Even when a shift is for the better, major life transitions and adjustments can be unsettling and difficult to navigate. And, it goes without saying, with the ongoing pandemic, seasonal transitions, and a slew of employment, home, and relationship changes taking place, many of us are coping with a great deal of change right now. The good news is that there are ways that can assist you in dealing with all of these changes (and the resulting stress) in a healthy manner.
Why can changes in one’s life be stressful?
Even when the change is for the better, such as when starting a new job or relocating to a lovely new location, why does it feel so stressful at first? As licensed marital and family therapist Tiana Leeds, M.A., LMFT, explains, it all boils down to our comfort zone—and the willingness to step outside of it to achieve success.
According to Leeds, transitions in our lives shake us up and force us to step outside of our comfort zones. Default mode is no longer an option, and we no longer have access to it. It is necessary for us to adapt our daily routines to fit into our new lives, and these types of micro and macro habit alterations can be difficult to adjust to, putting us on the defensive.
In addition, Leeds points out that transformation is fraught with uncertainty. While we are in a better position than we were previously, it is nevertheless unsettling not to have the familiarity and consistency that we had before. For the majority of us, uncertainty is inherently stressful as Leeds continues.
Ways for dealing with change gently include:
1. Be realistic in your expectations of your abilities
According to Leeds, the most essential thing you can do for yourself is to offer yourself grace and to lower your expectations of yourself. You shouldn’t expect yourself to flawlessly adapt to a new situation right away; instead, be patient as you learn to cope with the change. Digesting and adjusting to a transformation consumes a significant amount of mental and emotional energy. It is typical for activities that were once simple to become increasingly challenging.
2. Seek assistance
As Leeds says, when we are going through a life shift, we are more prone to loneliness. As a result, she encourages that you seek assistance when you require it. It is through reaching out to others that we can feel supported and that change becomes more doable, according to her. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, whether it’s an extra set of hands or a shoulder to lean on. Also, don’t be scared to ask for what you need.
3. Create new routines to follow
It’s critical to maintain your sense of self in the midst of all the changes, and adopting healthy, uplifting rituals can assist you in doing so. As Leeds shows, life shifts can cause old behaviors to become ineffective or even obsolete. To re-anchor yourself, she proposes cultivating new routines rather than clinging to what is no longer functional but is still familiar. Healthy habits and routines will not only help you stay grounded, but they will also help you feel more secure in your newly transformed life.
4. Include stress-relieving activities in your plan
Last but not least, if you’re suffering from the impacts of stress, Leeds advises that you should take proactive steps to alleviate the situation (which can tie back to No. 3 by way of healthy habits and routines).
It is best to not allow yourself to become stressed. Instead, incorporate periods of rest into your schedule whenever possible. Perhaps you can begin a new activity, begin meditating and exercising more regularly, spend more time in nature, or begin taking a stress-relieving supplement, among other things.
Regardless of what you decide is most calming for you, be sure that while you’re resting, you give yourself perfect permission to let everything else go, according to Leeds.
5. Refrain from using social media.
When you’re going through a difficult time, you could turn to social media to vent your frustrations, perhaps by updating your Facebook pals on what’s going on in your life. To begin, make sure you’re in a calm state when you publish—and remember that what you post never truly vanishes.
Also, remember that most individuals only publish the “highlight reel” of their lives, not the tough moments, if you’re comparing your life to your friends’ lives on social media. This can give you the impression that everyone else’s life is going swimmingly. Everyone is fighting a battle; the only difference is that the fights are fought with different people. If you find yourself comparing your life to others on social media, take a break.
Regarding change and the stress it can create, stick to your foundation of healthy habits and routines, which should include those that assist you handle the tension that is causing the change. With a little patience, support from family and friends, and a little self-compassion, you’ll be settled into your new chapter in no time at all.