This year we have all had to adjust to a lot of change. We have spent long periods inside when we might normally have been out and about. Many of us have found ourselves suddenly working from home on a full-time basis – often alongside home-schooling our children. Some of us have experienced some very difficult changes. Adapting to change can undoubtedly be challenging, so what can we do to make the process easier for ourselves?
The first thing to bear in mind is that change is inevitable. It happens to all of us, all of the time. We just don't give ourselves enough credit for how much change we already deal with on a regular basis – and how we've already built up valuable experience and strategies for dealing with change when it happens.
Change can mean anything from a variation in our daily routine through to major adjustments such as moving house, getting married, getting divorced, having a family, starting a new job, retiring from work or suffering bereavement. Recently, we have all had to deal with major change as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Change is often perceived as negative because it causes us to feel anxious and uncertain. We are out of our comfort zone and we don’t know what to do next. Change can also be positive, however. When faced with a new situation, we have to grow as a person and develop new skills. This means we are more likely to adapt and cope better in the future when confronted with further change.
Chosen or imposed? The way in which we perceive, and respond to, change is likely to vary depending on whether we have chosen the change or had the change imposed upon us. For example, we might choose to switch jobs, move house, start a family or retire. We don’t choose to fall sick or to suffer bereavement. In a workplace context, much of the change we experience is imposed – for example, we might be asked to take on a critical new project or be selected for a redundancy programme.
In theory, we are better prepared for the changes we’ve chosen because we planned for them in advance and we prepared for what was to come. Nevertheless, we can still feel unsettled when the change actually happens because it’s impossible to fully anticipate how we will feel at that point, or perhaps we simply weren’t as prepared as we thought we were.
Dealing with enforced change, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, can be more stressful because we often have very little time to prepare for it. We find ourselves suddenly going through the so-called ‘change curve’.
Coping strategiesFortunately, there are some strategies we can follow to help us cope with change:
Change doesn’t have to invoke a sense of dread. Aim to embrace it and turn it into something positive.
Finally, remember that it is natural to have negative feelings about change. So, acknowledge that negativity and any accompanying sense of anxiety that you have. Acknowledgement will help you to deal with those feelings and work through them logically.