There’s a common saying that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. While this is somewhat accurate, it’s missing a third inevitability — change.
Whether we hold on clawing, kicking, and screaming, or we go with the flow, from the moment we’re born — things change.
Some changes are easier to accept than others, of course. When it’s a slower, gradual process, our minds have time to come to grips with the adjustments.
Other changes are sudden and unexpected. It can seem like some people handle adapting to these new situations seamlessly, but that’s usually an act. Rest assured that everyone has different coping strategies to deal with changes.
If you struggle with adjusting when circumstances are out of your control, an already stressful time becomes even harder. At times it might feel like you’re at your breaking point.
But you can learn how to bend and not break. Here are five strategies to deal with and better adapt to changes.
1. Get a True Picture of Your Place in the Situation
As a general rule, people who don’t adapt well to change like to try to control their environment as much as possible.
When change happens anyway, the feeling of being “out of control” spirals to make the situation worse than it actually is. A lot of anxiety that spikes, when circumstances are changing, is from a misplaced sense of responsibility.
There are three different types of change, and learning them can help you release some of your stress:
- Is it something that you could make a difference with? If so, try to focus on productive solutions.
- Is it something that someone else has to handle, and therefore not your responsibility? If so, work on letting it go and allow them to do, or not do, their job.
- Or is something that no one can control, and not your job, either? If so, it’s time to accept the change and focus on adapting to it.
Before you begin to stress, think about the change that is happening. Determine what level of “control” to apply to it.
2. Look for the Good in the Change
Call it a silver lining, glass half full, optimistic way of thinking, but looking for the good in change does help. Some adjustments seem like too much to handle, but just shifting your perspective makes them more bearable.
It’s like the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, better known as the red car theory. This theory says that when you notice or think about something, it suddenly appears everywhere. If you’re thinking about a red car, you’ll see them everywhere.
Applying this to your mindset with change goes like this: When you focus on the bad, you’ll see the bad. If you shift your “red car” from the negative to the positive aspects, you’ll see more good than bad.
That doesn’t mean that you completely ignore any difficulties that come with the new circumstance. Give them a head tilt, focus on the solution, and work toward that fix.
When you acknowledge the bad and then move forward to look for the good, you adapt easier.
3. Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude
Practicing the art of gratitude is a game-changer when you’re having a hard time dealing with stress.
Psychologists suggest that we are healthier mentally and physically when we regularly consider things we’re grateful for. We sleep better, are more content with our lot in life, and handle stress easier.
Is there something you can be grateful for in the midst of all this change?
What are the stable factors in your life? What are your values that are safe and unchanging right now?
Use them as your stabilising forces to remember that you have a lot to be grateful for even though you can’t control this circumstance.
4. Respond Instead of React
Responding and reacting get used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.
When you react to something, like a change, you speak or do things from a place of instinctual emotion. Your fight-or-flight kicks in and you frequently regret things done in the heat of the moment.
Reactions are emotional responses to a stimulus, like someone’s comments to you or something they do. When you feel injured or in danger, even mentally, it might be tempting to lash out. This fear occurs in the face of unexpected changes.
A response, on the other hand, is a carefully thought out reply. You consider the stimulus and its effects. Then you think about the consequences of how you respond and choose which way to act.
Instead of reacting, acknowledge the problem exists, either to the other person or to yourself. If it has to do with someone else, ask for a little time to process before responding.
5. Control What You Can
Changes that are out of your hands can make you feel powerless, but you’re not. Even when the new circumstances appear overwhelming, you can take charge of little things in your life.
Take control of things that you can, like your routine and schedule. Staying consistent gives you some of the power you felt you were lacking.
Eat well, drink fluids, and exercise. This prevents future problems with your health while you deal with your current situation.
Giving in to overwhelming feelings might make you want to wallow in bed for a while. This only creates more problems you’ll have to deal with when you face reality.
Take charge of what you can and keep plugging on! You’ll quickly find these changes are adaptable.
When you feel like circumstances are too much to bear, don’t look toward others and compare yourself. Not everyone handles change in the same ways.
Accepting that part of life is adjusting to change is the first step. Soon you'll bend but not break when the storms come rolling through.
These strategies will take conscious practice at first. After a while, they’ll become a habit, and you’ll be able to deal with any change that life throws your way.