“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody”
– Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Change is something which we encounter constantly within our lives, but that doesn’t mean we’re any better at dealing with it! The majority of people find change uncomfortable, even if they know it is for the good. This is due to fear of the unknown, change brings about uncertainty and that’s something that our brains struggle with. Research has shown humans to be creatures of habit, David Rock states in his book Handbook or Neuroleadership that our brain sees uncertainty as an error or tension and something that must be corrected. So essentially our brains are wired to not like change, so while we can’t alter our wiring we can adjust our approach to change.
A website called Mind Tools (www.mindtools.com) has an article on coping with change. The article outlines two ways of coping with change, either “escape coping” or “control coping”. Escape coping is epitomised by avoidant actions which are not constructive, and this is the type of behaviour we ought to try and avoid. This could be things such as avoiding calls, burying feelings and thoughts instead of dealing with them, etc. Whereas control coping is positive and proactive, so here I will list control coping mechanisms that will help you to move towards coping positively with change.
Hopefully you will find them useful, and if you have any tips to share leave them in the comments!
- Accept and Acknowledge That Things are Changing.The first step in dealing with any change, big or small, is accepting and acknowledging that the change is happening or has happened. Whether this be a change in your employment, moving house, the end of a relationship or losing someone close to you. Accepting and recognising the change is the first step to moving forward, but it is also often the hardest.
It is easier to bury our heads, avoid thinking about the situation and pretend it isn’t or hasn’t happened. However, this avoidant behaviour will only prolong the process of positively dealing and coming to terms with the change.
If you are having issues accepting the change you may wish to talk to someone you trust, whether this be a friend or a medical professional, and this may help you move through this step.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like”
– Lao Tzu
- Accept and Acknowledge Your Emotions.You also should try to acknowledge your feelings towards the change. Often we avoid negative emotions, thoughts and feelings because they are not nice to experience. Or because we believe we should be strong enough to not experience them. But as mentioned in the previous point, avoiding things does not help with dealing with them.
More often or not our feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger are valid responses to change. But again you may wish to speak with someone you trust or a medical professional if you believe your emotions are out of proportion with the change, or if you are not able to cope with the emotions.
“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.
– Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym
- Be ProactiveBeing proactive is a large part of “control coping”, often the tendency to ‘freeze’ and feel helpless during a stressful change can be overwhelming. However, by taking active steps towards coping with the change, or making the change easier will make a huge difference.
If you know a change is coming, consider plans you can put in place to make the transition easier for you. This could be keeping your normal routine as much as possible, or taking a holiday from work and take time to deal with your feelings.
If a change has happened suddenly and been out of your control, take an active approach to dealing with it. If there are no actions you can do to make it better, then actively choose to deal with it well.
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change”
– Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein
- Remind Yourself of Changes you Have Endured in the PastEveryone will have been through some kind of change in their life, remind yourself of a time you have endured change and pulled through. Maybe if you struggle with change, keep a journal and keep a note of how you feel, thoughts you have and the positives that have come from the change. Then next time you can refer back and show yourself you can do it because you did it before. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves how strong we really are, we often forget how much we can endure.
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can”
– Frida Kahlo
- Remind yourself you can’t control everything.Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we cannot control everything. The parts of our life we do have control of we should aim to take positive actions towards making them better. However, that we cannot change we should learn to accept. And this is not easy!
Drop the ‘what if’s’, and accept that some things in life are going to happen but it is how we deal with them that is the important thing.
“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t”
– Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth and Being Free
- Accept that Change is Part of LifeThere is a famous quote, that the only thing that is constant in life is change. This is true, life is a sum of changes and decisions and sometimes we need to rest in that fact.
Talk with your friends and family about times they have struggled through change and how the change made a positive impact even through they struggled at the time. The more you talk about change with other people the more you will realise that everyone has experienced it and it isn’t so scary!
“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better”
– C. Joybell C.
- Be PositiveThis one speaks for itself really, but try to reframe your negative thoughts and emotions in positive ways. For example, instead of thinking ‘I’m scared of this change, what if everything goes wrong?’, think ‘I can’t predict the future, but I hope this change will bring about new opportunities’.
“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you being to change, grow and transform”
– Roy T. Bennett
I hope you found some tips in there useful, feel free to leave a comment or message me if you wish to talk about anything! Remember we’re all going through life together and supporting each other only makes it easier!