Coping with Change
Coping with Change
Change is all around us. From our first breath until our last, our lives will always be changing. Our relationships, families, physical and mental health, jobs, communities, and finances continue to change, directly and indirectly affecting us.
Trying to avoid change proves fruitless; it will always catch up to us. Knowing a transition is coming can help us begin to mentally and emotionally prepare for a new situation. However, unexpected change is just as common. Sudden negative events can easily become crises, and some may even prove traumatic.
Effects of Poor Coping Skills
Though change is not optional, your attitude is. Attempting to avoid change or pretend it doesn’t exist will only harm you and possibly others in the process. Poor coping skills to deal with the changes happening in and around you will negatively impact your body, thoughts, and emotions. If you can’t cope well with change, you’re at a higher risk for symptoms of anxiety and depression. Your overall physical health is likely to suffer. Relationships with those you care about may grow strained and tense. When you can’t effectively handle life’s changes it will only take a very small amount of stress to make you feel completely overwhelmed. Defining your life goals and dreams will also become difficult and clouded.
Positive Ways to Cope with Change
If you feel as if you’re not processing change as well as you could, be encouraged. Your ability to cope with change, sometimes called resilience, is not a fixed value. Bouncing back is a learned skill. While some individuals naturally possess a greater resilience, you can increase your ability to positively cope with the changes that occur.
Specific ways of acting and thinking will help you live a life that actually welcomes change. You can also learn to adapt more easily to new experiences and environments. The following tips are some strategies to help you cope well with the changes affecting your life, whether they are expected or unexpected:
Control- Learn to accept what you can and can’t control. We will spend an enormous amount of time and energy if we blame others and try to make them change. If we constantly take another person’s actions personally, we can easily feel stuck in the situation. The sooner we realize we can only control ourselves and not others, the more quickly we can bounce back. Consider how you can take responsibility in the situation. How can you change what’s happening? What could you do to accomplish your goals? Fix your mindset on the only thing you can control, and that’s you.
Examine thinking- Sometimes when we feel stressed or anxious, our minds will go into overdrive. We might jump to worst-case scenarios or even imagine impossible or irrational situations. However, slowing our minds down with some relaxation techniques will help us examine those wayward thoughts. Focusing on the facts can help keep our thoughts and emotions under control. This will also help you strategize where to put your energy and how to solve the problem.
Permission to grieve- Many changes in life take the form of losses. These can be positive, but even a good change can bring a sense of loss or sadness. For example, graduating from college is a wonderful transition. Regardless, you might miss the role of student, the environment or the friendships you enjoyed. During change it’s important to allow yourself time to grieve what may have been lost such as a job, a title, your sense of security, a loved one, a pet, etc. You’ll need time to embrace the change, take care of yourself, and possibly seek out support.
Timing- Being able to positively cope with change gives us the opportunity to look at past, present, and future perspectives.
Consider past challenges- One way to positively face change is to look back. This can serve to remind you of your ability to solve problems and adapt to new situations. You can also examine these past experiences and look for areas of growth. Ask yourself, “How would I handle these changes differently than before? What strategies haven’t I tried before?”
Focus on the present- Both looking at the past and planning for the future have their value. However, remember not to lose sight of the present. Take some time each day to practice relaxation exercises. Focus on your breathing and senses to feel calmer and more ready to tackle new experiences. Relaxation techniques will also help you notice your physical and emotional responses to stress and when to address them.
Set future goals- Times of change are excellent opportunities to reflect on your values and purpose in life. Perhaps, you’ve been exhausting valuable time and effort on unimportant situations. Having clear values and goals for the future help ward off the physical and emotional symptoms that emerge in changing and uncertain times.
Humans were never intended nor built to weather all of life’s storms on their own. Leaning on friends or family or seeking help from a medical or mental health professional can help you regain your energy, focus, and passion for your goals. Support groups can also assist you in embracing the change, letting go, and moving onward and upward with your life.
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