Think back to February 2020. You were probably going to an office each day. The kids were in school, and you had never thought about wearing a mask to get your groceries. Life was down right normal compared to what unfolded over the rest of 2021.
For many people, part of the turmoil of the pandemic came from the unending ways in which we were being asked to change our lives. Now, as vaccines begin being distributed and we adjust to a new phase of the pandemic, we’re being asked to change again.
Navigating all that change can be exhausting and leave you feeling overwhelmed. But it doesn’t have to. Learning how to handle change in a healthy way can help you prepare for 2021, whatever it may bring. In fact, coping with change is a cornerstone of many treatment programs.
Why Is Change Scary?
Most people thrive on routine. There’s comfort in knowing what we’ll be doing in the next day, week and year. For our ancient ancestors, routine signaled security and safety, so it’s no wonder that modern humans are still drawn to routine today. Knowing what to expect lets us plan how to use our time, energy and emotional reserves in the best way.
On the other hand, change throws that predictability out the window. We suddenly are spending our resources trying to understand the “new normal,” and figure out what might come next. The unknown is frightening and uncomfortable, so many people try to avoid change. However, that can leave you reeling when change is inevitable.
Making Peace With Change
We might not like change, but there’s no escaping it. Even people with the most routine lives encounter relationships ending, illness and job loss. Smaller changes like moving or switching your diet can have big impacts too. Since there’s no avoiding change, learning to cope with it is an important skill.
When you’re faced with a new change, it’s easy to spiral, focusing on everything that’s scary and unknown. That can lead to a snowball of anxiety and nerves.
To break that cycle, it’s important to accept change from the beginning. Here’s how:
- Acknowledge that change is happening. It sounds basic, but just recognizing change and knowing that it’s an expected part of life can normalize the transition process and make it less frightening.
- Recognize that change is stressful. Even good changes — like starting a new job or having a baby — come with stress. Just because it’s stressful doesn’t mean that it’s not the right decision.
- Let go of the need to control everything. Especially when it comes to a vast cultural and global change like the pandemic, there are things you can’t control. Accepting that will save you lots of energy.
Moving Through Change
Even if you’ve worked to accept change in your life, transition periods come with a lot of anxiety. Although transitions are never easy for most people, there are ways to make them less difficult.
- Maintain your routine. Since routine is comforting, try to hang on to the pieces of your routine that are still possible. This year many people who are home from school and work have discovered that they feel better if they continue to get up at a set time, shower and get dressed for the day, just as they would if they were leaving the house.
- Take care of yourself. The stress hormone cortisol goes up during trying times. Self-care can help bring cortisol levels down and help you feel more balanced. Exercise, listening to music, meditating and eating healthy can all regulate your hormones, including cortisol. Attending a recovery meeting in person or online can ensure that you’re prioritizing your recovery even during this difficult period.
- Find the silver lining. Usually, there’s some good that comes from even the most tumultuous periods of change. Many people say that the pandemic has forced them to slow down and refocus on their priorities. Finding the silver lining can help you feel positive about the changes in your life. Journaling or talking with friends about the things you’re grateful for can help you focus on the positive.
Change is difficult, and right now most of us are dealing with more changes than we would like. Anything that makes navigating change a bit easier is well worth adopting.
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