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How To Cope With Change

21 Mar. 2022
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Change Is Inevitable

Learning how to cope with change and navigate it successfully is one of life’s great skills. We all know change can feel daunting or disruptive - the pandemic has been one extreme example of this. In the changes that we have all had to navigate, shared or individual, we know when we feel unprepared to process change it can be particularly traumatic to our wellbeing, sense of self, and sense of security.

So, how can we brace ourselves for forthcoming, perhaps unforeseen or traumatic changes, and feel confident in our ability to weather through them? Practicing the right daily habits can help us feel robust and resilient when facing life’s changes, whilst a particular set of skills can be super useful to have in your wellbeing kit to turn to when change knocks at your door. Let’s take a look at some of those below, and prepare to become a change champion.

Habits To Prepare You For Change

Most of our coping strategies as individuals fall into one of two categories: escape coping, and control coping.

Escape caping encapsulates behaviours we take to remove or hide ourselves from the change and our feelings around it, such as failing to take action, leaving spaces where we can be aware of the change, or turning to distracting activities like consuming drugs or alcohol, shopping, or overeating.

Control coping, on the other hand, involves directly managing as much as possible of our current situation. This can take the form of excessive planning, extensive cleaning, or attempting to exert control over others as well as ourselves.

In extremis, either of these strategies can be damaging or destructive. However, in the majority of cases, using skills from both of these categories can help us manage and cope with change in a healthy and nurturing way.

Nurture Healthy Structures

One practice that falls under the control coping category is developing and maintaining a routine. Having regular daily habits, such as a set time to get up each day, a regular cleaning schedule at home, or a routine walk you take several times a week, can help create a sense of normality and stability in your daily life. This can be a great comfort and provide a sense of security and structure in times of change.

Regular habits can act as anchors in our life during tumultuous times, and recognising where these are in our everyday life - or creating them if we can’t already find them - can help us navigate change when it appears in our lives.

Build Contingency Plans

When change shakes our foundation, we can often lament not recognising disruption on the horizon earlier. While we can’t always know when change is coming, creating contingency plans when our lives are calm and stable can be a great support to lean on in times of need.

Putting money aside each month to build emergency savings or developing your support networks across friends and family can help you feel more prepared from life’s changes, and provide you help, comfort, and guidance in times of need.

Acknowledge The Importance of Relaxation and Emotional Release

The greatest benefit from escape coping is the skill of recognising the importance of relaxation and emotional release. When we try to remain perpetually in control and productive with no time for relaxation, we’re on a sure course for burn out, exhaustion, and a total loss of wellbeing.

Allowing ourselves time to relax, offload, and burn off anxious or controlling energies in our lives from time to time can help us regulate our emotions, manage our stress, and make us more resilient in times of change.

Schedule in time to spend with friends and family, enjoy your favourite hobbies, and create space to change up or refresh your perspective.

Skills To Cope With Change

The habits above can help us create healthy and robust mindsets, primed for periods of change throughout our lives. But when change actually arrives on our doorstep, we need to know we have skills we can turn to that can help in the immediate. Fortunately, we have just the thing!

Allow Yourself Time To Accept Change

When changes come into our lives, one of two things usually happen. We either face total shock and disorientation; or we feel oddly calm in the immediacy and believe we’re coping well, only to feel overwhelmed at a later date.

Allowing ourselves time to recognise, process, and feel the change as it comes is an essential step to understand how change affects us, how we feel about it, and what our next steps will be to cope. Taking time to feel comforted and calm, perhaps writing down or talking through the change with loved ones, can help us process change.

Recognise What You Can Control

We can’t control everything in our lives, and trying to micromanage all aspects can be damaging to our mental and physical health. However, recognise what we can control about changing circumstances in our lives can help us create a sense of agency and help us navigate the changes in a healthy, even nourishing, way.

Try writing down all elements of your life that a change will alter. What influence do you have over these aspects? Are there tangible actions you can take around these areas that can mitigate damage or ensure a safe outcome, or are they out of your control? Focus on what you can put your energy into, and allow elements out of your control to be let go. This can be a great starting point in creating plans for moving forward from change.

Allow Yourself Comfort

In times of change, we may need more nurturing and comfort than usual. As much as taking control and articulating your thoughts and feelings are very helpful, they can also be exhausting! Allow yourself the time to sleep in, curl up with a favourite movie, or enjoy any comforts you need to feel safe, comforted, and well. Change can be vast, but allowing yourself gentle  comforts should never be forgotten. 

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