Eight tips for coping with change

1. What can you control?

When something in your life is changing, think about how much of it is within your control. Some change is inevitable – the summer ending or your first child starting school for the first time for example – so think about what you need to let go of and accept what’s beyond your control. We can spend a lot of time and energy worrying about things we can’t change, so this first tip is key to altering how you think about it.

Wise words from the Dalai Lama XIV tell us: “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

2. Take care of yourself

Practising self-care at a time of change will help you build your resilience and help keep you feeling well. Prioritise your diet by eating well, exercise regularly and get enough quality sleep. Keep to a regular routine as much as you can while change is happening. Keeping other things in your life constant and stable as much as you can will help make things feel less daunting. Look after yourself so that you feel strong to deal with the curve balls that come your way.

I always feel a sense of not sadness exactly, but a bit melancholy about the seasons changing, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a sense of nostalgia and the knowledge that the season is over, and everything I loved about it will have to wait another year. It doesn’t last too long though and I soon look forward to the benefits of a new season. My favourite time is Autumn, the blue-sky days are still there but I also look forward to getting ready to be cosy as the nights start to draw in.” Natalie

3. Give yourself time and space

Some changes in life are bigger than others, but whatever they are, give yourself permission to have time to process what’s going to change in your life. Feel what you feel and accept your emotions. These things can take time, so give yourself the space you need to work things through in your mind. Accept things are changing and accept too that good changes can feel uncomfortable and cause stress, and that’s ok.

I really struggled when my eldest child started school. It seemed to come around way too fast. Her last day of nursery triggered a lot of nostalgia and emotion, and I suddenly found myself in tears quite often about how quickly her pre-school years had come and gone. She suddenly seemed very grown up and I longed to be able to turn the clock back for just a little bit longer. I overcame it by embracing how excited she was to start school, and how ready and keen she was to learn and grow. A lot of my fear around this change was not ‘having her under my wing,’ but she was certainly ready to fly solo and this I was so proud of.” Alice

4. Challenge your thought patterns

When change is in motion, you might find yourself thinking negative thoughts, but stop a moment and challenge them if you can. You might be fearing the worst about an outcome, but could this be an opportunity to identify the positives of change, rather than the disruption or the end of something?

And, depending on what it is, think about how much this will be worrying you in a week or even a years’ time. We can often give unnecessary weight to some of our worries.

Studies show that people who can take an optimistic outlook on events tend to bounce back quickly.

5. Practise mindfulness

When the future feels a bit uncertain, ground yourself in the here and now. Be present in the moment and concentrate on what’s happening right here, right now.

There’s a famous saying which goes: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” Leo F. Buscaglia

Try this next time you’re taking a walk somewhere:

Notice the way your body moves, the feel of the fabric of your clothes against your skin. Can you feel a breeze? How does it feel to make contact with the floor with each step? What can you see and hear around you? What can you smell?

6. Define your priorities

Whether the change that’s happening is your choice or not, now can be a good time to think about what really matters to you and to get your priorities lined up. Then you can focus on putting your energy into those things that really count, and work towards the life you want to create.

Finding meaning and a purpose in life is strongly linked to being able to manage the bumps in the road well.

Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and put pen to paper, writing down the areas of your life you want to focus on. You could break it down into segments such as people and relationships, your health, career, money, your environment, fun and leisure time, and personal growth.

7. Ask for help and support

Remember everyone goes through change and life throws us all manner of situations to deal with – you’re not alone and you don’t have to deal with it on your own either. Reach out to those closest to you for help and support, tell them how you’re feeling. Talking things through can help you feel better and also give you a fresh perspective.

Life changes and events can affect people in different ways and some changes have a bigger impact than others. It’s ok to ask for help and if you’re feeling like you’re struggling to cope, get professional help and speak to your GP.

8. Take charge

Be proactive rather than reactive. This means rather than waiting for things to happen to you, you take action and take steps to prepare for change. If things are going to look different for you it can help you feel you have agency rather than being afraid of what’s to come and burying your head in the sand.

This is called ‘active coping’ and is all about using the resources you have to manage or solve a problem and can be useful when you’re going through a life change. This might take the shape of finding out information, getting support, planning ahead and reframing situations, which can all help to reduce the feelings of flux that change can bring.

As Winston Churchill once said: “I never worry about action, but only about inaction.”

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