Amy Eksteen

Life will constantly be filled with changes. That’s definitely one thing that I keep on learning – that things rarely stay the same. And if you’re like me, who likes being comfortable, feeling secure and knowing what’s coming next, change, especially unexpected change, isn’t the easiest thing to deal with. From starting school to finishing school, starting university to finishing university, becoming a parent/grandparent, starting a job, starting a new relationship or getting married, whatever change it may be, it can still be pretty overwhelming. That’s okay though! I have learned that change can be a beautiful and healthy thing and that it can be embraced, even in all its suddenness and unpredictability.

I feel as if change is easier to understand and to cope with if we are the ones who have chosen to bring about the change. For example, choosing to get married. It is also easier to manage and cope with change if it can be anticipated with time. For example, knowing our lives and bodies will go through changes with age. However, it is when change is out of our control or when we feel like we may not be in a place where we are ready to embrace change yet, that things become a bit more difficult. For example, a loved one passing away or going through a divorce. Last week we spoke about the topic of grief and loss, which is often a topic we shy away from talking about. Dealing with grief and loss is a perfect example of how change can affect our lives. If you haven’t yet read last weeks two blog posts, head over to the blog posts titled “Grief and Loss Part 1” and “Grief and Loss Part 2”.

One of the most helpful things I have learned when there has been a ‘shift’ in my norm, is to identify the type of emotional reaction I am having to the change I am experiencing. If you can get to the root of the feeling – the emotion, you will be better equipped to deal with whatever the change might bring. For example, if you identify that the change is making you feel unsettled and that the emotion you may be feeling feels like anxiety/fear, you can begin by asking yourself “Why do I feel this way?” or “How can I make myself feel better in this situation?” then you may begin practicing positive self-talk and/or stress management techniques. Another helpful tip I have learned when faced with change is to practice changing your mindset. You have the ability to think about and focus on the endless opportunities the new changes to your life may bring, what you can learn and what you can improve upon in this situation. It may be a chance for you to grow and to become stronger. It is also a chance for you to share your story with others. No matter how difficult the changes might be, we have the power to think about them differently and we have the choice to discover the good in every situation.

I think it’s also safe to say that because we’re all different and we all perceive and react to things differently, the amount of time that is needed for us to deal/cope with change will also be different. Coping with change is about a journey where you need to be understanding with yourself. I think the first thing I learned to recognise about change is that it’s not always intimidating – it is sometimes exactly what we need in the end. Even though it may feel unsettling and it may take some getting used to in the beginning, if we give ourselves the time to face the changes with expectation and excitement, our experience/journey through the change can be a healthy one.

Whatever changes you may be going through, I thought it may be helpful if I shared 10 tips to help you deal with change:

1) Accept the change – I think this is a great first step. Recognising that the change is happening to your life and/or is going to happen is the step in the right direction. Accepting the change instead of avoiding the change will put you in a position that will enable you to cope better. It helps you get to a point where you can prepare yourself for the journey ahead.
2) Stick to your norm – Try to keep things as normal as possible during times of change. This can be with your daily routine, working schedule and/or general habits that you have. If you are experiencing a lot of change, keeping some things as they were/always have been, can be a great way to keep you grounded during the process of change.
3) Stay healthy – Eat/choose healthy meal options and set time aside for some exercise. Prioritising your health during times of change can be a great confidence booster and a way to keep your stress levels at a minimum. It is also important to look after your mental health and to seek support in counselling if it is needed/if you feel as if you aren’t coping.
4) It’s all about support – Having a support system is so important. You need to have your people around (friends, family and/or colleagues) who are aware of the changes in your life, who are available to talk to, who understand what you are going through and who are there to help when you need it. When change is happening to your life, it can feel very unsettling, therefore a support system is one of the best things you can have in order to cope better.
5) Shift your mindset – Like I said earlier, it is helpful to think about the change from a different perspective, especially if the change is difficult to understand or difficult to cope with. Asking yourself questions like “What can I learn from this change?” or “How can I grow from this experience?” can be a good place to start. The change may have led to you discovering something new about yourself, the experience may have taught you better coping skills and/or most likely, you would have emerged more resilient than before – sometimes the way you handle and cope with a situation sits in the power of your thoughts.
6) Prevent unnecessary stress – Going through change, whether it is good change or bad change, can still be stressful. It is therefore important to avoid adding unnecessary pressure onto your shoulders during this time. I would suggest writing up lists and planning your days out with a schedule to feel a bit more prepared, especially when you are at work. One of the best ways to help you feel less stressed is if your surrounding environment feels less chaotic. Ensuring your living space and working space is clean and neat can be a good way to help you to feel more in control when you are experiencing change.
7) Prioritise self-care – Look after yourself. Prioritise time where you can relax and destress, laugh and have fun. Maybe listen to music, spend some time with friends and family, take a bubble bath or read a book. Have a nap and/or even spend some time focusing on your spirituality. We all need time set aside in our busy lives where we get to look after ourselves (For 10 self-care suggestions, read the blog post titled “Self-love and spoons”).
8) Discover the emotion – Like I said in the beginning, focusing on the feeling you are experiencing instead of the situation you are facing can be helpful when trying to understand what is the best way to cope. Once you discover the main emotion that is rooted within your feelings, it is much easier to manage and work through. It also makes the change feel less intimidating.
9) Practice positive self-talk – I think that this tip is the most helpful tip. Practicing positive self-talk is important when dealing with change because it gives you the space to respond to yourself and the situation in a kind and gentle way. You may begin by asking yourself questions like: “How did I get through a similar situation in the past?” “How much of this is actually in my control?” “How can I think more positively about this?””Who can I turn to for help if I need it?” You can also reassure yourself by saying: “I’m doing the best I can” “I’m learning something new about myself every day in this situation” “It’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes” “I will adapt, it is just taking a bit more time and that’s okay” “I will give myself the time I need to get through this experience”
10) Be understanding with yourself – This is necessary for the days that don’t feel easy. The days where you feel a bit overwhelmed – the ‘not-so-good’ days. Acknowledge these moments when they arrive, for they will come. Acknowledge that what you are having to deal with isn’t easy and that some days will just be/feel a little harder than others. These days don’t last forever and the feelings they bring along with them don’t last forever either. Remember that it is a journey and journeys take time.

I hope that you found these 10 tips useful.

What are some things that you have found helpful during times of change?

Until next time xx