“The only thing constant in the world is change
That’s why today I take life as it comes” – India Arie
It’s inevitable at some point we will go through one of life’s “transitions”. Even positive changes can bring about a wide range of emotions, including stress and anxiety. For example, in the last 12 months; made plans to change my career, turned 30, started this blog and transitioned to having natural afro hair. All are positive changes but with all four examples; I have experienced anxiety, fear, self-doubt and impatience (Re-learning your hair texture takes A LOT of patience).
Some of the changes we experience are by choice, by chance, through natural ends i.e. university or are imposed on us without warning, i.e. relationship break-ups or job redundancies. Whatever the circumstances, navigating these transitions can be difficult as we are now presented with new problems and need to find a means with coping with them.
With that in mind, changes, even difficult ones, can drive you towards personal growth. And dealing with change successfully, can leave you more confident, prepared and stronger. So, here are a few tips for coping when things are a bit less certain:
- Acknowledge things are changing – Acknowledgement is the first step to recovery..right? Yes – aspects of your life are changing. Yes – you are experiencing a range of emotions in reaction to this….and that’s okay. Whenever we move forward we leave something behind, and this creates a psychological state of grief, however small. And if the change is unexpected and unwanted, then feelings of anxiety and uncertainty is much greater. The sooner we acknowledge these feelings, the sooner we can work to adjust.
- Practice healthy habits – I am a self-confessed comfort eater, which in moderation is fine and gives me a short-term boost. However, loading up on carbs and refined sugars is not good in the long-term and eating well has been shown to improve mood and energy. In addition, exercise is not only beneficial to your physical health, but also on your mental wellbeing (ref 1). Studies have increasingly shown that people feel more content, more awake and calmer after being physically active compared to after periods of inactivity (ref 2).
- Limit Social Media use – Social Media and the impact of a person’s mental health goes hand in hand. Comparing your current situation to someone’s “highlight reel” is a sure fire way to increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Instead of infinitely scrolling, read a book, do an activity or see some friends.
- Seek Support – It’s easy to feel that you can handle things on your own but that can lead to those negative emotions festering. After all “No man is an island” and it is okay to ask for help . Think about your family and/or closest friends/partner. They have your best interests at heart and would be happy to help in your time of need. Support from others can help you keep perspective and moving forward.
- Have realistic timeframes and expectations – In a time of change, you may feel a little out of control. You may feel like you are not living up to your expectations for yourself, causing you to feel that you are failing. When I was stressed out at university, my mum would remind me “It doesn’t really matter how long you take to get your goal, as long as you get there”. And she’s right! It took me longer than anticipated but I got my degree. Reaffirm that you have the perseverance to attain your goals even through circumstance changes. It is a lesson that I’m constantly learning but reminding yourself of this will help you when you feel like you are not progressing as quickly as you would like.
- Make time to relax – Self explanatory but take time to recharge and reflect on the positives that come from this transition. Maybe the change helped you prioritise what is most important in your life. Change presents us with the opportunity to grow.
Finally, to those of you that are finding it particularly difficult to cope the change, please be encouraged to talk to a therapist. I have listed a few useful links on the resources page to get you started.
1: Lindwall, M. & Aşçı, F.H. (2014). Physical Activity and Self-Esteem. In: A. Clow & S. Edmunds (eds.). Physical activity and mental health. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
2: Penedo, F.J. & Dahn, J.R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 18 (2), 189–193.