The old expression that says that “there are two certainties in life: death and taxes” leaves out the most frequent, unpredictable and arguably most stress-inducing inevitability in life: change. As with death and taxes, the challenge isn’t so much that we will have to face inevitable transitions in our lives, as much as how we deal with them.
Change is a consistent challenge throughout our working lives, whether we are making career decisions, looking for work, starting a new job or career, dealing with changes in the workplace (a new boss, different duties or a new software program to master) or dealing with job loss. Mostly, when change happens, most of us somehow gather our strength and soldier on, facing and conquering it, ready to take on the challenges it presents. But, every now and then, it catches up with us and we feel overwhelmed and unsure about whether we are able to face the demands and move forward effectively.
Of course, having 24/7 access to news and opinions in the media, many of which seem to thrive on drama and gloom, does not help stress either. It is hard to keep a sense of perspective when you are surrounded by negative reports on the economy and job market, inevitably making you feel that you are not competitive enough – too old, too young, insufficiently skilled or experienced, having too much experience, facing discrimination for your ethnicity, race, gender, abilities, country of origin, language, and so many other factors.
Over the last 20 years of counselling and coaching people as they face job and career changes, I have discovered that there isn’t one way that works for every one to handle such stress. If you have ever turned to Internet, friends or even professionals, you might have found that even though people have lots of advice, there often isn’t much that applies to you specifically. You might have even started to wonder whether there is something terribly wrong with you, since everyone else seems to be coping better than you. The truth is that no one is coping quite as well as it seems on the surface — everyone has their moments of weakness and doubt, despite which they continue to get up in the morning and move forward.
The question, then, is what might work to help you move forward past the stress that comes with life’s changes. Here are some of the more successful techniques that my clients have tried:
1. Get support — go out and seek supports from people, whether they are friends or family. Don’t be shy about asking for help from those around you who are willing and able to provide an ear, some support, guidance or even more. Sometimes just the act of sharing your concerns and saying them out loud will give you a new perspective or motivate you to move forward.
2. Get advice and help from professionals — remember that organisations such as JVS Toronto exist to provide services and expertise that might help you achieve your career goals. There are also many online resources that might help you tweak a resume or find a new way of looking for work. If stress is beginning to overwhelm you and is affecting your ability to function day-to-day, go see your Doctor — they might have some resources that could help.
3. Do something differently — Mark Twain was right when he said that “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” Perhaps you need a new routine or a different way of meeting your goals. If job search is your challenge, try volunteering, taking a course or seeking out new strategies to find work.
4. Take care of your physical health — consider taking up some exercise (a brisk walk around your neighbourhood, perhaps with a friend, is a cheap and effective way to get the adrenaline pumping). The benefits of exercise are known to be way beyond simple physical fitness.
5. Give yourself a break — your mental health also requires attention; borrow a good book from the library, watch a favourite movie or just allow yourself some “me” time. Make sure to get enough sleep, which is key for focus and stress management.
One of my favourite quotes is from Marcus Aurelius who said that “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment“; simply put — change happens and you can’t always control that; but you can influence how you respond to it.
Do you have any suggestions about handling stress and change? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below.