Let’s face it: Change is inevitable. Some changes we can expect—like starting a new job, entering retirement, moving to a different city or adjusting to a new relationship. Other, unwanted changes—like losing a loved one, developing a health issue, having a financial setback—can feel even more overwhelming. That includes the coronavirus pandemic and all of its effects on daily life too!
Any of these events can throw you off balance. However, learning how to embrace the inevitable can help you better navigate life’s ups and downs.
Change can be uncomfortable, but dealing with change directly is an important part of individual growth. As French philosopher Henri Bergson put it: “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
To cope positively with change—or, better yet, embrace it—follow these four steps.
- Acknowledge the change. Avoiding the subject only leads to more anxiety. It’s important to face the change in your life head-on, even if that means taking baby steps toward acceptance. Try making SMART goals—an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-oriented—to help you work your way up to acceptance. For example, if you’ve recently moved and want to make social connections, SMART goals might be: “On Mondays, I’ll bake treats for my neighbors.” Or, “On Fridays, I’ll join a discussion on a local message board.”
- Take care of yourself. Even good changes can fuel anxiety or symptoms of stress. Our mind and body are connected. When we resist change, our body may experience symptoms (e.g. anxiety, muscle tension, migraines or stomach pains) to indicate there is something that needs to be addressed. Remember to eat healthy and get some exercise every day, which can release feel-good endorphins that help fight stress and anxiety.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As we grow older, role changes like becoming an in-law or a family caregiver can be difficult. If you’re struggling, let trusted friends and family members know. And don’t be ashamed to seek out counseling from a therapist or an online support group. Talking about the changes sparking anxiety in your life can help you plot a course through murky waters.
- Focus on the upside. Pay attention to the positive aspects of making a change in your life. Maybe downsizing gives you more time to pursue a hobby. Or, working part-time in retirement not only helps pay bills, but it also gives you a chance to learn new skills and meet people. Keep a journal or make a note on your smartphone to record the bonuses of the change as you think about them, and refer back to them when life seems overwhelming. Change can be scary, but knowing how to respond can ease your fears and help you find the light during dark times.