I’d like to hear your views on the impact of change on mental health… and what can be done to reduce the stress caused by change…
From my experience and research, significant change at work can be highly stressful, leading to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
One of the main triggers of stress during change at work is uncertainty. When something important to you, such as your job, becomes uncertain, as it often is during an organisation re-structure, it triggers a stress response. Your body releases hormones, such as adrenaline and ACT, which in turn trigger headaches, nausea, and mental turmoil. As a recent article on Healthline.com explains, symptoms of chronic stress include: irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia. Something that has become familiar to many of us whilst enduring the uncertainties associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
It should therefore come as no surprise when people seek to evade change by actively opposing or simply avoiding it.
Other important triggers of stress during change at work include; lack of purpose, loss of control, loss of connection and fear of failure.
Purpose is Good for Mental Health
Having a clear sense of purpose is good for our mental health. But when change comes along our sense of purpose can become clouded or destabilized. At work, we can become frustrated, anxious or angry when we don’t know why we are being led in a new direction and what the end goal is.
Loss of control over our lives is equally stressful. We tend to rebel when outsiders, such as politicians, consultants or people from head office, tell us what to do without appreciating our situation, needs or desires. We demand control over what we can and cannot do. The same goes for changes to the way we work.
When change at work means losing cherished connections to people we work with, ways of doing things or the ethos of our organization it triggers a sense of loss. And when we grapple with new ways of doing things, we can suffer fear of failure. All of which threatens our mental health.
What do you think?
All in all, change can be highly stressful and dangerous for our mental health. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
What can we do to take the stress and anxiety of change? I’d like to know what do YOU think and what you’ve done.
For a deeper understanding of the impact of change on people, see the online training course: ‘Leading Successful Change’ or the books: ‘The 5 Forces of Change – a blueprint for leading successful change’ and ‘5 Tales of Change – how people have wrestled with change and one’, available in paperback and Kindle editions.