10 tips for coping with change

Fatmata Kamara
Specialist Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK
15 September 2020
Next review due September 2023

2020 is the year where life was put on hold. But as we continue to emerge from lockdown, many of us are facing great change. With children back to school, some returning to work and others losing their jobs, September may feel like a turning point for many.

While change can be exciting, it may also bring about feelings of discomfort and uncertainty. But the one constant we can rely on in life is that things don’t stay the same. However, many of us resist change and spend a lot of energy fighting it, usually because we’re scared of the unknown. Even positive change, such as starting a new job or moving house, can sometimes feel unsettling.

But change is inevitable, so how can we get more comfortable with it and learn to cope with change better – the good and the bad?

1. Focus on what you can control

When something in your life is changing, think about how much of it is within your control. Some change is inevitable – the summer ending, or your children returning to school, for example.

Think about what you need to let go of and accept what’s beyond your control. We can spend a lot of time and energy worrying about things we can’t change, so this first tip is key to altering how you think about it.

2. Use Autumn to reset

From early childhood, September symbolises a new start. It’s a time to head back to school, start a new year and embrace new challenges ahead. Though we may no longer be at school, the mentality of September being a time to reset and refresh stays with us throughout life.

From March this year, things have felt on hold. Because of this, you may be mourning the loss of a year or struggling with change that’s come about because of the pandemic. Now is a perfect time, mentally and in practice, to refresh and embrace change.

“I always feel a sense of not sadness exactly, but a bit melancholy about the seasons changing. I’m feeling it a lot more this year as it’s been such a hard time. I think many of us are feeling a kind of grief for how we thought this year would be. But I’m still looking forward to the benefits of a new season. My favourite time is Autumn, the blue-sky days are still there but I also look forward to getting ready to be cosy as the nights start to draw in.” – Natalie.

3. Take care of yourself

Practising self-care at a time of change will help you build resilience and keep you feeling well. Prioritise your health by eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough quality sleep.

Maintain a regular routine as much as you can while change is happening. Keeping other things in your life constant and stable will help make changes feel less daunting. By looking after yourself and building your resilience, you’ll feel stronger to deal with curve balls that come your way.

4. Give yourself time and space

Some changes in life are bigger than others. But whatever they are, give yourself permission to take time to process what’s going to change in your life. Feel what you feel and accept your emotions.

These things can take time, so give yourself the space you need to work things through in your mind. Accept things are changing and accept too that good changes can feel uncomfortable and cause stress, and that’s ok.

  • Start your day with a walk to process your thoughts.
  • Write things down.
  • Talk to someone you know and trust, who often has a positive outlook on situations.

“In the lead up to my two children returning to school, my thoughts had been focused on preparing them emotionally for this transition. I expected to experience a huge sense of relief that they were back in school among friends and teachers. And that I could have a break from being teacher!

But, the reality on the day was different. When I waved them off and returned home my emotions were very mixed. On the one hand, I felt extremely relieved that both my children had skipped happily into school, but I also felt sad and emotional. The house felt quiet and empty without them, and I really missed the sound of their voices.

It made me think that, as well as children, it’s important for parents to take a bit of time out to acknowledge their own thoughts and feelings. And that this latest transition in our routine, may take a bit of getting used to.” – Marcella.

5. Challenge your thought patterns

When change is in motion, you might find yourself thinking negative thoughts, but stop for a moment and challenge them if you can. You might be fearing the worst about an outcome, but could this be an opportunity to identify the positives of change? Studies show that people who can take an optimistic outlook on events tend to deal with them better.

Remind yourself that you’ve faced periods of change before and you got through them. A psychological concept known as ‘hindsight bias’ says that we tend to create the illusion that everything in our past was certain. But in reality, it was once uncertain, and we had to embrace change to be where we are today.

6. Practise mindfulness

When the future feels a bit uncertain, ground yourself in the here and now. Be present in the moment and concentrate on what’s happening around you. There’s a famous saying from Leo F. Buscaglia which goes: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

Try this mindful practise next time you’re taking a walk somewhere:

Notice the way your body moves, the feel of the fabric of your clothes against your skin. Can you feel a breeze? How does it feel to make contact with the floor with each step? What can you see and hear around you? What can you smell?

7. Define your priorities

Whether the change that’s happening is your choice or not, now can be a good time to think about what really matters to you. This will help you focus your energy on those things that really count, and work towards the life you want to create.

Finding meaning and a purpose in life is strongly linked to being able to manage the bumps in the road well.

Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and put pen to paper, writing down the areas of your life you want to focus on. You could break it down into segments such as:

  • people and relationships
  • your health
  • career and work
  • money
  • your environment
  • fun and leisure time
  • personal growth

8. Ask for help and support

Remember everyone goes through change – you’re not alone and you don’t have to deal with it on your own either. Reach out to those closest to you for help and support, tell them how you’re feeling. Talking things through can help you feel better and might give you a fresh perspective.

Life changes and events can affect people in different ways and some changes have a bigger impact than others. It’s OK to ask for support and if you’re struggling to cope, speak to your GP or another health professional, such as a counsellor.

9. Be proactive rather than reactive

Rather than waiting for things to happen, take steps to prepare for upcoming change.

This is called ‘active coping’ and is all about using the resources you have to manage or solve a problem or life change. This might take the shape of finding out information, getting support or planning ahead. All these things help to reduce the feelings of flux that change can bring.

10. Write down positives of the change

As we’ve said, change is inevitable. And let’s face it, life without change would be boring. Although change can feel scary, stressful or uncomfortable, there are usually positives within it. Write them down and focus on these.

Moving house? Think about the adventures of starting a new home. Children back to school? Focus on the learning and fun they will have, and some time back for you. A relationship has ended? This is the time to define yourself, your values and what you want to achieve over the next month or year.

If there was a year of change, it’s 2020. We’ve experienced the highs and lows of lockdown and started to come out the other side. Perhaps stronger, perhaps not. But face the changes that are happening, or are to come, in a proactive, optimistic way, with self-care a key focus.

If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. If you’re covered by your health insurance, you’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

Fatmata Kamara
Fatmata Kamara
Specialist Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK

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