We’ve all had to handle change at some point in our lives, and it’s rarely an easy process. From a big move to a new job to the end of a relationship – it’s not easy to just ‘turn and face the strange,’ á la David Bowie.
Research indicates that the adjustments accompany change – even positive change – actually cause the body to feel stressed and less in control. According to Neuroscientist Dean Burnett, there’s a simple reason why we feel this way: change causes uncertainty, and in an evolutionary sense, the brain equates uncertainty with potential threats.
Of course, we can’t resist change because nothing stays the same forever. So, what should we do?
Well, we must get better at dealing with the effect it has on us. You can start by focusing on what you have control over. Make a to-do list of the things you can do to make the transition process easier, and check each item off once you complete it.
Finding consistency can bring some much-needed stability back to your life during a period of change. Whether it’s walking the dog or going to your favourite class at the gym, falling into these small routines will help keep you grounded (and sane) until you adjust to the new normal.
Then there’s the advice that everyone loves to give: see the positive. But research shows that looking for the positives in the situation can actually be helpful, since our reaction to change-induced stress impacts our health and success more than the stress itself. Gain some perspective by asking yourself what it’s helping you achieve.
There’s one thing you shouldn’t do, though: give in. Doing nothing is seldom an option when significant changes are happening in your life. As tempting as it might be to retreat to bed with a bowl of ice cream, resist the urge. Instead, put some of these tips into practice and next time change hits, you’ll be ready.
Lifehacker. (2013) Why you’re so afraid of change (and what you can do about it). lifehacker.com
Harvard Business Review. (2012) Ten reasons people resist change. hbr.org
University of Maryland Medical Center. (2013) Stress. umm.edu
Unstuck. (2017) Why are we afraid of change? The science of uncertainty. unstuck.com
Nature Communications. (2016) Computations of uncertainty mediate acute stress responses in humans. nature.com
ReachOut Australia. (2017) 7 tips for dealing with change. au.reachout.com
Crum, A., Salovey, P., Achor, S. (2012) Rethinking stress: The role of mindsets in determining the stress response. semanticscholar.org
Harvard Business Review. (2016) How to get better at dealing with change. hbr.org
Psychology Today. (2012) How to handle change. psychologytoday.com
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