Updated: Jan 19
With our world adjusting to the new reality and many of the clients I work with going through various life transitions, I have been thinking about the concept of change and how some people are afraid of and resistant to change, while others embrace and welcome it. I realized this week that while we don’t always think about change and how it impacts us, it often does more than we realize.
When you think about change, what comes to your mind? Fear? Excitement? Sadness? Can you think of a recent change in your life that affected you in a positive or a negative way? Most people resist change, most likely because they think they will lose something of value or fear that they might not be able to adapt to a new way. What does change mean and why does it include so many different feelings and create such confusion, fear, and anxiety? I hope that this blog will help you understand change better and deal with it in more effective ways.
So first, let’s address this question: what is change?
Whether you are only considering making a change or have already made one, it is important that you are aware of it and establish an appropriate strategy. When you have a road map to follow you will have an advantage from the start. There are three ways in which change can be categorized, as distinguished by Ackerman (1997):
Developmental: A change that can either be planned or sudden, and improves or enhances existing aspects of something. It tends to improve skills and/or processes.
Transitional: Implementing a change to try to reach a new state, and controlling the transition from the current to new state over time.
Transformational: A change that may not necessarily be expected. May result in significant differences at first and result in the ability to continuously learn, adapt, and improve.
Three tips to deal with change
Let’s take the example of going back to college to a new country or state. When you leave the comfort of your home and family to leave for college, your level of safety and security can be threatened, which is often deeply emotional for young adults beginning their college careers.
Tip # 1 Recognize your reaction to the change
Just like in any situation, when you want to overcome a challenge the first and most important step is to have the awareness of what is happening before you create a change. In my KARMA coaching program, I explain how awareness can lead to positive change.
Ask yourself the following question and be as honest as you can with yourself:
Why is a change affecting me this way? What are the related thoughts and feelings? How is it affecting me physically?
Before you think of how to eliminate the negativity around change that so many of us experience, it is important that you learn to recognize the effects of the change:
Any change involves resistance of some sort
Change often creates insecurities from the unknown
Experiencing change can lead to feelings of a loss of control
Tip # 2 Seek Support
One mom I work with was feeling stressed and overwhelmed about the possibility that her kids will not return to school and they will need to stay home. When we talked about ways that she can deal with this big change in her life, she was able to come up with a very creative way where she considered reaching out for support from her family and neighbors and come up with ways that she can keep her kids home in case she will not feel comfortable sending them back to school. The thought that she would have support during such a challenging time helped my client feel more in control and less stressed. Can you think of someone that you can reach out for support when you are going through a change? This can be either family members, close friends, or even a licensed therapist.
Tip # 3 Write down three potential positive outcomes from the change.
A change can affect you positively or negatively but it is up to you to decide how to interpret the effects of it. For example, having to adjust to going to study in college far away from home instead of staying close to your family and friends. You can focus on all the negative things that are related to leaving home, whether that be leaving your family and friends, getting upset and not having a support system near you, or even just leaving the comfort of your own bed. There are so many things that you can think of that will drive you crazy and create stress and fear in your life. Alternatively, you can ask yourself to write down three things that are positive. Lets try
Meeting new people
Experiencing a new culture and city
Learning to be independent
Now, think about how you felt after considering all the negative things that accompany change and how you felt after describing the three positive things. Doing this exercise can help make you more comfortable in embracing a big change, rather than fearing it.
The past two years have brought endless changes to everyone around the world, so fears and worries are inevitable. When you take steps to become more comfortable with change, not only will you help relax your present mind, but you will develop the ability to adapt to new things in the future. This is a very important quality to have, considering not everything in our lives can be controlled in the palm of our hands. Check back to these steps the next time something new brings you anxiety, and hopefully you will be able to approach big changes in confidence!