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Coping with change

Written on 11/09/2022
Sophie Kirk

There are many different types of change. We are faced with having to change and adapt all of the time. Small changes can be easy to cope with, however, big transitions can be a lot harder.

Changes can be seen as negative – forced or inflicted upon you, such as a death, a break up, a life-changing accident, the diagnosis of an illness or a redundancy. There can also be what is considered more positive changes, such as a new relationship, a new baby, a new job, a new house or a promotion. However, they can equally lead to anxiety and resistance.


Growth vs Fixed Mindset

One of the best ways to cope with change is start from the stance of a positive or ‘Growth Mindset’, a term coined by American Psychologist, Carol Dweck. Instead of focussing on the negatives and how the change is a bad thing – usually how you feel with a Fixed Mindset – you focus on what is good about the change and prepare for it with a more ‘open mind’, thinking of ways you can benefit and learn.

Unfortunately, it is not easy to automatically adopt a Growth Mindset thanks to our biology. Many of us see ‘threat’ in change – thanks to our natural ‘fight or flight response’. Any time we face something unfamiliar and, potentially, uncomfortable or out of the ordinary, our hunter-gatherer response kicks in. Essentially, by being afraid of change your immediate reaction is to fight against it, (i.e. being resistant and non-compliant) or run away from it (i.e. ignore it or burying your head in the sand, perhaps!).


The Tools You Need For Coping With Change

The good news is you essentially have everything you need to cope with change – your brain! You are also super experienced in coping with change. We deal and cope with change all of the time, throughout our lives, even from when we are very young.

Think about your everyday life, if you never changed anything just imagine how your life would suffer – you may be stuck buying the most expensive electricity or car insurance. You would be taking the long way to work, even though you have been told about a shorter one. You would still be buying food from the same shop…just because it is what you have always done…even though you know there is healthier or more exciting alternative.

Therefore, when it comes to big changes or transitions, it is important to map these smaller experiences of change, and also remember that change can lead to benefits.


Do Not Underestimate The Effects Of Change On Your Mental Health

Whilst we truly believe you can cope with any change in your life, we do not underestimate the feelings of anxiety, stress and overwhelm that a change (big or small) can cause.

Even a seemingly positive change, like a new job or promotion, or for young people, a new school or school year, can have negative effects on mental well-being. This may lead to an array of symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Feeling low or depressed
  • Trouble sleeping (or waking in the night)
  • Feeling emotional
  • Feeling irritable

You can also suffer from physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach aches or upsets, and fatigue.

Read more about low mood and depression here.


7 Ways To Cope With Change 

So, how can you cope with change? Importantly, how can you reduce any negative feelings, issues or symptoms described above?

Here are 7 ways that can help you to both prepare and deal with change:

1. Prepare

Although it is not always possible, there are many changes or transitions that happen in life that we can prepare for. Consider what you can do to prepare yourself, particularly mentally, for the upcoming change. Make sure you know as many details about the change and its effect on you, family, friends and colleagues, as possible.

If feasible, you need to fully understand what it is you are being asked to do or to cope with.

2. Ask questions

If you do not feel you can adequately prepare, because you do not fully understand the implications of the change affecting you, especially in the workplace or at school, then make sure you ask questions about it.

Asking questions helps you to feel more secure and more familiar with the ‘new’ much quicker. It also tackles the ‘fear of the unknown’ head on.

3. Maintain routines

During a time of change or transition, try to keep other areas of your life as consistent, as possible. Coping with one change can be hard enough, so if it is in your control, minimise any other changes. Minimise changes in the lives of your loved one and those you care for or are responsible for too.

Maintaining routines and habits can also reduce mental fatigue and gives you space to focus your energy on coping with the change.

4. Adopt a growth mindset

As discussed above, you have the tool you need to cope with any change – an amazing brain that can adapt and rewire itself! By adopting a growth mindset, you can see change as a chance for opportunity. Try to identify as many positives about the change or transition, as reasonable.

5. Accept it will take time

Sometimes, we need to just accept that a change, whether our choice or not, is going to take some getting used to. We need to adapt. It may cause upheaval in other areas of our lives too. If this is the case, try to accept that it will take time for you to adopt new routines, for example, or new ways of working or living. Be gentle with yourself. Journaling or writing down how you feel about the change can help to see the process of acceptance over time.

6. Practise self care

As mentioned above (and it’s worth saying again!), be gentle with yourself and make time for self-care. What this means exactly is personal and bespoke to you. From a long bath and an early night to yoga and mindfulness practices, make time to restore your energy, as coping with change can be mentally exhausting.

Self-care resources are available on the Melp app.

7. Access support

Finally, big or small, you don’t have to cope with change alone. Access available support. This can be professional support, including counselling or coaching, as well as your own support networks, such as family and friends.

If you feel you need therapy and professional support, but don’t know which kind, do book a consultation call and we can help you to explore your feelings and the options available to you.

Changes in your life can affect your mental health for a long time after they have happened, especially a bereavement or traumatic experience, there is no time limit on accessing the support you need.


Coping With Change on Your Own or With Help

Think back to what you have lived through and achieved thanks to changes that you have already coped with.

In the moment, an unwanted change can feel scary and cause anxiety and stress, but you may come to accept it, and in some cases, you can find you barely even remember what life was like ‘before’

Unfortunately, not all change does become ‘normal’ or ‘accepted’. This may mean more change is needed, which can be overwhelming. You may struggle to understand a change or struggle to find ways to cope with. That’s ok and very normal too.


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