Finding it hard to cope with changes in your life? You aren't alone. Here are some top tips from one of our Mental Health Clinicians for helping you navigate moments of transition in your life.
‘Change is inevitable, growth is optional’, according to the author John Maxwell. As humans we navigate change daily, but once in a while major changes or transitions in our life occur that can rock our world.
Perhaps surprisingly, our brains don’t pick up on the differences between positive and negative changes - both can cause inner conflict. That means that your longed-for new job can be just as challenging as a relationship ending.
Transitions can be expected, such as starting school or university, or they can come out of the blue such as illness, bereavement, or losing your job.
Self care is not an indulgence but a necessity for navigating life transitions and times of change successfully - and with our health intact.
Times of change can be tough, but here are some tips you can try to make things easier on yourself:
- Take time to reflect
Whether change is planned or unexpected it’s easy to find yourself focussing on the new situation you’re in, yet most life transitions include some form of loss: of person, of place or of your role. Taking some time to reflect on where you’ve come from, what the change means for you and what you’re saying goodbye to provides space to honour what you’re leaving behind and to process what the transition means for you. It’s not always possible to do this in the middle of an unplanned transition, but making time to consider losses and gains can help you to adjust to a new situation and ultimately find some peace in your new ‘normal’.
- Change as a positive challenge
How many times do you hear people say ‘I hate change - keep things as they are!’ If change is a constant in life, then what does it offer us? Life transitions give us the opportunity to face fears, reassess life choices and situations, move from a place of being stuck and to grow and learn. They provide us with the chance to identify, develop and practice coping skills, all the while building resilience. It’s understandable that you might resist unplanned changes that upset your routine, but acceptance is a key part of moving forward, and acknowledging that ‘this is where you are’ (even if you did not invite the change) can open you to new ways forward.
- Pay attention to the familiar
Sometimes life transitions can make us all feel like we are suddenly at sea, with daily life looking totally different. Finding simple structure in the new situation and recognising what remains constant can help you to feel more rooted, safe and comforted by the familiar. Notice what is still in your life from before the change: the people around you even if you’ve lost someone close, your favourite belongings if you’ve moved home, your morning coffee on the way to work if you’ve changed jobs, or your favourite subject or sport in a new school.
- Tap into your support network
Recognising that we all need support at times in our lives is a strength that can ease the pain of changing circumstances. Whether it’s the relief of sharing your worries with a trusted friend, asking for practical help with daily tasks, or seeking the advice of a professional, all can help ease you through times of change. Check out what help is available to you via people you know, your workplace or school, and in your community. If you don’t feel you have an existing network, many organisations exist nationally and locally to offer information, advice and support, often for little or no charge.
- Be kind to yourself
When life feels tough it’s easy for our needs to get lost in the whirlwind of emotions and practicalities that we might be dealing with. Our bodies and minds need regular maintenance to function effectively. Self care is not an indulgence but a necessity for navigating life transitions and times of change successfully - and with our health intact. Small and achievable acts of ‘self maintenance’ such as a regular bedtime, quiet moments to yourself, healthy regular meals and some gentle exercise or mindful practice can significantly help you to cope when life transitions come your way.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with a life change or transition and struggling to cope in the moment, our trained Shout Volunteers are here to support you, 24/7.