Dealing with Change

As the holidays approach, change also strikes. New Years isn’t the only time that people start thinking about changes – you may be changing where you celebrate (or what you celebrate), a change in income level or job status, a change in home, or many other ones. Although change in inevitable, it’s also quite stressful – even when it’s a good change! After all, humans are very much creatures of habit and getting knocked out of those habits can be quite disruptive. Since change is inevitable, and disruptive, learning how to deal with and manage change is extremely important.

Why Do We Struggle with Change?

Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that most people are creatures of habit. We like our routines, we like things to be predictable, and we don’t like things to suddenly shift. Knowing what’s going to happen, when, and how is important to us and goes back to our distant ancestors where ancient man had to be able to expect that if the deer were going a direction one year, they would go the same direction the following year and could be planned for.

And if the deer didn’t go that way, then people would have to look elsewhere for food.

So, you can see how understanding and sticking to routines and the usual way things were done was important. And when they change, it has all manner of different effects on your physical and mental well-being. These can include:

  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Irritability
  • Change in appetite
  • Headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Difficulty concentration
  • Body pain

And other things which will vary from person to person. Since these are not things that are particularly good to have happen to us, it’s important to have some good change management mechanisms so that they can be avoided.

Ways to Deal with Change

It doesn’t take any money or special skills to be able to deal with change – it mostly just takes a bit of work and some planning. Proceeding from the assumption that Things Change, we can then figure out which changes are most likely to cause us problems and start planning and preparing for it. The most stressful changes happen when we least expect it, so if we plan for at least some of it and mentally prepare ourselves for the changes that may happen, it gets a bit easier when they do happen.

So, what can you do to generally prepare for upcoming changes? These things work for pretty well any major change, so they are worth incorporating. And if the change never happens (or doesn’t happen for a long time anyway), then you haven’t lost anything by doing these things.

  • Save money. Even five dollars a paycheck is a good start and having a nest egg really alleviates a lot of change stress. From having something break down, to looking for a new job, to having to move, having a nest egg helps. And there is nothing wrong with starting small, so long as you stay consistent
  • Talk about what will happen in case of an emergency. What’s the plan if there’s a job loss? If there’s a disaster? If someone gets really sick or badly injured? It’s not fun to talk about these things but having a plan and everyone on the same page goes a long way towards relieving stress.
  • Know what needs to be done to plan for an upcoming change. Are you planning to leave your job? Move to a new place? Have a baby? Creating lists of what needs to be done can be helpful because it gives you a roadmap.

Keep in mind that when we ourselves are the ones to start the change, it’s a lot easier because we don’t feel the loss of control as acutely. It’s those changes that are thrust upon us that cause a lot of the stress and worry! That being said, these tips are general enough that even if you don’t know what you are planning for, at least you have something to fall back on!

Stick With Your Routines

While some things may be changing around you, it’s highly unlikely that everything is changing around you. For example, there’s nothing stopping you from sticking your routine of eating a healthy meal or going for a walk, or whatever other routines you can have and stick with. While some routines will get disrupted by the change, others will not (or can be changed but only need a slight modification).

Sticking with routines in times of change is important. Routines bring comfort and a sense of order and control. They can also help you get a better grasp on stress and anxiety. And these don’t have to be long or arduous routines – even doing things like five minutes of meditation can be enough to give you a sense of grounding and control.

Everyone has routines that they use on a daily basis, some of them so ingrained that we don’t even think about it anymore! Morning coffee? Going for a walk every day? Reading a chapter of a book? Watching a favorite tv show? These are all routines that can be very comforting in times of stress and provide you an anchor point when everything else is in flux.

Reframe Your Thoughts

This is tricky because our brains are powerful (and often set on old patterns that may not be the most helpful to us). Most of us are used to thinking in certain ways and changing those ways is quite hard. Cognitive reframing can be a really good way to break out of those patterns, though it does take a good deal of practice.

Cognitive reframing is a thinking technique where you shift your perspective from a negative aspect to a more neutral or positive one. For example, if you find that you have a change in your usual job duties, rather than looking it as something that will be upsetting, look at it as a chance to learn new skills. It’s also important to pay attention to catastrophic thinking, a lack of realistic thinking, and whether you’re talking to yourself in a way you would never talk to others.

This takes a lot of practice, but the simplest way to start is to simply acknowledge when you are thinking in an all or nothing way or look at one positive aspect of a change. It gets easier with practice.

Reach Out to Others

The final important thing to do in the throes of a change is to reach out to others for support, ideas, and as an emotional outlet. Some of your close friends or family may have gone through something similar and can provide something to look forward to at the end. Or they may have ideas, or they may just be able to let you lean on them while you sort through the changes. Either way, dealing with a major change is not something you should try to tackle alone, so make sure to talk to others and get help.

Changes are probably one of the most inevitable and still scariest things we can go through, especially major ones like jobs, housing, new relationships, or a loss of any of those things. But it’s important to tell yourself that you will get through it and there are always positive things to be pulled even from the most severe change.

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