How to Eliminate Stress Caused by Unwanted Change

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How do you feel about change?

Isn’t it interesting how motivated and resourceful we are when we deal with changes we have chosen? For example, when we can afford a bigger and better house, we decide to move even if moving is our least favorite thing to do. That’s because we’ve made a decision after weighing the pros and cons and finding solutions to challenges. We know our purpose. We are in control. So we decide and we follow-through. Making progress toward our own goals feels empowering and energizing.

However… when we have to deal with changes resulting from other people’s decisions, we find ourselves more resistant. The changes ahead create anxiety because of the unknown as well as assumptions that the changes will require more time and effort. Not having a choice and not feeling in control is terribly uncomfortable for most of us.

So what do you do when your college hires a new President, or you get a new supervisor, or your budget is reduced, or new legislation passes, or new reporting requirements are introduced, or your workload increases? The list of what can change in higher education is endless, so I bet you can relate. You may even find yourself in the middle of significant changes right now.

Let’s look at what causes discomfort and what to do about it.

What causes stress and resistance to change

  • Not seeing a compelling purpose.

  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to face more challenges.

  • Not receiving enough information about what’s going to happen.

  • Thinking about what could go wrong.

  • Not trusting people to do what will be needed.

  • Not trusting yourself to be successful.

  • Remembering a painful similar past experience.

  • Having to learn to use new technologies and processes.

  • Exaggerating the level of difficulty while talking with coworkers.

  • Focusing on the fact that this shouldn’t be happening.

  • … and more

What reduces stress and resistance to change

  • Finding a compelling reason to make this change successful.

  • Taking it one day at a time and cutting large projects into small tasks.

  • Asking questions to those in charge and getting your questions answered.

  • Thinking about what can work well and what will become possible.

  • Giving people a chance to step up and do good work.

  • Trusting that you can handle virtually anything.

  • Remembering times you did something intimidating and succeeded.

  • Recognizing that new technology will make your life easier once you know how to use it.

  • Keeping things in perspective and realizing the changes are not intimidating.

  • Focusing on making this work!

How to shift your perspective

Step 1: Recognize this is happening, whether you like or not, so it is in your best interest to collaborate.

Step 2: Find purpose in this change. See how it is aligned with your values, goals, and needs. Start taking ownership of the decision/change.  

Step 3: Face your fears and find reassurance. Focus on what is within your control to be successful.

You see, your mindset and judgment about the change can either make it a pleasant or a painful experience for you.

When you first hear the news that something is about to change, it is natural to have doubts and even fears, but you don’t have to stay stuck in a fearful state. You don’t get to control everything that happens outside of you but you are in control of what happens within you.

Don’t give your personal power away. Do your best to get engaged in what is happening and look for more ways to contribute. You will be a force for good and gain more influence.

Don’t waste even one minute commiserating with people who are resistant to change.

Decide you won’t let this affect your emotional state and wellness. I am not suggesting that you repress your fears but that you listen to them briefly, just long enough to understand what’s causing you discomfort. Then focus your attention and energy on finding solutions to problems you foresee and giving yourself reassurance. You can do this!

Help your teams get comfortable with change too  

Every campus has a few individuals who are highly resistant to change and find objections to anything new. You may or may not be able to inspire them to step up and be helpful but you undoubtedly can have a profound impact on everyone else.

Most of your employees will be willing to contribute to the change once they receive enough information from you, to reduce their fear of the unknown. They will feel more confident when you reassure them that they will have access to training and people to answer their questions. They will show more initiative when you tell them you don’t expect perfection. You will have realistic expectations and make people feel safe. Also, consider strategies to motivate and reward your teams.

As their manager, your approach can make a huge difference in how they respond to change. You have the power to make it a positive experience.

If you’d like to know more on this topic, click here to register for next week’s webinar "MASTERING CHANGE in Higher Ed. - How to Embrace Change with a Positive Attitude, Set Yourself Up for Success, and Inspire Others to Follow". I will go into much more details and give you examples to help you implement these concepts successfully.

Change is inevitable. You have the responsibility to facilitate it in the best way possible. Lead by example and empower others to do their best.

If you’d like to speak with me about your current situation and how I can help you solve problems, click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.

About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits.  Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. 

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