If Change is So Good, Then Why Do I Feel So Lousy?

If Change is So Good, Then Why Do I Feel So Lousy? By Ann Hibbard

Change is here to stay. Technology, instant communication, and a global economy combine to produce constant flux in today's organizations. To be successful, you have to be at the forefront of change. It can be exciting--but it can be terrifying.

Some people are energized by change, while others are more reluctant to throw out the "tried and true." And of course, your reaction depends on whether the change is "good" or "bad." Rarely is a change all good or all bad. So you wonder and you worry ... and you feel lousy.

Yet in order to come out on top, you need to be at your best throughout the transition process. When you feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you, what are some things you can do to make sure you land on your feet?

  1. Give yourself permission to feel uncomfortable, confused, or angry.

    Transitions are unsettling. Our culture places a premium on "having it all together." In the midst of transition, you are only normal if you find yourself struggling. Far from having it all together, you may feel like you're coming apart at the seams. At the very least, you are living with ambiguity. This may cause you to feel anxious. You don't know how this change will shake out. What if you don't like the outcome?

    These fears are normal. Nearly everyone experiences extreme discomfort and stress at some point when going through transition. Recognize that you will have these feelings, and don't beat yourself up about it.

  2. Have patience with the process.

    People go through psychological stages when dealing with transition, much like the stages a persons goes through after losing a loved one. According to change expert Ben Bissell, the process takes about a year and a half -- and it cannot be hurried. It can take longer, if you get stuck in any one phase. But it simply can't go faster, so be patient.

  3. Pay attention to your body.

    Stress does a number on you physically. Either you lose your appetite altogether or you eat uncontrollably. (I develop an irresistible craving for chocolate.) Stress disrupts normal sleep patterns: you wake up in the middle of the night, your mind starts racing, and you can't get back to sleep for hours. Then you find yourself too tired to go to the gym -- or whatever you do for exercise.

    Problem is, when you are tired, not eating properly, or not exercising, you suffer emotionally and mentally. If you want to make good decisions, you need mental acuity and emotional fitness. To achieve this, take care of yourself physically.

  4. Give and receive support.

    Transitions are the times we need supportive relationships the most. If you are experiencing organizational transition, the folks around you are struggling, too. Show them support with a kind word, a thoughtful note, an invitation to "walk and talk" during lunch. Provide a listening ear and you will be rewarded with reciprocal support.

    Find support in your relationships away from work. Be honest with your family members about the stress you are feeling. Personal friendships can provide you tremendous support--if you reach out for help.

    And if you are in pain and those closest to you are expressing concern for you, don't hesitate to seek professional help. A good counselor is an objective "third party" who has helped many others through similar situations.

  5. Encourage open communication.

    What normally happens when people are anxious? Some clam up, mistrusting everyone and everything. Others give free rein to their imaginations and their tongues, sending rumors galloping through the workplace like wild horses. Neither is healthy. Direct, truthful communication, especially from the top down, is the best antidote to the poisons of fear and rumor. Accurate information delivered with kindness allays people's fears and inspires loyalty.

  6. Allow time and space for reflection.

    Often I deal with transition stress by busying myself more than ever, avoiding quiet time lest I "become depressed." The frenetic activity actually drives me to depression by robbing me of my best resource--reflection. Take time out to renew yourself and build your own inner resources through prayer, meditation, solitude, and time spent simply doing nothing. Keep a journal. Allow yourself to sleep in on a Saturday morning; then lie in bed awake for an extra hour. Try spending half a day or a whole day alone in nature in silence. Experience the beauty of the "here and now," giving no thought to the future, or the past.

  7. Look for the opportunity in the change.

    My friend Joan Wangler, a coach and transition specialist, reminds me that the Chinese character for change is composed of two characters: one means danger; the other means opportunity. Every change has a dark side and a light side. Your fears focus you on the dark side of change. Make an effort to explore the light side of your transition, What opportunities present themselves? What can you learn through the transition process? Personal growth, professional growth, new or deepened relationships--these are only a few of the many benefits you can realize as a result of a change.

These seven steps will help you move successfully through the transition process, enabling you to make the most of the opportunities that await you.

If Change is So Good, Then Why Do I Feel So Lousy?

Ann Hibbard is a Professional Speaker, Author and Trainer About the Author She can be reached at: (703) 560-0873 or Ann@AnnHibbard.com