3 months into the lockdown in the UK most people were really showing the strain.

We’re tired, we can’t focus, we’re creatively blocked, we’re inconsistent.

We’re tetchy, we’re sleep deprived, we’re … scared.

Our brains don’t know what news to brace for next, or what the next few days will hold.

We’re burning energy faster than usual because we’re focused on surviving.

Our brains have temporarily shut down the part that juggles complex tasks and planning.

We’re flooded with the adrenalin triggered by our survival instinct but it has nowhere to go so we’re restless and can’t sleep.

We can’t think about goals, projects, or dreams like we used to because our brains can only deal in short term coping strategies.

These are symptoms of stress, NOT personal failures.

To try and make sense of what is happening to us and look at what we might expect as we move through more changes, we asked Jo Twiselton to explain the process of change and transition.

Jo is an experienced change leadership coach.

She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and the Change Management Institute (CMI).

See more about Jo at Twist Consultants

We’re on this roller coaster of emotions

(graphic by Anne-Marie Miller of Carbon Orange)

Sometimes several times a day we’re racketing back and forth between

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Depression

Our morale is low, our competence in flux, and our confidence varies.

If this was a one off change, we’d gradually start to

  • Experiment
  • Make Decisions
  • Integrate

In most situations of enforced change we’d start at the beginning and work our way through to the end. This can take weeks or years, depending on how we feel but eventually we start to experiment with the new situation, make some decisions about it and integrate it into our lives – and move on to something else. Yeah!

Except that we’re not experiencing a one off change

We’ve got change coming at us from all directions at once.

The difference between change and transition

Change is something that happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it. Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through change. Change can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly.

The abruptness of the lockdown was forced on us, we had no choice, and this has increased our sense of powerlessness.

The pandemic has both threatened and isolated us which is a double whammy as our instinct when threatened is to gather together, to seek safety in our communities and tribes.

There is no plan, no playbook and no real idea of when or how it will come to an end.

When change is forced on us, everyone has a unique experience even though we’re going through the same situation. This is because we all bring our own baggage along for the ride and no-one else really knows what we’re carrying.

What we’re doing now is TRANSITIONING

Even mundane activities like brushing our teeth can trigger anxiety on different levels:

“When will I be able to get more or my favourite toothpaste?”

“What if I dislodge a filling? Will I be able to get dental treatment?”

Everything is in flux.

We’re also experiencing grief.

Life will never be the same again. No matter how much we try to “get back to normal” we’ve had to get used to a different way of living so we’re grieving in different ways for the things we’ve lost and every time we get used to something and that changes we go through the whole process again.

What can we expect?

The Bridges model of transition

Stage 1 Endings 

People experience fear, anger, upset, loss of control, loss of the familiar, fear of the unknown. They need to be able to let go to move into the neutral zone. They experience the roller coaster of emotions

Stage 2 Neutral Zone

In the neutral zone people at still attached to the old but might be willing to start letting go, and explore the new. They might still be anxious but they’re willing to try. Uncertainty sits in the neutral zone. People can feel rudderless and untethered.

Stage 3 New Beginnings 

Moving towards new beginnings people experience more energy and optimism but can slide back down the roller coaster.

Most of us can’t do this yet because we don’t know what the new beginnings look like.

The significance of this is how many things are changing at once, it’s a tsunami of change and we’re wondering how many more waves we need to surf in order not to drown. That’s why we’re all so exhausted.

What can we do?

Don’t waste time on things, conversations, or people that are hard work. Its too exhausting.

Find the things you can control: when you work, where you work, when you take a break, etc.

Celebrate quick wins.

Decide where to put your attention,

Focus on the important and essential.

If you find yourself using lots of ‘should’s – turn the volume down. Don’t give yourself a hard time.

Make do and let go of perfect.

Do the big things first because you don’t know how long your energy will last.

Collaboration and socialising

David Rock in Your Brain at Work says “One experience in life that increases happiness over and above everything else is the QUALITY of social connection. Our brains thrive in “quality social connections of safe relatedness.”

We’ve made it as easy as possible to have a safe place to share how we’re feeling with people we trust and who are going through the same things and this has had huge benefits.  Find out more on our Covid-19 Support page.

How far we’ve come

Although there’s no knowing what is still to come and what other changes we might have to deal with, its worth taking a minute to think of how far we’ve come as Helen Lindop says in her doodle, and we can keep on going!


To find our more about Jo’s work, sign up to her newsletter at Twist Consultants

To experience “quality social connections of safe relatedness” join us in our coffee break calls, every weekday at 10.00am