The one constant thing in life is change. That doesn’t mean we get used to it or fully embrace it, though.
Here are 7 tips for coping with big changes in your life and coming out a better person for it.
1. Acknowledge things are changing.
Sometimes we get so caught up in fighting change that we put off actually dealing with it. Denial is a powerful force, and it protects us in many ways. However, stepping outside of it and saying to yourself, “Things are changing, and it is okay” can be less stressful than putting it off.
2. Realize stress can even come from good change.
Sometimes when people go through a good life change, such as graduating or having a baby, they still feel a great deal of stress—and even dread. Keep in mind that positive change can create stress just like not-so-positive change. Stress is just your body’s way of reacting to change. It’s okay to feel stressed even when something good has happened—in fact, it’s normal. If you’ve just had a baby, talk to your doctor about possibly experiencing postpartum depression.
3. Keep up your regular schedule as much as possible.
The more change that is happening, the more important it is to stick to your regular schedule—as much as possible. Having some things that stay the same, like walking the dog every morning at 8am, gives us an anchor. An anchor is a reminder that some things are still the same, and it gives your brain a little bit of a rest. Sometimes when you are going through a lot of change it helps to write down your routine and check it off as you go. It’s one less thing for your brain to have to hold inside.
4. Try to eat as healthy as possible.
When change happens, a lot of us tend to reach for carbs—bread, muffins, cake, etc. This may be because eating carbs boosts serotonin—a brain chemical that may be somewhat depleted when you are undergoing change (stress). It’s okay to soothe yourself with comfort foods—in moderation. One way to track what you are eating is to write it down. When you see what you are eating, it makes you take a step back and think about whether you want to eat that second muffin or not. (If you have a history of eating disorders, it is not recommended that you write down what you are eating.) Also notice if you are having an increased use of alcohol or other substances—your use can sneak up on you when you are under stress.
Keeping up regular exercise may be a part of the “keep up your regular schedule” tip. If exercise is not currently part of your daily routine, try adding it. Exercising two to three times a week has been found to significantly decrease symptoms of depression (Barclay, et al. 2014.) Even just walking around the block can help you feel better. You’ll find that many times your motivation will kick in while you are active.
6. Write down the positives that have come from this change.
Maybe due to this change in your life you have met new people. Maybe you started practicing healthier habits. Maybe you became more politically active. Maybe you became more assertive. Maybe the change helped you prioritize what is most important in your life. Change presents us with the opportunity to grow—and it’s important to acknowledge how things have become better as a result.
7. Get proactive.
Being proactive means taking charge and working preventatively. This means you figure out what steps you need to take before something happens. Being reactive means you wait until something has happened and then you take action. It means becoming active with groups that help you realize that you can make a positive impact on the world.