Coping with Change and Uncertainty

Coping with Change and Uncertainty — Why Change is Hard

Coping with change and uncertainty is essential.  It requires the right mindset, level of awareness, and practical skills.  Do you have these tools?

Life is a series of changes, so learning to understand and manage its effects will help us avoid common problems and be more effective.  It will help us safeguard our health and wellness.  Scientific research suggests that most people follow similar patterns in dealing with change, so we experience the same hurdles.  Our personalities and instincts program us to respond in predictable ways.  You can learn to change these automatic responses.

Living through a stressful and long-term crisis can make it feel like living in a disaster movie.  Living in crisis mode affects our ability to make decisions.

Why Do People Make Assumptions

We assume because it is easier.  The mind saves time by using a combination of experience and current information.  We place more weight on the things that have the most emotional impact.  So, for example, you assume that someplace is safe because you have visited it many times before without incidents.  Today, that assumption does not hold true.  What used to be safe places like places of worship, schools, and large gatherings are not as safe as they used to be.

Yet, people still go to these places with almost the same frequency.  That means the majority of people may not be updating their decision-making processes, opting to rely on experience.

Why Change is Hard

The tendency to rely on past experiences greatly affects our readiness to handle change.  It makes us blind to the effects of change.

We Think We Are Ready

Our first assumption is that we think we are ready.  Then, when things begin to happen, the emotional side of change kicks in.  We weren’t expecting the overwhelming emotions that change can generate.  We find ourselves in emotional swings of anger, fear, and apathy.

Fear about how the change will affect us is common.  It brings up issues related to self-doubt.  Will we be able to adjust to the new way?   Then there’s anger, betrayal, incompetence, and loneliness, to name a few others.  It’s why change is hard.  It is emotionally unsettling.  We are afraid of it.

A significant change will bring up a host of memories and emotions.  Strong emotions can overwhelm the toughest and smartest people.  It derails the best plans.  We can be so focused on the physical we forget about the emotional impact.  Understanding and coping with change and uncertainty requires emotional awareness and control.

We forget that we accepted this part of the mission because we didn’t expect it to be overpowering.  However, that’s a distant memory, and it’s too late to turn back or stop now.  Most times, we aren’t in control of what is taking place, nor can we control the pace of the changes.

We Fail to Recognize the Effects of Change

We don’t recognize the emotional and physical effects of change because of two reasons.  First, they can emerge slowly.  Second, see the connection between the change and its impact.

You can put a frog in a pot on a stove and gradually turn up the heat until the water is boiling.  The frog doesn’t get out.  It doesn’t recognize the gradual increase in temperature.  We can be just like the frog.  We don’t react until it’s too late.  The harmful effects can emerge gradually.  We assume that the change won’t affect us.  We deny the mental, physical, and emotional effects.

After being exposed to stress for long periods, the symptoms increase, and we can’t ignore them any longer.  It becomes a crisis.  For example, fatigue manifests as headaches and migraines, leading to depression.  We begin to make errors in judgment at home and work.   However, we fail to connect the dots back to the change.

Right now, all cultures around the world are feeling the stress of the pandemic and political change.  It’s a significant change.   It affects everyone to some degree.  If you don’t think it affects you, then you are just like the frog in a pot of boiling water.

Coping with Change and Uncertainty

Most people realize on an intellectual level that everything is constantly changing.  Change is unsettling and uncomfortable, so we try to forget about it.  We get used to it and take it for granted until the effects sneak up on us or when we encounter a drastic change.  That’s why change is hard.  It is emotionally unsettling.

Why do people make assumptions about change?  We ignore change because we are focusing on the goal.  We are eager for something better.  So, we make a change.  We take a new job opportunity or perhaps a new hobby or relationship.  Something significant happens that alters our lives.

The biggest changes resulting from unforeseen circumstances, like accidents or losing a job or a loved one, are significant changes with extremely high emotional impact.  They can derail our lives.  It is a good idea to seek professional guidance for these situations.

Navigating Change

There are a few basic principles to keep in mind as we venture into the realm of change.  Understanding and coping with change and uncertainty requires us to look inward.  We need to see the connections between memories and the programming of our instincts, and then we will know how to handle the effects better.  You can learn to do this.

We must go beyond the process, policy, or practice to understand change.  It’s not just about a change in doing things or relationships.  It also includes the emotions, dreams, and memories attached to the change.  Most people don’t know how these things connect unless they do the inner work to discover them.  The subconscious mind remains a mystery to most.

The journey inward isn’t normally discussed in the workplace, which is why change is hard.  Most alterations in life come from or affect our work life.  Unfortunately, managers are not equipped to handle the personal and emotional aspects of change.  Even if they are able, they are afraid to delve into this area because of legal complications.

Managers don’t want to get into the personal lives of employees because just discussing personal issues could open the corporation to legal exposure.  Second, most managers don’t have the expertise to handle these kinds of problems.  They would instead refer them to trained psychologists.  So, managers need to spot the warning signs of change, and this way, they can direct employees to the best resources for help.

Progressive employers are using tools like the Enneagram Personality system.  This tool helps people to understand the subconscious programming of personality and instincts.  You cannot manage change without understanding its effects on the individual.

Physical Pain & Emotional Distress

Yes, making changes can be painful.  Psychosomatic pain is your body’s way of responding to stress, which is why change is hard for us mentally and physically.  These kinds of reactions can occur when you encounter new ideas conflicting with your current thinking or doing things.  Psychologists call this pain “cognitive dissonance.”

The internal conflict creates an emotional crisis.  Business and personal issues get tangled.  The result is that you think you are dealing with either a work or personal problem.  In reality, you can’t separate them.  You are one whole person.  As much as you’d like to keep work only at work or personal only at home, you can’t.  So, whatever emotional issues come, the catalyst doesn’t matter.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a term used by psychology to describe the pain caused when we encounter things that don’t fit our current worldview.   This happens as we try to reconcile conflicting ideas.  It is important not to ignore the symptoms.  Otherwise, it will manifest in other ways.  This discomfort is telling you there is something you need to address.

Stress is a byproduct of change and manifests in many ways.  It can make people sensitive to things that didn’t matter before, such as the smell of perfume or someone’s messy desk.  Stress also leads to insomnia and fatigue, which leads to more conflicts and mental mistakes.  Stress creates a downward spiral that is sometimes difficult to stop.  So, people file mental stress claims to get a break from anxiety during a significant change.

Any disruption to your worldview forces you to make mental adjustments.  When you mess with the filter of your worldview, you can upset your emotional equilibrium.  The result is cognitive dissonance.  Have you experienced this?

Focus on the Reasons Behind the Change

why do people make assumptions why change is hard

To handle change, you need to understand the reasons behind the change, but this isn’t enough.  You must be able to accept the reasons.  If you know the reasons but reject them, you will not move beyond the emotional effects.  Learning how to cope with the reasons for change is vital for handling the impact of change.

Ask why people make assumptions, then go one step further and ask yourself if you are doing it as well.

Sometimes, the why is hard to accept.  Sometimes, the connection between the reasons for the change and how you feel about it isn’t immediately apparent.  A common ineffective strategy is denial.  We might say, yes, sure, I accept the reason for the change, but deep down, we do not.

Again, most workplaces do not want to investigate this level of personal experience.  We must learn to accept deviation from the norm, the new system, or the process.  It doesn’t mean we agree with it; it means that we accept that this is taking place, and we understand the reasons.

The Enneagram Personality Profile can help us understand how our personality works.  It’s an essential tool for understanding how change affects our thinking.  The physical changes are only a part of the story.  We must deal with how change affects the individual.

For example, they implemented a new work process that changed how we did our jobs.  We understand the changes and adjust our routine,  but then we find that we are making more errors than normal.   It may have nothing to do with the changes at work.  Your paradigm is fighting to hold on to the old ways because you are comfortable with them.  It will take much longer to adjust unless you address the issues within yourself.  It’s a common situation as companies institute new practices to protect people during the pandemic.

The stress in our lives manifests in work performance issues.  As the stress rises, you make more errors and your performance declines.  The cycle downward continues, and you make more errors in judgment, but your manager does not understand why you’re having so much trouble.  Now, your job is in jeopardy.  This typical example is why understanding your paradigm is so important.  If you grasp that change affects your internal values and thinking, you will be better at handling change.

Get Comfortable with Unknowns

Once you understand the reasons behind the why and accept the reasons given, you can move forward.  Once you do this, it will be easier to see the internal and external effects.  Learning to accept these changes isn’t as simple as snapping your fingers.

You learn to be comfortable with the unknown.  It would help if you made the conscious decision to venture into unfamiliar territory, leaving behind beliefs and values that may be anchors for your paradigm.  This is also a handy strategy for life.  It’s the modern version of the Buddhist idea of non-attachment.  It’s learning not to make anchors you can’t cut and leave behind.

Partner with the Positive

You need the correct information, skills, and support to feel confident and thrive in the change.  Find other people who, despite the unknowns, are consistently positive.  Yes, everyone gets frustrated and down sometimes.  However, you want to seek people to help you through the obstacles.

Anxiety, self-doubt, and depression are often a part of our natural response to change.  Your support system is vital in dealing with this aspect.  Don’t go it alone.  Remember, 95% of our responses result from our previously held assumptions and views, so be mindful of this tendency.  Hopefully, you have the information to help you deal with the change.  Understanding change is both intellectual and emotional, and having positive emotional support goes a long way to making things manageable.

Coping with Change and Uncertainty Takes Time

Everyone processes the effects of change at a different rate.  The emotional effects of change can temporarily reduce our ability to process information by up to 80%, so it’s essential to take your time to deal with the effects.  Be gentle with yourself.  Be gentle with others, too.  The change may be small, but it’s huge for you if you have many emotions attached.  Ask questions.  Ask yourself, why am I feeling this?

Our reading ability can drop to a 4th-grade level during times of change.  Why do people make assumptions?  Because it is the easy fall-back answer.  Again, be gentle and patient with yourself.  Take time out from the hard inner work and enjoy life.  Spend time outdoors in nature.  Even a few minutes in the environment can help return your emotional equilibrium.  Learn to meditate.  Spend time on your creative hobbies.  Learn basic seated and walking mindfulness meditation techniques and use them.  Learn how beneficial it is to be in nature (Forest Bathing).

As you can see, change is a life-changing process.  It is challenging, but the rewards are worth it.  In a way, it is good for us.  It forces us to address the spiritual side of our nature.

When you find you are experiencing some level of physical or emotional distress, take a timeout.  Talk with people so they understand you are having issues with the effects of the change.  It has nothing to do with physical change, the people, the processes, or the organization.


Understanding change involves both external issues and internal effects.  We find the best outcomes when we start with a positive mindset.  Three things cultivate a healthy state of mind:

1) You have the awareness, mindset, and coping skills.
2) are in good health.
3) you are functioning in the healthy range of your personality.

We live in a constant state of small incremental changes, but we tend to ignore them.  Most major changes occur when we aren’t ready.  Still, we live with the assumption that we are ready for and can handle any change.  The right people can help us—partner with people with a positive outlook on the situation.  Take the time to process how this new situation affects you.  It uses processes like the Enneagram Personality profile to help you understand the mechanisms of your ego.   It will help you maintain emotional equilibrium.

The things we need to cope with change are:

1) the reasons for the change.
2) the emotional effects.
3) understanding why we make assumptions