We are told things are returning to normal, road maps, vaccines, schools re-opened and non-essential services opening soon, I for one will welcome a haircut! The world around us is returning to some sort of normal but what does return to normal mean for you?
Let us get one thing clear form the outset, ‘return to normal’ means change and change is a complex thing to manage. Change is often challenging and when this is placed within the context of the multiple changes, we will have all have had to navigate, with varying degrees of success over the past 12 months, sourdough starter comes to mind! Returning to normal, come June 21st, is another change that is being placed upon us at a time when many will be legitimately overwhelmed by what organisational psychologists refer to as change fatigue.
Gwen Webber-McLeod, speaking to National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICH), describes change fatigue ‘as a loss of focus, energy and willingness in leaders and employees constantly impacted by organisational change. Change fatigue symptoms include stress and high levels of fear, people not working to capacity and distracted leadership. Without intervention, change fatigue can cause initiatives to stall and fail.’ Although this article specifically relates to organisational change, change is what, we as members of society, have ‘had to cope with’ throughout this pandemic.
If change fatigue is something you can relate to consider family, or our social group, as an organisation by another name. The family, large or small, immediate or extended will have numerous members. Each member of that family will have roles and responsibilities, whether the primary earner, carer or simply responsible for tidying their room. When all these people perform to expectations and where possible exceed them, the family thrives. When the family thrives, we are happier, are in control and are optimistic for the future.
Utilising the principles of organisational psychology, we can utilise tools to aid us in identifying solutions that are right for us, our family and the people we care about as we approach June 21st and societies return to normal.
- Create a plan – work together, talk to one another, ascertain what you and your family want post June 21st, if you want something to be different what do you and your family need to ‘buy in to’ to ensure change is nudged by individual wishes.
- Communicate – early and often. Set aside time to involve all members of the family. Reflect on what’s working well, identify obstacles early and implement the necessary changes inclusively.
- Set boundaries – where necessary and manage those expectations consistently, compassionately and confidently. When setting boundaries don’t think of them as disciplinarian, unkind or selfish. Boundaries are important for everybody involved in the process of change, directly or indirectly.
- Implement small changes – that effectively nudge you towards the desired goal. It is all about identifying the quick wins, bringing people with you, winning and retaining the ‘hearts and minds’ in order that momentum is built on collaboration, cooperation and commitment to change.
- Keep things simple – don’t over complicate or feel the need to over share. It is about removing ambiguity so that all understand their role and responsibility and are invested in the outcomes for themselves and the family.
The 2020/21 pandemic required all of us to conform to numerous changes, change prescribed to us by Government and its scientific advisors, outside of our control. As a society the majority will have followed the rules and as a consequence, restrictions are now thankfully easing toward June 21st, when we are told, things will return to normal.
For many lockdowns will have been frustrating, isolating and overwhelming. All of this negativity will manifest as behaviours rooted in anger, anxiety or depression resulting in many reporting increased levels of stress. Stress is cumulative and no matter how adept we all like to think we are at coping with stress, 12 months on and many will have reached, or passed, our limits.
The lockdowns of the past 12 moths came with prescribed rules, we may not have liked them, but we knew what we could and could not do. The irony of the promise of returning to normal, is that the closer we get to restrictions lifting the more anxious many are becoming. Primarily this ‘return to normal’ change, unlike that of the lockdowns previously, does not come with any guidelines, rules or qualification, just that come 21st of June everything will return to normal. For this reason, the ‘return to normal’ is just too ambiguous, uncertain and confusing.
To defuse from that ambiguity, uncertainty and confusion actively visualise change as transformative for you and the people you care most about. Change, when framed positively, can be viewed as an opportunity. Change does not have to be perceived as a bad thing. Change provides the permission to do things differently, so begin with asking yourself three questions.
1. What can you do now?
2. When will you do it?
3. What will be different as a consequence?
Change happens, by choosing to embrace change, and the principles outlined here, you are have a structure for your thinking and when you positively think, you feel more positive, and your behaviours will reflect that positivity in all that you do going forward.
Brett Rennolds is a qualified psychotherapist DSFH, HPD, MNCH NCH Supervisor and registered with the Complimentary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Brett specialises in a solution-focused approach, complimented by the principles of CBT, ACT, mental health first aid and hypnotherapy. He continues to provide therapy online, via an encrypted platform. For more information please visit his website.