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Coping with change

Change – positive or negative, planned or unplanned can be difficult to cope with because it often puts us in unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations.  However, there are steps you can take to cope with change and the sooner a change is accepted, we can move forward.

How can it help me?

Making changes can help you get over hurdles and move forward with your life – often we become stuck, repeating the same habits and behaviours and ways of responding to situations.  Although it can seem difficult to change the way we do things or the direction we are going in, making changes can make you feel more in control and this is empowering and can enhance your self-esteem and the way you feel about yourself. 

The key things which will help  are to be specific about the changes you want to make and know the reason for the change .Its also important to focus on making one change at a time and exploring the options you have with this. Tell other people who may be affected in some way by the changes you make but don’t let anyone stand in your way – be assertive and believe you can do this. 

How do I do it?

The key things to remember are:

  • Expect change to feel hard

Change is hard.  It puts us in unfamiliar situations.  And unfamiliar situations feel uncomfortable even when they are positive.

Expecting change to feel hard helps because it eases our discomfort.  It allows us to assign responsibility for our discomfort to the right cause.  We can blame at least some of it on the fact that something is changing, rather than on the substance of what is changing.  We question ourselves less, we are able to forge ahead with more courage, and we feel better.

Plus, when the going gets tough, we aren’t surprised.  We can say to ourselves, “this is exactly what I was expecting.  This is normal.  I will feel better when this new situation feels more familiar.  It’s just a matter of time.”  And again, we feel better.

  • Prepare yourself for change when possible

If the change is planned, preparing for it by thinking about what we can do to make it feel easier, and deciding what we will do if it gets hard, helps.

For instance, you may decide to be tested to see if you are HIV+. You hope the answer will be negative but it could be positive. Having the test can remove the nagging doubts and lets you know where you stand and allows you to plan for any changes due to a positive result e.g. treatment options or changes in lifestyle.

  • Accept that change is happening

The sooner we accept that change is happening, the sooner we can feel better about it.  We have a tendency to hold on to the past because it is familiar.  And familiar feels safe.  But as long as we keep running back to the safety of the past (which no longer exists except in our minds), we cannot move forward.

Gently accepting the fact that change is happening is helpful.  Demanding that we accept it is not.  Gently accepting means facing our fears, dealing with them appropriately, and taking the time we need to deal with them.  The sooner we get to a place of acceptance, the sooner we can take the next steps. The sooner we can move forward.

  • Cut yourself slack

When we’re going through change, as much as we try to do well in other areas of our life, sometimes we cannot.  Beating ourselves up about it only makes us feel worse.

Recognising that change is hard and making allowances for it helps.  By cutting ourselves some slack, being gentle with ourselves, and giving ourselves a free pass once in a while, we are better able to make the transition.

  • Keep the familiar

Change can feel jarring and can throw us off center.  The familiar feels comforting, and can re-center us when we feel thrown off.  So keeping what is familiar in the midst of change - sticking to a familiar routine, doing familiar work, seeing familiar people, going to familiar places – all these strategies can help.

  • Get help

Some changes are especially hard.  The important thing is to get through them in the healthiest way possible.  Sometimes, that means getting help from others – family, friends, colleagues, and mental health professionals.  There is nothing wrong with getting help.  It is the responsible and mature thing to do.  Suffering in silence when other options are available is pointless.

  • Find a new normal

What is familiar often feels good because it is our normal.  Change often feels hard because it does not feel like your normal.  Looking for your old normal in your changed situation will mean you often struggle because, your old normal does not exist anymore. When we establish new patterns for ourselves, those new patters start to feel familiar.  They become our new normal.  And that new normal feels good too.

Coping with change resources

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What's in this resource?

  • Coping With Change Confidence And Self Esteem (.pdf)

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  • Resource Change Apple (.pdf)

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  • What Do I Want To Change (.pdf)

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  • Technique For Confidence And Self Esteem (.pdf)

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