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9 Ways To Cope With Change

4 MIN READ • 14th August 2022
Health and Wellbeing by Health and Wellbeing

Whether it’s the end of a marriage or a new relationship, a fantastic career opportunity or the eve of retirement – change can be hard to cope with. Take our advice to make big life events less stressful

    • Don’t panic! It’s easy to face change with fear, stress or regret but if we can view it from a less negative standpoint, or look for the silver lining, we have a better chance of moving on. “Change usually involves a step into the unknown. Our brains are hardwired to find that quite scary, as we realise that there could be unpredictable dangers and challenges we haven’t met before,” says life coach and therapist Ann Finnemore (gettingyouthere.co.uk), author of Life in the Driving Seat: taking your road trip to happiness. “But rather than focusing on what might go wrong, or on any negative events that lead to the change, spend time thinking of the opportunities it will bring. Imagine the best outcome.”

    • Take bite-sized pieces Embarking on a new diet with the idea that you are going to cut out every single treat is doomed to failure. Change is the same. If you try to tackle everything that’s bothering you in one go you might become overwhelmed. Studies show it’s much more effective to start with small actions that have a cumulative effect over time. If you have to suddenly cope with a new illness, for example, look for more specific lifestyle changes that you can introduce gradually, week by week. This might ease the pain and discomfort better than a swift and all-consuming decision such as changing your job.

    • Act like a meerkat “Animals are great at awareness, alertness and anticipation but as humans, we have lost touch with this a bit,” says Rasheed Ogunlaru, life coach, motivational speaker and author at rasaru.com. “Don’t have your head buried in the sand and notice when things are changing within yourself, in your relationships, with friends/family and at work. Spot the signs and over time you’ll be able to anticipate things, have more time to deal with change, and already recognise the need to address or prepare for changes. So often, it’s ignoring a health problem, not communicating with our partner or with colleagues and so on that causes bigger problems. A stitch in time does indeed save nine!”

    • Pick up the phone to a pal When change arrives, don’t try and tackle it alone. “Make the most of your support network,” says Finnemore. “At times of change, supportive friends and family come into their own to provide laughter and a shoulder to cry on. If you’re moving house or the kids are leaving home, find a mentor – someone with a positive experience of your situation who’s willing to share advice and listen. This stops you feeling as if you’re the only one going through it.”

    • Learn to listen Good communication can be key to smoothing change, especially if you’re experiencing the end of a relationship or the beginning of a new one. “Talking to each other effectively can be the breath or death of every relationship,” says Ogunlaru. “Give each other room to breathe, speak and find out how much space, support and what kind of relationship you both want. Decide the rules together – and remember every couple is different.”

    • Give yourself some ‘me time’ “There’s a tendency to drop our hobbies and interests when we’re dealing with a stressful change – but by taking time to continue, you not only have something enjoyable to do you’re also experiencing something with some familiarity,” says Finnemore. “If you’ve gone through a difficult change such as a divorce, plan some fun events to do over the coming 12-24 months. This emphasises the future in a really positive way, gives you something other than the change to think about and helps with moving on. Include some ‘me time’ each day. Whether it’s just 15 minutes to read your favourite magazine, a 45-minute soak in a bubble bath or a two-hour film. Make or do something to let go of the day’s accumulated stress.”

    • Be patient with yourself If you’re experiencing a new illness or a job loss, it can be easy to fall into self-recriminations; to want to ‘pull yourself together’; ignore how you feel, or think your old life is somehow over. “Instead, be kind to yourself, get to know yourself, understand if it is a temporary illness or a disability/health challenge that will impact you indefinitely,” says Ogunlaru. “Give yourself time to rest and convalesce. When you’re ill, diet, rest and exercise may be more important than anything else. See it as a change and a new season in life, not the end of you living a rewarding life.”

    • Accept that everything changes Far from being a passive thing, acceptance of a situation can be empowering. In fact, it is one of the founding principles of mindfulness meditation technique. “The secret here is to accept that everything changes sooner or later: the seasons, you and your circumstances, the body, the family and friends we have – people come and go,” says Ogunlaru. “By accepting change you stop being resistant to it and you will be more emotionally, spiritually and mentally ready to deal with it.”
    • Be more flexible The stress of change comes from the feeling of being out of control, but studies have shown it’s this tight grip on circumstances and events that can often cause the anxiety and discomfort rather than the change itself. Instead, work out what you have control over and what you don’t. Deal with the things under your control methodically and try to accept and move in from those you can do nothing about. Let go of preconceived ideas or expectations of how things ‘should be’ and look at ‘how they are right now’.

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