Life is full of changes and they come in many forms. We can experience changes at our workplace, such as a promotion, in our relationships, such as a breakup or a pregnancy or changes in our mental or physical health. All of which, positive or negative, can be difficult and stressful to process at first. Have you ever noticed how big transitional periods in our life are often associated with anxiety or fear? Think about moving out from your parents for the first time, or starting a new job in a new workplace.
Sometimes we know changes are going to happen and actively work towards them. But, sometimes they may come as a shock or surprise and we may not be able to directly control the consequences. A very real and relevant example of this is the current COVID-19 pandemic. The changes in society we have all had to undertake have come as a shock, with very little time for us to adjust to the new rules. By learning how to better cope and process change, you will reduce your chance of suffering from anxiety or depression.
Below are 4 tips to reduce the stress associated with big changes and advice on how you can better process and adapt to change.
1. Acknowledge your feelings
Often change comes with some form of loss and leaving behind what we are familiar with can be stressful. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that a lot of people have lost their jobs! Furthermore, a graduation or a divorce may mean that you lose some of your social circle. Acknowledge these feelings and give them space, it is normal to feel sad even if the change is ‘positive’. Take some time to reflect, and allow yourself time to adjust to the changes. It can be helpful to write down your feelings, or ask your friends and family for support and practise some self-care. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
2. Assess the situation
Sometimes we get ‘stuck’ and ruminate on things that we have no control over, wishing that they were different. In the long run this only causes more pain and distress. Instead, try to focus on the things that you can control. Look at what aspects you can change to improve the situation for yourself, and search for the new opportunities that may have arisen. Be proactive in the right areas. Accepting the new situation and its associated stress, and focusing on things we can change, can give us feelings of empowerment.
3. Change your perspective
When undergoing stress or loss, you may have a lot of negative thoughts running through your mind. In moments of uncertainty, our brain usually defaults to a negative perspective. In the past this was probably evolutionary advantageous! Be aware and actively critical of these thoughts, try to challenge them. Often negative thoughts cause more undue stress than is necessary. With a bit of practice you can learn to change these thoughts into more accurate and helpful thoughts. Try to focus not on what you have lost, but on what you have gained. This may take some time so be patient with yourself, remember that processing change is a gradual process!
4. Find a routine
It can be helpful to keep to a routine. A routine can reduce uncertainty and increase feelings of familiarity, helping you to feel more comfortable and relaxed. For example, going for a run every evening can give you an ‘anchor’. It will give your brain an opportunity to rest and recuperate. Finding something that you are familiar with and made you feel good in the past, can be a good way to deal with negative feelings associated with change.
Big changes in life often come with stress and anxiety, this is normal. But, they can also be a great opportunity for self-growth, learning and experience. If you need help processing a big change don’t hesitate to contact the NiceDay team, we will gladly support you with this process!