Strategies for Dealing With Change

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Change is inevitable.  But whether it seems positive or negative, or is planned or unplanned, it can be difficult to cope with.  Here are some strategies I use to help me transition through change as smoothly as possible.

1.  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.

2.  Prepare 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, I find it hard to adjust to a new home soon after I have moved in.  Even when it is a nice new home.  So I set up my bedroom right away so that at least one room feels organized and familiar.  Or I stay with family for a few days until I feel more organized.  I also try to walk around my neighborhood, and invite friends over as soon as possible so that the new place starts to feel like home.  I plan to do these things before I move so that when I’m in the middle of the change, I know exactly what I need to do to make my transition smoother.

3.  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.  And the sooner we can start to make our today beautiful.

4.  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.

Recognizing 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.

5.  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—helps tremendously.

6.  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 silently and indefinitely when other options are available is pointless.

7.  Find a new normal.

The familiar feels good because it feels normal.  Change feels hard because it does not feel normal.  As long as we keep trying to find the old normal in our changed situation, we will continue to struggle.  Because the old normal no longer exists.

But a new normal is possible.  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.

Ultimately, change is what it is.  It’s what we make of it that matters.  We can make it as good as it can be, or not-so-good.  That is our choice.

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