Change is known to exacerbate anxiety, stress and sometimes even depression. This is because human beings are creatures of habit and find it excruciating to do things differently. Sometimes individuals will stay in awful situations because the fear of change paralyses them.
Positive psychology researchers look at individuals who cope best with life and inquire: “What qualities and strengths do these people have that enables them to cope with change experiencing minimum distress?”
Several key qualities have been named.
- Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. This is a vital quality because life is full of challenges – no one escapes them. Sometimes a challenge can really knock you about and sometimes you may even feel crushed. However, a resilient person does not stay down. Sooner or later a resilient person gets up, recovers and moves on with life.
Jim loses his job after ten years. He is gutted. He climbs into bed for a week believing that his life has ended. However, after a week he literally and figuratively stands up, brushes himself off and starts to look for solutions. He goes for therapy to deal with his depressed mood and to gain clarity about his decisions. Then he proceeds to look for a job. After 6 months, he is back on his feet emotionally and at work.
Contrast this with Peter who is not resilient. After losing his job, he gives up on himself. He spends months feeling sorry for himself and being pessimistic about the future. Eventually he finds some menial job and he never returns to the person he was before the job loss.
- Flexibility is the capacity to go with the flow. Like a soft reed blowing in the wind, a flexible person can move with environmental pressures and not “snap” under pressure. There is no rigidity, only fluidity. Flexibility is important in day to day life because there are always oppositional forces at work.
Marissa likes a neat environment. She has always kept her home running a particular way. However, when she marries Mark, he prefers to run things differently. Marissa does not believe it is worth arguing about. As long as her home is neat, she is flexible about the way it is achieved.
Leanne, on the other hand, is rigid. She has her way of doing things and believes it is the only way. When her husband suggests an alternative, she becomes stressed, defensive and withdrawn.
- Adaptability is the ability to make changes and adaptations as you go. There is no major adversity taking place. Nor is there a flexible option. Demands from the environment require you to adapt yourself and learn new skills to cope with the new environment.
George has been working for the same company for twenty years. New management requires him to utilise modern technology. George understands that he needs to learn these new skills in order to keep his job.
Giana on the other hand refuses to adapt. She is an actress who waits for auditions. In today’s world auditions are posted on Facebook. Giana refuses to succumb to group pressure and is determined to never be on Facebook. The consequence is that Giana misses most auditions and her career is floundering.
There are times where being flexible is all you need to function well. In difficult times, resilience is required. However, most of the time adapting to the ever changing demands of the environment is a must if you want to function well and feel good.
Since life is always evolving, and different demands are made on you, being able to adapt and evolve is key to staying calm, happy and productive.