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Ride Through Change with Confidence

#beatburnout #businesstips #changemanagement #highperformance #innovation #keynotespeaker #persistence #wellbeing Jan 09, 2024
Ivan on his Harley Davidson motorcyle

December is normally a quiet month in the speaking industry, and the new year awakens with a flurry of activity. This year I have had a rush on calls from organizations and agents looking for support with leading through change. Change management, leading through change, the holistic impacts of change, the stages of change, how to be a high performer in the new workplace, and the list goes on. These requests make sense. I believe we can all agree there are uncertain times across the globe. In some ways, we are still recovering from the pandemic. Folks are still trying to navigate hybrid work and what that means for cohesion, productivity and high-performance culture. Depending on which expert you ask, we are either heading into a recession, or we are still in the mist of one. Either way, it’s time to batten down the hatches.  Every time I turn on the news another heading flashes about major layoffs in the corporate world. Geopolitical conflicts and even politics next door have many of us worried about what is yet to come. As Dylan so aptly wrote, "For the times, they are a changin'." For many of us…that instills a little fear, doubt grief, anger, and a myriad of other emotions when we don’t know where we are heading or whether we're equipped.

Today, I want to speak directly to those of you who are feeling unsettled or overwhelmed by what I have heard some refer to as a snowball of change in the workplace.

There comes a time when there is so much change happening all at once that you begin to develop actual physiological responses to actions in the workplace. For example, you may find yourself reading a meeting agenda and feeling your blood pressure soar as it becomes clear that new initiatives are stacking up with no new resources to carry them out and your name is listed beside them. You may wake up feeling resentful and sluggish as you are putting on your makeup or necktie and packing your lunch to go back into the office--you were promised three work from home days per week when you started this job! Budget crunches might have led to hiring freezes or consolidation of departments which have left a wake of change behind for you to deal with along with a tension headache. It is not uncommon for folks to feel lost, afraid or have intense emotional responses to change and innovation.

This is normal. Stop feeling badly about it. 

A lot of people experience an intense emotional and physiological response when they’re being asked to do something new or that you haven’t done for a long time. For some folks it might be anger, for others it might be fear or grief. Your body processes a variety of emotions similarly. In a protective move, your brain releases a dose of adrenaline that literally floods your system making it difficult to concentrate and recall.

This is where you feel panicked and just want to scream or leave or give up.

This is an experience called flooding, and it happens to best of us.

Your first step is to notice you are not able to keep working right in the moment. Your body is triggered by racing negative thoughts. If you feel yourself flooding, stop your negative thoughts with a physical gesture like clapping, push pause and follow these simple steps to restore from the chemical wave of emotion so that you can move past it and continue being a productive member of your high performing team.

Tips for Regaining Composure during an Emotional Flood

If you are at the home office when the flood hits, step away from where the provocation found you. Go outside, if you can, and take a few deep breaths of fresh air. Get out of your head and into your body by stretching or doing a few calisthenics. Eat a healthy snack like citrus or nuts. As you feel the flood receding, take your laptop to a new spot, and start back to work by doing a rigorous rational task first—something that calls for your rational brain to take charge—like expense reports. Before you know it, your brain and body will be restored and ready to go back and try the new project again.

If you are at your workstation in the office, pick up your water bottle and head out of the office and away from your workstation to refill it. Take the stairs or a long route if you can. Use the washroom on your way. Along your path, concentrate on taking deep breaths and try to notice your physical surroundings—count how many desks are in this room, notice if you can smell coffee in the air, bring yourself back to the safe and okay present. Hydrate and recite your affirmations before returning to your station. If you can, start with a different task than the one you were engaged in when the flood hit. Or take a few minutes to do a quick round of sudoku to bring your mental energy back to your rational brain center before you crack on at the new project.

If you are in a meeting or in a situation where you can’t take a break, close your eyes for a few seconds and take a cleansing breath. Consider your posture. Straighten up in your chair, roll your shoulders back, put your feet flat on the floor. Keep a couple of strong flavored mints or lozenges in your pocket and put one in your mouth. Let the flavor and sensation bring you away from your thoughts. Look around the room and count something like ceiling tiles or how many people are wearing something brown. As the wave moves past and you feel your body calming, silently repeat your affirmations. Start attending to the meeting again by taking notes verbatim until you can fully engage again.

If your flood is so intense that you can’t recover in 15 or 20 minutes of focused, strategic responses, consider taking a half-day off to really dial in to your wellness plan. Call your doctor, coach, or therapist. Go for a ride, get an aromatherapy massage, or take your dog on a nature hike. Do something restorative so that you can return better tomorrow. 

There are three things we are guaranteed in life: death, taxes and the change. Change is going to happen around us and to us over and over again. Our goal as a high performer is to develop the necessary skills to be able to manage the physiological responses to change when we begin to interpret the changes as negative for us; so that, we don’t impact our reputation and quality of work.

By acknowledging what’s happening in your mind and body as real and as temporary, you can take action to restore yourself and move through the flood to get back on firm footing and get back to being a high performer. Each time you are able to restore yourself and accomplish something that seemed provocative at first, your brain will actually reward you with a release of serotonin in the form of positive emotions like satisfaction and pride. You can draw on that boost to face the next new step on your way to innovation and mastering change.

Lastly, remember these are all coping skills to help you manage your physiological responses to change; and like any skills, they take time to master. Be patient with yourself, and keep practicing until these new skills become automatic. Then, watch yourself soar.  


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