aim is to intentionally move ourselves between the two positivity zones – flourish and recharge – and to notice if we are pulled into more unhelpful negative emotions that make demands on our energy without benefit to us.
Some questions to help:
- What activities help you to feel calm, proud, reflective, satisfied and the other emotions that nurture you? Ensure these are a regular and active part of your routine.
- What behaviours have you noticed in yourself recently that are draining and negative?
- How can you avoid or reframe these more positively before they exhaust you?
3. Focus on What You Can Control
One of the most challenging aspects of change is that we are forced to confront a new reality either that we do not want, or that is so different from what we have been accustomed to it can be very difficult to adapt to the change. How much control do you feel you have on your situation? Do you have any self-limiting beliefs that might be holding you back?
Think about your situation – make a list of the main things causing you pain or discomfort at the moment. Are these within your control or influence? If so, what can you do to address them? If not, can you reframe any of these so you can regain a sense of control? For example, ‘the news terrifies me’ is something we have no control over, so try to reframe it to ‘I will limit how much news I watch’ or ‘I will only watch the news at teatime, and not at 10 pm just before bed, because I’ve noticed this affects how well I sleep’.
You may not be able to control or influence everything. For these things, it’s important to make a conscious decision – and effort – to let go of what you cannot control.