How to Stop Fearing Change
Change is inevitable. It’s the one thing in life that we can depend on. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that unexpected events can come of out nowhere. And turn the whole world upside down.
I never imagined that I would be working from home for a whole year, possibly forever. I’m fortunate to have a job that I can continue doing remotely. So many others aren’t.
Change that tests us doesn’t have to be as global and dramatic as a pandemic. Most of us go through changes every day in our own private world. We might have close family and friends to support us. But often we face change alone.
How do we get through turbulent times? What can we do to better cope with the unexpected shit that life throws at us?
Vent With a Trusted Friend — But Not For Long
Get the anger and frustration out of your system with someone you trust. Even better if this person understands the situation first hand.
If you are going through a restructuring at work, then spend some time venting with a trusted colleague. But then move on from the anger — quickly.
It will do you no good to gripe to anyone and everyone who will listen. Word will get out that you are a voice of dissent who is not able to ‘embrace the change’. You will be labelled as ‘emotional’ and ‘difficult’.
As much as you want the world to hear your personal woes, the truth is that no one cares. Other than the people you are close to. Everyone else will be too busy with their own personal struggles to care about yours.
So moan and complain a day or two then move on to the practical things you can do to get through.
Don’t be in Denial
The ‘change curve’ was originally developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to explain the grieving process. It applies to all situations of upheaval.
For many people facing significant change, the first reaction is one of shock and denial. This often comes before the anger.
Experts at the Mayo clinic, say that it’s ok to be in denial to give yourself time to process the situation. But you do have to accept what is happening sooner rather than later.
By simply telling yourself that things are changing and that’s ok, can kick yourself out of denial.
Find Humor Even in the Darkest of Times
I can see the funny side of every situation. Sometimes I worry this is misplaced or in bad taste but it helps.
Even at the most inappropriate moments. Such as when I nearly fell into the hole lowering my mother’s casket of ashes into her grave.
My husband grabbed me by the ankles to stop me from falling in.
We didn’t laugh at the time, but we laughed about it the next day, adding some lightness to the darkest of times.
British comedian, Spike Milligan’s gravestone has the Irish inscription
‘Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite’
In English translates,
‘I told you I was ill.’
Research by Rod A. Martin, a pioneer of humour research found that inclusive and respective humour directed at yourself will increase your resilience.
Just make sure your humour is not improperly directed at others.
Write About What’s Really Important
It’s easy to lose focus on your values and what’s really important to you when in the midst of difficult change.
Think about a time in the past when you have faced adversity and pulled through. What mattered most to you during those times?
Writing these thoughts down is a more powerful way of acknowledging your resilience and ability to pull through.
A 2019 study on the ‘Transform Your Life: Write to Heal’ program reported that their 6-week expressive writing course resulted in,
‘Increased resilience, and decreases depressive symptoms, perceived stress, and rumination in those reporting trauma in the past year.’
Keep Your Routines and Stay Healthy
I am a keen runner and when facing challenging situations, I sometimes lose the motivation to get outside. But I always force myself to go for a run no matter how low or fearful I am feeling.
I know that I will always feel better afterwards.
Running is part of my daily routine as is writing — all managed around being a parent and working full time.
Having a set routine will give you comfort certainty. That you are in control of the shape of your day, even if so much in your life feels out of control.
Psychologist Rachel Goldman says,
‘When people don’t have a routine or structure to their day it can cause increased stress and anxiety, as well as overwhelming feelings, lack of concentration, and focus.’
It’s also too easy to eat unhealthily or drink too much alcohol to numb the pain of testing times.
By sticking to your normal routines and maintaining healthy habits you will boost your resilience and your ability to pull through.
Post Traumatic Growth
‘In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.’ — Albert Camus
Embrace challenging situations as an opportunity to grow stronger.
Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg write in their book, ‘Option B’ that not only can we bounce back from tough times, but we can also bounce forward.
That after trauma, people can experience post-traumatic growth.
As Auschwitz prisoner Viktor Frankl wrote,
‘In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning.’
What if the meaning of change was to help you grow stronger?
When things are going well, we all want things to stay the same. But life has a nasty habit of throwing up surprises to knock us off track.
Remembering what is within your control and you can decide how to react is key to getting through to the other side.
Confide in a trusted friend to vent a little.
Avoid being in denial.
Find the humour in your situation.
Focus on what’s really important.
Stick to your routines.
And finally, have belief in yourself that you will grow stronger as a result of being tested.
“What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” — Friedrich Nietzsche