Coping with change

They say the only constant in life is change. But that’s providing little reassurance for people facing major upheaval in both their personal and professional lives amid the COVID-19 crisis.

By Nina Hendy.

Man working from home

The world is a starkly different place than it was even a month ago as the COVID-19 virus raises anxiety levels among all Australians.

We’re being ordered to adhere to strict social distancing measures, work from home and forego all the normal activities we had taken from granted in life.

And while we all know it’s for the greater good, it’s by no means easy. Not surprisingly, these changes can be hard to process on such a grand scale. People often fear change, because we’re afraid of the unknown.

If you’re finding it hard to cope, it’s important to get some strategies in place to help you.

Try discarding the fear of uncertainty, and instead embrace it, experts suggest.

Richard Bowles is a global speaker and influential change maker. Emotions can become so overpowering in times like these that it takes away our ability to carry out life’s fundamentals, and clouds thinking, he says.

“You’re never going to get rid of that anxious feeling altogether based on the current crisis. Learning to manage the severity and work with out angst a makes us attentive, vigilant and focused, which are all needed in challenging times.”

Looking for ways to regulate our emotions helps us rise above the disarray and provides perspective so we can be more solution-focused, creative and innovative – which are all skills needed in a time of crisis, he adds.

“To manage external chaos, you need internal order,” he says.

Rewire your thinking

Ami Cook is the chief development officer of MindNavigator – an Australian technology company that works to improve organisational performance and empower team cultures.

Cook is the first to admit that the current health crisis has bought out the fact that we can’t control everything in our lives to the forefront of our attention. And while we can’t control the situation, we can still control our response, she says.

“Developing the ability to choose to cope with uncertainty leads to greater resilience, feeling more relaxed and more able to respond to whatever events and circumstances present themselves,” she says.

We often mistake anxious thinking as a feeling, but it’s in fact a self-limiting mental process of imagining a future scenario and then discounting ourselves, our resources and the timeframe to the event, which leads to a feeling of fear, she explains.

Cook recommends that periodically throughout the day, we all take note of what we’re experiencing in your body, where we feel tension and how intense it feels.

Next, see if you can name the feeling or emotion you’re feeling, such as anger, frustration or sadness. From there, you can manage your pattern of response from that emotional state and review how effective it is and what might be more resourceful.

Looking ahead

When considering what’s ahead, the analogy of the glass half full/empty can be helpful, she adds.

“Firstly, it’s important to notice when we’re focusing the glass half empty, and practice acceptance in relation to the events and circumstances in our lives that we cannot control, even if we don’t like them.

“Secondly, we can actively focus our attention on the facets of our experience that we can influence and practice appreciation for all the positive things in our lives,” she says.

Living in the present

One useful thing that many Australians are considering right now is spending lockdown learning something new, explains Damian Scanlon, MBA Director at the University of Adelaide.

There has been strong interest in a range of postgraduate programs that allow you to log into and study whenever and wherever it works for you, delivered with full personalised support by the University of Adelaide.

These courses allow you to get serious about accelerating or changing your career during this period of global uncertainty – and all are completely free of charge, Mr Scanlon says.

Popular courses include leadership management, business management, customer experience and communication skills.

“We’ve designed these courses to be engaging and interactive, passion-fuelling and career-building. They’ve been designed and taught by our world-renowned academics and researchers as well as our extensive industry contacts to help you get back into the real world well equipped for the opportunities that come your way,” Mr Scanlon says.

The University also has a huge variety of formal qualifications; Professional Certificates that articulate into the MBA, Graduate Certificates, Diplomas and Master degrees that you can use to specialise or take your career in a different direction.

And remember, that the COVID-19 pandemic will end, and our lives will return to normal.

If you’re struggling, Lifeline has 24/7 phone and online support – 13 11 14. Or the Beyond Blue lists a number of resources to help people through the coronavirus outbreak.

7 steps for coping with change*:

  • Ask yourself – what’s the worst thing that can happen?
  • Look for things in your life that you can control.
  • Accept that things are beyond your control and choose to be comfortable with that fact.
  • Celebrate the positives, no matter how small they are.
  • Problem solve or set goals to proactively address challenges.
  • Improve your ability to handle stress. Try mindfulness, meditation or other relaxation techniques.
  • It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when there’s big change. Seek emotional support from family or friends.


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