Coping with Change
Change can take many forms. It can affect every part of our lives. It occurs in our family, at work, and in our social lives. Some changes involve additions. Births, new friends or relationships, and new possessions are welcome changes. Others involve losses. Death, divorce or illness can be devastating. Some changes are sudden, such as losing your job. Others are more gradual, such as entering middle age.
Change can be good or bad. It depends on the person and the situation. For example, a divorce may be a tragedy or a relief. A promotion is good, right? But if you’re unsure of your skills, you may view it as negative. Change may be sought out or it may be forced upon you. It can challenge or stimulate you, or make you feel anxious and threatened. Too little change can make life boring, while too much change can be overwhelming.
Good or bad, change requires an adjustment of some kind. This takes energy. If the demands are too great, it can drain you and create stress. Unmanaged stress can cause physical and emotional problems.
You may not be able to control the change itself. So, the key to coping with change is to get control of your response to it as much as possible. That’s when adjusting your attitude toward change can help.
Key Tip 1
Change is stressful, even when it’s positive. But no change at all can be boring. Strive for balance. Too much stress all at once can be unhealthy. Same, too, if it goes on over a long period of time. People who experience a lot of changes in a brief time period are more likely to have an accident or illness.
Key Tip 2
The Chinese word for change is made up of two symbols. One symbol for is for uncertainty for opportunity. Try to think of change as a mixture of uncertainty and opportunity. Ask yourself what lesson you might learn. What skills you might develop? How might you become stronger as a result of this change?
Key Tip 3
During times of change, you need to take care of yourself. Get regular exercise. Eat a balanced diet. Get enough sleep.
Evaluate your life every few months or so. How many changes you are going through? Being aware will make it easier for you to understand and deal with the stress that may come with change.
Change can cause all sorts of stress-related symptoms, such as:
- Digestive problems
- Muscle tension and backaches
- High blood pressure and heart problems
- Depression or anxiety
- Eating too much or too little
- Alcohol or drug abuse
Schedule planned changes so they don’t happen at once. Are you getting married, buying a new house and coping with an ailing parent? You may want to hold off on job hunting until you’ve had time to deal to these other changes.
If faced with a sudden change, take time to think about your emotions. Are you happy, sad, scared, angry, excited? After you know what you’re feeling, ask yourself these questions:
- Is my reaction justified?
- Is the level of my reaction justified by the facts?
- Am I overreacting?
- Am I misinterpreting?
- Is there another way to look at this? Is there an opportunity here?
- Are there parts of this change that I can control?
- Would more information help me cope better with this change?
Learn to relax. Relaxing is one of the best tools for handling stress. Relaxing helps your body unwind. It helps undo the negative effects of stress.
Humor goes a long way in lowering stress. Try to find the humor in situations when possible.
Don’t try to weather every change alone. Look for support from family or friends. Humor helps here, too.
Only changes that you don’t want make problems, right?
No, not really. Any change places demands on you, whether it’s one that’s wanted, such as a raise, a birth or marriage; or one that’s not, such as a job loss, a death or divorce. It’s important to be aware of major changes in your life so you can take steps to cope effectively.
Things at work always seem to be changing. How can I cope with changes when I have little or no control over them?
Is it true that you don’t have control over the changes? Is there somewhere you can make a suggestion before decisions are made? A meeting, suggestion box or work group? Even if you don’t like the change, you may feel better knowing you had some say about them.
Try to view change as a healthy part of life. A company that doesn’t change is unlikely to grow. That goes for people, too. Be flexible when change happens. Look for ways to make the change work to your advantage. See it as an opportunity, not a crisis. Sometimes, changing your attitude is the best strategy for coping with change.
I just turned 50. My friends and family threw me a big birthday party, yet I’m really feeling down. I’m already getting mail from the AARP. I’m not ready to be put out to pasture. Everyone thinks I’m happy, but I feel terrible. What’s wrong with me?
Sounds like you are stressed about getting older. Turning 50 reminds you of it. You knew it was coming, but it’s still something you didn’t prepare for. This can be very stressful, yet others may not realize you’re going through this.
As you move from stage to stage in your life, you’ll face both ups and downs. Don’ be surprised to find yourself dealing with stress during most, if not all, of these stages:
- Moving from the teen years to early adulthood
- Turning 30, 40, 50 . . .
- Becoming a parent
- Reaching midlife
- Becoming a grandparent
If you are aware that these are normal phases of life, you can prepare, cope with and reduce stress.
Charlesworth, Edward A., and Ronald G. Nathan, Stress Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Wellness. Ballantine, 1991.
Davis , Martha, Matthew McKay and Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. New Harbinger Publications, 2000.
Making Positive Choices in the Midst of Change
The event + the choices you make = the outcome. Possibly a simplistic equation, but the truth is events don’t make us do things. Tornado alerts don’t make us run to the basement. It’s our choice. In fact, a meteorologist may choose to run outside to get a better look at the twister.
Learn where to take control and where to let go.
Sometimes we try to change something over which we have no control. Other times we don’t take a stand. We don’t make a choice when we have the ability to. You can be angry that it’s raining (there’s no controlling the weather) and angry that you’re getting wet (your suit is getting ruined!), or you can choose to use an umbrella. Take control and make choices where you can, let go where you can’t.
Resist “Victim Thinking.”
- Victim at sea in a storm proclaims his or her choice, “I’m going to drown.”
- A Survivor at sea in a storm says, “I don’t know how, but somehow I’ll survive.” The Survivor has hope, but has left his or her fate in the hands of someone else.
- A Navigator at sea in a storm says, “I’m not in charge of the sea or the storm. But I am in charge of my boat. I know what I need to do.” A Navigator has hope and a plan.
Positive thinking will steer you in the right direction.
Positive self-talk is a great way to sort through feelings and make honest statements to yourself about the change you are going through. It can also help you break through negativity and doubt that can stop you in your track. Positive self-talk can help you gain some control of the change you’re going through. The following is an exercise that can help you become your own best navigator through change:
- Sometimes I find myself acting like a Victim. So I say to myself, “(your name), why are you acting like a victim?” I respond to myself, “I’m acting like a victim because there’s no hope in this situation.” I challenge myself, “Not even a possibility that something good can happen here?” “Oh, I suppose there is some chance something good will happen.” “Good. You’re a Survivor.”
- Sometimes I find myself acting like a Survivor. I coach myself, “(your name), why are you acting like a survivor?” “I’m acting like a survivor because I will live with it and there isn’t one thing I can do about it.” I challenge, “You can’t think of one thing you can do in this situation?” “Oh, I suppose I can think of one thing I can do.” “Great! Now you are acting like a true Navigator!”
By using the simple equation above when faced with change, you’ll be in control and well on your way to navigating to calmer waters.
“Five R’s” of Dealing With Change-Related Stress
You might not think so at the time, but every change is an opportunity to grow. Change makes us look at who we are. And the direction we are going. The following “Five R?s” can help you move through change. These ideas allow you the time to look your options as well as your opportunities.
Find ways to relax. Try deep breathing. Try meditating. Take time off from your problems. Don’t think about them all the time. Exercise and commit to a healthy lifestyle that includes plenty of rest. And always try to maintain a sense of humor.
Reflect on what is happening. Don’t try to hide or discount your feelings – both good and bad. But understand the power that negative feelings can have. Negative thoughts and feelings can spread to the people around you. Seek support from others. Don’t be critical of how someone else is dealing with change. Use any available resources to help you sort out what you’re going through. It is smart to ask for help.
Assess your feelings. Separate what you know from what you don’t know. Ignore rumors. They only increase stress. Let go of guilt about what could have been done. Create a new vision of yourself and highlight the positives.
Do you need to deal with something stressful? Think about possible questions, how you’d answer them. What you would like to say about what’s going on? Rehearsing helps lower stress and anxiety.
Keep your life as normal as possible. Maintain your routine. Keep regular family activities. Seek comfort in the things that are haven’t changed in your life. Seeking out the familiar is an instant stress reliever.
How we deal with change determines whether or not we will grow through the experience. What feels like loss now may lead to unexpected benefits in the long run. By practicing the “Five R?s” you can face change feeling Rejuvenated!
Living Healthy, Working Well Through Change
None of us are immune from change. We experience change every day. Some are common, like driving through a detour maze to get to work. Some are life altering, like the loss of a loved one. It’s not that we don’t expect change in our lives. It’s just that it would be nice to have some warning. Here are some of the types of change you might experience:
- Relationship changes- marriage, ending of relationship, or the loss of spouse or family member
- Workplace changes- company merger, loss of employment, or a job promotion
- Quality of life and lifestyle changes- a new baby, adoption, relocation, elderly parents, or illness
Into Our Lives a Little Change Must Fall
We can all expect some changes in our lives. Each of us will handle it in different ways. Some of us are frozen by change. It is difficult to make a decision. Others may feel energized to make positive moves in their lives. Some of us may even be able to see change coming. However you react to change, it’s best to weigh your options by seeking out people who can help you make the best decisions.
Change Brings Stress
The very word “change” means to put aside, end, or move on to something new. That alone can cause stress. Change follows a process and understanding the change process is important to lowering stress and moving forward. Keep in mind that everyone deals with change in their own way.
The Process of Change
Stage One – Denial. The first response to change is to deny or minimize it. Some people have a shock-like reaction that lets the person continue on as if nothing has happened. It may look like the person is doing just fine. But it is more likely that the person doesn’t want to face the change in his or her life.
Stage Two – Anger. After the reality of the change sinks in, this next stage can bring out anger, anxiety and depression. “Why did this happen to me?” is a common thought. This is the stage where uncertainty, self-doubt and low self-esteem begin to surface. People focus on what the change is doing to them right now. They don’t want to look ahead and may be holding themselves back through self-defeating thoughts or acts.
Stage Three – Looking forward. After going though denial and anger, most people begin to look to the future. They will begin to look at other possibilities, new opportunities, and will begin looking for the good that may come out of the change.
Stage Four – Acceptance and new commitment. This is the final stage of the change process. By this stage, people have developed new goals. They have made a shift from anxiety to renewed self-confidence. This is the time people often describe as feeling like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. The past is not forgotten, but today is here and the future awaits.
There is no timetable when dealing with change. People move through the stages at their own speed. You can’t make another person hurry up to be on your timetable.
Some people try to shortcut these stages. They jump from denial to commitment without addressing anger, loss, sadness, and anxiety. It doesn’t mean these feelings don’t exist. They mistake feeling numb as having gone through the states. But these feelings will surface sooner or later. The person will have to deal with them then.
Healthy Ways of Dealing with Change
Be open to the fact that change happens. It makes dealing with change easier when it does happen. The following are some tips for dealing with changes as they occur.
- Recognize that change is a part of life. Life would be boring if things didn’t change. Change keeps us fresh, alive.
- Anticipate change. Don’t become too complacent. Being flexible and open to change will lessen the surprise when it does happen.
- Learn to enjoy change. Understand that change is a part of life.
- Expect that change will happen over and over -and over again. Life is a series of changes.
None of Us Can Stop Change
We experience change every day. It might be a common annoyance like the streets are closed on your way to work. Or it might be a life changing events like the loss of a loved one. It’s not that we don’t expect change in our lives. It’s just that it would be nice to have some advance warning.
Coping with the stress and sadness that can go along with change is hard. Change is a part of life. Counselors are available to help you deal with changes.
Change happens. It’s how we handle it that counts.
In today’s world, we expect change to occur. But you might need help dealing with it. Our counselors are available to assist you, your dependents and household members. They can help sort out the change that’s going on in your life. A counselor can help develop a plan of what to do next.
Your program has counselors who can listen to your concerns. They can help you to cope with change. A counselor can direct you to other resources in your community. Our counselors can help you with:
- Changes in relationships – marriage, end of relationship, or the loss of spouse or family member
- Changes at work – merger, loss of job, or a job promotion
- Changes in life – a new baby, adoption, moving, elderly parents, or illness
The funny thing is, it doesn’t matter if the change is good (a job promotion) or the change is bad (the ending of a relationship). Change still adds stress to your life. If you can’t reduce the stress, you might be at risk for depression.
What are the stages of change?
You need to know that you go through stages of change. It will help you to feel more in control. Then you can understand the change and deal with it better. There is a three-step process to dealing with change. The more you know, the quicker you can cope with the change. The three stages of change are:*
- Endings. All changes, surprisingly enough, begin with an ending. A job ends, a marriage ends. This is usually difficult to deal with, even when the change is for the better. Stress can occur at this stage as we try to decide what to do.
- Neutral Zone. This is the period between an ending and a new beginning. During this period, we experience the most stress as we try to move past our loss to something new.
- Beginnings. A new beginning can bring with it stress. We need to adapt to our new job or new relationship. Here, we focus on new thinking and new goals.
Healthy Ways to Deal with Change
Dealing with change can be made easier if we are open to the thought of it. The following are some tips for dealing with changes as they happen:
- Manage the Stress From the Change. Change and stress go hand-in-hand. Practice relaxation techniques, meditate, or use other stress-reducing tactics. It will keep stress in check.
- Take a More Active Role in Your Life. Be more aware of what’s happening around you. Be more aware of what’s happening in your life. Then you may notice changes when there is still time to deal with them.
- Develop a Plan. Proactively planning steps to handle change will lessen the affect it has on your life. It will help give you more of a feeling of control. Focusing on specific aspects of a change that are in your control makes the change easier to handle.
- Practice Coping. Get into the habit of adapting to new things. You can start off small. Take an unfamiliar route to work. Read a book about a subject you know little about. Activities such as these will make it easier for you to cope with change when it occurs.
- Learn to Enjoy Change. When you have a positive outlook about change, it makes it easier to handle when it occurs. Don’t think about change in a negative way and add stress. Look at change as a way of keeping your life fresh and exciting.
- Talk about it. Don’t keep feelings of sadness and stress bottled-up inside. Talk to someone you trust and feel comfortable with. Talking about what you’re going through can help.