Dealing with change is difficult. You might resist it. It might cause you unnecessary stress. Sometimes changes in our lives are voluntary: a change in our diet, going travelling, accepting a new job. It’s often assumed that the changes you choose to make are easier to deal with. Yes, you have longer to get to grips with the idea of the change, but it also leaves a lot of time for you to overthink it. Putting change off can mean we are missing out on opportunities that could change our life for the better.
The changes that are forced upon us cause much more stress, but also give you the opportunity to become better at handling change in general. Even the idea of involuntary change can make us feel uneasy, be it losing your job, the death of someone close to you, or the end of a relationship. When any of these things happen, you feel angry and sad and a whole host of other emotions alongside. But once you are through the hard part, your journey will give you the chance to reflect and learn what is most important to you.
A little bit of pressure goes a long way
Whether you choose it or not, change pushes us out of our comfort zone in order to deal with unexpected situations. We all have a unique comfort zone that provides us with mental security and a consistent level of happiness. Pushing yourself to accomplish something new is likely to cause you some stress and anxiety. There is a state known as ‘optimal anxiety’ that is just outside of your comfort zone. Optimal anxiety allows you to maximise your performance and productivity, and consequently improves results. It gives you just the right amount of pressure!
Keep your comfort zone close
It’s no wonder that we tend to return to the comfort zone when we can. It’s like a comfy old sofa with a big blanket and cushions – so cosy! It’s essential to come back to the comfort zone when you need it. We all require head space in a place we feel little to no stress, it gives us the resilience we require to face the challenges in our lives.
The more frequently you push outside of your comfort zone, the easier you will find new and unfamiliar territory. Imagine it as if it were a child learning to swim. The teacher will start them off in a shallow pool with floats to help them. Lesson by lesson, the child will improve and become more confident. One day they will swim in the sea. They might be afraid, but they know they can swim and they are ready to face the uncertainty of the deep ocean with courage and self-belief.
The first step into the rest of your life
Let’s start at the top; you’ve decided to make a change, what next? Your first step is research. Do as much preparation as you can. If you’re changing careers, look at all of the opportunities that are out there for you. Gather information now and you are reducing doubt and uncertainty later down the line. Once you know a little more about what is ahead for you, start familiarising yourself with the situation. Following your research, experiment with the things you are afraid of to help you to gradually adjust.
Prepare for when things don’t go as planned
Use what you’ve learned in the process so far and take small steps towards your goal. It can be fast, or it can be slow. You will still be moving forward even if it’s slow to begin with. Make changes on a day-to-day basis, and look for the perspective that comes from each. Things won’t always go the way you imagine, but don’t let that throw you off course. If it feels helpful, list the fears you have about the change and consider how likely each one is. Then come up with a strategy for dealing with each situation should it arise. Having a plan can make your fears feel much more manageable.
Give yourself space and know that you can take back control
During your period of change, focus on the day-to-day and make time for relaxation. Give yourself the space to understand what you need and what is most important to you. However big the change is, there is always a way to take back control. You initiated the change after all. It’s natural to become anxious and overwhelmed during a period of change. Acknowledge your feelings so that you can work through them. Needing to ask for help isn’t a sign of weakness, you may just need advice from someone who has had different experiences to you. You are changing along with the process, and no-one says you have to do it alone!
Remember where you’re heading
In the same breath, it is important that you keep sight of your goals. You will find yourself more motivated and determined when you remember where you are going and what outcome you are looking for. Your journey may not be smooth but be patient. It will take time to settle into new experiences when you make a big change in your life. Trust your decision and know that all achievements take time and perseverance.