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Strategies for dealing with change more confidently...

Updated: May 6, 2021

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.

Threat Response

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:


  • Headaches

  • Frequent infections

  • Taut muscles

  • Muscular twitches

  • Fatigue

  • Skin irritations

  • Breathlessness


  • Worrying

  • Muddled thinking

  • Impaired judgement

  • Nightmares

  • Indecisions

  • Negativity

  • Hasty decisions


  • Lack of confidence

  • More fussy

  • Irritability

  • Depression

  • Apathy

  • Alienation

  • Apprehension


  • Accident prone

  • Loss of appetite

  • Loss of sex drive

  • Drinking more

  • Insomnia

  • Restlessness

  • Smoking more

Change Curve

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.

Growth Mindset

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.

Personal Resilience

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 s