You’ve heard it before. Heraclitis, a Greek philosopher wrote, “The only thing constant is change.” Yet, it is the thing that many of us fear the most. Navigating change can be challenging, even when it is a change for what we perceive to be a great outcome. To move forward, we must let go. We must let go of things and ideas from the past for growth and forward movement is not possible when we’re stuck in old thinking or old patterns that no longer serve us.
The paradigm of healthcare is evolving. Change within the health care system comes at what seems to be an ever-increasing speed. Change is also the experience that happens to every patient and their caregiver when they receive a diagnosis and require treatment. When change comes as result of something we didn’t ask for, such as a health challenge, fears can be even more amplified. It’s not surprising, then, that patients and their caregivers can experience a high degree of stress, anger, and confusion.
One of the biggest challenges is that most people are not consciously aware of the process of change management or behavior change. When people have a plan and a process, they are much better equipped to embrace the change and self-manage their care.
Out of years of experience coaching cancer survivors and caregivers, I identified 7 critical steps that help people navigate change with more ease, feel more empowered in challenging situations, and make sustainable behavior changes to improve their quality of life.
The first step is “awareness.”
If the health care practitioner is not bringing awareness to interactions with patients, it is less likely they will recognize stress reactions and distress in the patient (or caregiver) and more likely take any misdirected anger or frustration personally. Let’s face it, when we, ourselves, are overworked, stressed, and trying to do our best, hearing something that feels like a criticism or lack of appreciation for our efforts can seem personal.
How can awareness help healthcare practitioners and those they care for?
- Focus inward on you. When someone comes at you with anger, frustration, resistance, etc. take a moment to stop and acknowledge silently to yourself it is, in most cases, not about you.
- Be responsible. In the rare case that you have, indeed, said or done something to anger someone, own your part. “I’m sorry” goes a long way. When the anger is misdirected at you out of frustration or fear, you can be responsible by using acknowledging and listening skills which can help diffuse the situation and reduce the tension and distress instead of reacting unconsciously because you got your buttons pushed – a natural and understandable reaction, but not one that will move things in a better direction.
- Co-create a plan. Helping the patient or caregiver to come up with an action step or two that can help address the challenge that is creating their feelings of anger or frustration allows them to move forward and proactively find a solution that works for them.
Stay tuned for the next of the 7 critical steps: “creating choice.”