Updated: May 6
Have you found your confidence taking a dip through the prolonged period of lockdown, being out of the office or work? Are you feeling unsure about how to move forward in life and/or work as we start to emerge?
In this post, I explore the effects of change, particularly prolonged change, and its impact on confidence levels. I share some self-management strategies so that you can feel more confident and focused as we start to emerge from the pandemic and find a new norm.
A common theme I am seeing with some of my coaching clients currently is developing the ability to move forward with confidence as we start to emerge out of a prolonged period of lockdown / out of the office and/or out of work. The pandemic created an unprecedented immense level of uncertainty for us – job / financial insecurity, absence of social contact, loss of loved ones, balancing childcare with work commitments, etc. Naturally this has created increased levels of anxiety and social anxiety.
I recently delivered a Members knowledge share presentation for the East Midlands Chamber to its members around this theme, although it was difficult to do it justice in such a short time frame and given the complexity of the content. However, in summary these were some of the pertinent points I shared.
Our natural response to change
The last 12 months has been unprecedented in terms of the amount of change and uncertainty we have experienced and had to deal with in such a short space of time. I recently read that we’ve experienced something like six years of advancement (technology, ways of working, communication, etc) in the space of the last 12 months. Our natural tendency is to resist change because we know it is going to bring about something different, something unexpected and we fear the not knowing – the uncertainty that comes with change. Our brains are trained to favour familiarity and have to work overtime to learn to adapt to change which is why change can often feel difficult.
The Amygdala is our part of the brain that acts as our threat detector – you will likely have heard the term fight, flight, freeze which is the body’s natural way of responding to perceived threat or danger. When the Amygdala is activated through anxiety, this affects short-term memory, attention, and your ability to make risk-benefit assessments. If the brain decides the change is, in fact, threatening, then it will resist or avoid the change as much as possible.
When you are responding to perceived/threat, the following is what's going on inside of you:
Your ability to think and to think creatively is inhibited
Your brain tires quickly (as above, learning to adapt to change)
Your cognitive resources are reduced
Over time you may experience negative health impacts
You may experience defensive behaviour or thinking
You are less able to process new information
The longer the period of uncertainty, the more likely the brain is to conjure up and fixate on the worst-case scenarios which increases anxiety.
Effects of Stress
Ongoing anxiety may cause stress which can have many effects on your body, mind, and emotions, further impacting on behaviour such as:
Lack of confidence
Loss of appetite
Loss of sex drive
In 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (psychiatrist, humanitarian, and hospice pioneer) wrote about the “5 Stages of Grief®”. She identified these stages as defence mechanisms or coping mechanisms to change, loss, and/or shock. The stages have been adapted into the “Kübler-Ross Change Curve™ which is widely used within organisational change programmes.
Shock – surprise or shock at the event
Denial – disbelief or looking for evidence that it isn’t true
Frustration – recognition that things are different, sometimes angry
Depression – low mood, lacking in energy
Experiment – initial engagement with a new situation
Decision – learning how to work in the new situation, feeling more positive
Integration – changes integrated, a renewed individual
The Change Curve is helpful for gaining an understanding and insight into the emotional & social experience of how you respond to change. However, I have often seen a lot of effort being put into managing the change process but little or no effort put into managing people through the change in organisations.
It should be noted that the Change Curve is not a linear process as individuals can skip between stages, e.g., move from shock to experiment, or relapse backwards, e.g., drop back from experiment to frustration or depression.
One thing the pandemic has shown us is that living with volatility, uncertainty, complexity & ambiguity (VUCA) is fast becoming the new norm and requires the ability to flex and adapt. It requires new ways of thinking and leadership style / skills.
I have previously talked about mindset so will keep this section brief. Carol Dweck’s work on Mindset is an inquiry into the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing even the simplest of them can have a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives.
People with a fixed mindset believe that these qualities are inborn, fixed, and unchangeable. Typical tendency is to avoid challenges, give up easily and get defensive.
Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that these abilities can be developed and strengthened by way of commitment and hard work. Typical tendency is to embrace challenges and persist in the face of setbacks.
We all have elements of both a fixed & growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset tendency may adopt a victim mentality and get stuck on the Change Curve, held back by fear of the unknown.
According to the American Psychological Association, Psychologists define resilience as:
the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress in respect of family, relationships, health, finance & workplace.
Developing resilience can help you cope adaptively and bounce back after changes, challenges, setbacks, disappointments, and failures.
Conner and Davidson (2003) developed the Conner-Davidson Resilience scale (CD-RISC), which is comprised of 25 items, each rated on a 5-point scale from 0-4 with higher scores that reflect a greater sense of resilience. The scale was administered to general psychiatric outpatients, a clinical trial of generalized anxiety disorders, two clinical trials of PTSD and community samples.
The Conner-Davidson Resilience Scale
Able to adapt to change.
Close and secure relationships.
Sometimes fate or God can help.
Can deal with whatever comes.
Past success gives confidence for new challenge.
See the humorous side of things.
Coping with stress strengthens.
Tend to bounce back after illness or hardship.
Things happen for a reason.
Best effort no matter what.
You can achieve your goals.
When things look hopeless, you don’t give up.
Know where to turn for help.
Under pressure, focus and think clearly.
Prefer to take the lead in problem-solving.
Not easily discouraged by failure.
Think of self as a strong person.
Make unpopular or difficult decisions.
Can handle unpleasant feelings.
Have to act on a hunch.
Strong sense of purpose.
In control of your life.
You like challenges.
You work to attain your goals.
Pride in your achievements.
By using this scale, their study concluded that resilience is quantifiable and influenced by health status, is modifiable, and can improve with treatment.
In terms of business resilience, McKinsey & Company refer to business resilience as: In the face of a crisis or economic slowdown, resilient organizations ride out uncertainty instead of being overpowered by it.
As businesses recover from Covid-19 related disruptions and reimagine themselves for the next normal, McKinsey & Company recommend that businesses need to ask and answer these questions:
What kind of demand shift should we expect, and how do we get ready for it?
How do we incorporate new ways of working to enhance productivity and health?
How do we get the most out of office real estate?
How can we reimagine capital allocation to promote resilience?
What broader role should organisations play in communities?
Check out McKinsey & Company’s website https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/business-resilience - they have lots of resources around business resilience and the business outlook for 2021 including articles, videos, and podcasts.
Strategies for Boosting Your Confidence
These are some of the strategies I use with my coaching clients and/or shared during my recent Member Knowledge share:
I recently used an imaginary timeline with a client who was struggling to identify and communicate their strengths. We revisited each of their roles within their given career, reflecting on knowledge, skills and experience gained, together with their achievements. This helped to boost their confidence in terms of their self-worth.
When we experience incongruence, this is often as a result of our core values being in conflict and/or our needs not being met. I work with clients to elicit their core values, testing for towards values (fulfilling a pleasure) or away values (from pain). This involves listing what’s important to them in their personal or professional life and then revisiting this a few times so as to narrow the list down to their top 8 values, and then exploring the importance of each one. This may also involve a bit of re-ordering.
Building Personal Resilience
An article in Psychology Today (Seven Skills of Resilience) provides the following practical ways to enhance well-being in these trying times:
Cultivate a belief in your ability to cope - the world is a reflection of your inner thoughts, feelings, values & beliefs. Your locus of control is the degree to which you believe that you, as opposed to external forces, have control over the outcome of events in your life. The stronger your locus of control, the greater your ability to respond to events.
Stay connected with sources of support – we are social beings and connection is critical for mental health. It helps for cultivating resilience after experiencing a hardship.
Talk about what you’re going through – talking to others helps you to voice your concerns and often, you will see that other people may have similar struggles. It also opens the way for seeking advice and sharing strategies.
Be helpful to others – this takes the focus away from you and creates a sense of purpose and belonging. It feels good and can also increase your self-esteem.
Activate positive emotions – studies show that people feel and do their best when they have at least 3 x as many positive emotions as negative emotions. Practising kindness, gratitude and cultivating optimism increases positive emotions.
Cultivate an attitude of survivorship – a survivor mentality focuses on overcoming the negative activating events and promotes an individual's adaptive behaviours. If you find yourself in a fixed mindset of victim, try changing your thoughts to ‘I can adapt’, ‘I am resilient’.
Seek meaning - having a meaningful life with a clear purpose improves mental health, happiness, self-worth, self-confidence, and productivity. You are more likely to have a sense of control in your life with purpose.
Circle of Influence
In Stephen Covey’s book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) Covey distinguishes between proactive people – those who focus on what they can do and what they can influence – and reactive people – those who focus their energy on things beyond their control. Reactive people maintain an attitude of victimisation and blame. This is a simple model I use during coaching conversations to explore perception and reality, helping clients to move their energy away from the circle of concern and focusing on the circle of influence.
Setting intentions is the act of stating what you intend to accomplish through your actions. It's a commitment. When you are intentional about something, your focus is in the moment: who you are, what you do, why you do it.
Try creating a mantra – mine is ‘face the fear and do it anyway, what’s the worst that could happen?’
Remind yourself daily of your intention – read it out aloud to yourself, have it written down somewhere visible
What you want to achieve
How it will benefit you
How it will make you feel
Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways.
Each day, think of 3 things you are grateful for
Start a gratitude journal. Making a commitment to writing down good things each day makes it more likely that we will notice good things as they happen
Support & Resources
If you are feeling anxious or suffering from social anxiety, the charity Anxiety UK can help and support you to find ways to control anxiety instead of it controlling you. They also have support and resources for coronanxiety. If you are struggling emotionally, the charity Mind provides information and tips for wellbeing.
How do you respond to change?
Who can make you more comfortable with managing change?
What learnings can you take from a past positive experience that worked out
Anxiety UK - https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk
If anything here resonates with you and you would like to explore coaching or an NLP breakthrough day, please do get in touch for an informal no-obligation exploratory call - 07791 863092 / firstname.lastname@example.org