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How to cope with change

Written by Madeleine Chamberlain.

The prospect of change can be a difficult one, especially in terms of mental health. Change is inevitable in life, and even when the change is positive, it can still cause stress and anxiety.

We like things to be predictable, even when they’re bad, because we understand them. When things change, we can’t rely on old strategies, we have to learn how to make sense of and deal with a new set of circumstances, and this isn’t always easy.

The uncertainty of change and the instability it causes can be hard to deal with without the right coping strategies. Worrying about the future often has a big impact on our mental wellbeing, and can lead to anxiety, so it is important to look after ourselves when change is on the horizon.

How change impacts our mental health, and how to deal with it

Acknowledge the change

The first in coping with change is to acknowledge it. Almost always, unwanted change feels like a thing that happens to us, something that we didn’t choose, that we don’t like, that we can’t control. It feels unfair, and we want to deny it, ignore it, to pretend like it isn’t happening.

But we can’t move forward when in a state of denial. Accepting that change is happening can help in planning next steps and figuring out how you’re feeling, so you can start to think how best to deal with the emotions you are feeling.
Remember that even positive change can cause stress, so it’s important to be kind to yourself no matter what the kind of change.

Take things at your own pace and don’t feel like you need to push yourself while dealing with change.
It is important to talk it through with people you trust, or asking for help from mental health professionals if you feel you need to.

Have a regular routine to fall back on and take one day at a time

Developing a regular routine to use throughout a period of change can help give a sense of stability. This could be carving out a specific time for exercise, meditation, or reading, a time that you control what happens.

Creating a routine helps with being in the present, especially when we practice doing these tasks mindfully. Not only does it take our minds off future worries, it also gives us a sense of familiarity and control when things around us may feel out of our control due to change.

Focusing on the here and now can stop us spiralling when thinking about future worries, and can keep us grounded on the steps we can take right now.

Practice gratitude and acknowledge what’s working

Even when negative change seems to be surrounding us, there will be some things which stay the same. This might be the ability to make a favourite meal, enjoy a stable friendship, or being able to listen to our favourite song.

Practicing gratitude for these things allows us to focus on what is working, and can help us recover from setbacks.
Practicing noticing the good things will help with mindset and enable us to see positive possibilities for the future. A good way to do this is by writing down a few things you’re grateful for each day, even as something as simple as not getting rained on, or having a nice chat with someone at works.

Noting achievements we’ve accomplished can also help us feel proud of what we’ve done despite the change we’re dealing with, and help us focus on the good things in our lives.

Think about what has helped you before

It’s important to be kind to ourselves when going through change and uncertainty. Speak to people you trust about how you’re feeling and try to remember what has helped before.

This will not have been the only challenge you have faced, and so you may already have an approach to take which will help. Maybe catching up with a friend regularly will help, or going for a walk over lunch could clear your head. It is also always an option to speak to a mental health professional if you feel that would be beneficial.

It can help to think of things that won’t change, your routine or other areas of your life, however small, that will remain unimpacted by whatever change you’re dealing with. These can help stabilise us when things seem uncertain.

Read more about how to manage anxiety, or learn how setting small goals can have a big impact on your mindset.

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Posted on: 9th October 2023

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