You and I both know that change is a constant and inevitable thing in life. That being said, it doesn’t make it any less difficult at times. Whether it’s small day to day changes or more intense events such as bereavement, I imagine it would be impossible to find someone who hasn’t been upset or frustrated when things go differently than planned or ‘how they used to’. This is especially difficult if you struggle from a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
The thing is, whilst change is unavoidable and can be very irritating, there are ways we can cope and grow from it. Before we get to this though, I would like to discuss with you the most common forms of change and how they can cause major stress or upset in a person’s life.
Change in Employment:
I’m sure this one is of no surprise. Our workplaces can be a stressful or frustrating place for many of us, be it due to toxic co-workers or being in a high-pressure position, and this isn’t even factoring change into the mix. However, taking this already common workplace anxiety and throwing a spanner of change in the works can make things way worse.
With this reason, I’m not solely talking about losing your job or finding a new one. These are in fact incredibly stress-inducing events, especially with the coronavirus pandemic and millions of workers being let go or placed on furlough. More commonly, our work stress can come from smaller events such as changes in leadership, procedure or staff. You may have found your role very comfortable then all of a sudden in comes a new manager who decided they would like things done another way. Suddenly it’s a very different atmosphere, and one you’re not used to, so of course it can be stressful.
I have first-hand experience in trying to deal with change in my own workplace, which has proven quite a difficult task but one I continue to work on. This particular stress thankfully didn’t come in the form of job loss or extreme changes in leadership or staff, but instead through updating and complicating our existing procedures. Since last March, almost every process in my office has been altered drastically in order to facilitate the larger change going on in the world. Whilst this has caused me quite a lot of annoyance and frustration as I don’t particularly agree with all of the changes, I have been coping using some of the methods discussed later in this post.
Common Sources of Employment Stress:
- Getting Fired or Furloughed
- Quitting your Job
- Finding a new Job
- Starting a new Job
- Promotion/Demotion to New Role
- Change in Leadership
- Change in Procedure
- Change in Staff
Change in Your Relationships:
This aspect, like the previous and also the following, is quite generalised. Though this is due to the concept of change being constant, uncontrollable and uniquely different for each individual. Within this specific area of change I would like to cover three separate topics: romantic relationships, biological relationships, and our friendships.
Changes to our romantic relationships can be one of the hardest and most challenging forms of change which many people face every day. In the UK alone (as of 2019) it is estimated that 42% of marriages end in divorce. Just below half, and that isn’t even factoring in those who are separated. Due to all of us being individuals with choice and free-will, it is common that we just aren’t a right fit with someone else, but that doesn’t take away the devastation after ending a relationship with someone you’ve been around consistently for any significant period of time. This stress doesn’t always come in the form of separation however, as it can be equally anxious to start a new romantic relationship which will also involve a lot of changes over time.
Family is a topic I haven’t approached much on this blog just yet, and for good reason, but I feel I should mention changes to relationships with parents and/or siblings and how this can be a huge source of pressure or concern. Be it due to separation of family members or new family feuds, your biological family can sometimes be the hardest to keep up with. It may seem easy for some, but family never is.
Finally, I wanted to mention changes to friendships and how they can lead to stress and anxiety. It’s not just life that changes, people do too, yourself included. However, this change won’t always be something you like. With time, it’s possible for friendships to drift apart due to the individuals changing or going down different paths and after being close for years this can be a difficult situation to adjust to. This can also go both ways and you could be worried about the changes that come with starting new friendships if they are different from the ones in your past.
Common Sources of Relationship Stress:
- Ending a Romantic Relationship
- Starting a Romantic Relationship
- Change in Situation (e.g Long Distance)
- Family Feuds
- Family Separation
- Ending a Friendship
- Starting New Friendships
- General Growth of Individuals
Experiencing Bereavement and Loss:
It’s never an easy adjustment when someone we are close to passes away. It doesn’t matter if you see this person every single day or just now and then, whenever someone simply stops being around, it can take time and space to come to terms with it. This can lead us to feeling like we have no control or are lost in our lives now that a key component has went away and can’t be brought back.
This loss doesn’t just apply to other people in your life, but can also extend to our pets. Whilst I know not everyone is as crazy about animals as I am, there are countless people just like me who would take the loss of their furry friend just as hard as any other bereavement.
With the coronavirus pandemic over the past year, this change has unfortunately become even more common. Over 2 million people have died due to the virus, and due to the sudden and drastic nature of this death, it can make it an even harder process to accept. My partner’s grandfather was one of the unlucky ones, and his family are still having a difficult time coming to terms with the loss after his gradual decline due to Covid-19 and the uncertainty around memorialising him.
I didn’t want to linger on this section of the article any longer for a few reasons. Firstly, we’re all familiar with death and loss, it’s something I plan to discuss in a future post, and with everything going on at the minute I don’t think we need the constant reminder. Secondly, and more important, this article isn’t only about the doom and gloom of how change makes us upset and depressed, but how to cope with change and grow from it. So, moving on, here are my notes on learning how to manage these feelings.
Common Sources of Bereavement Stress:
- Coming to terms with a sudden passing
- Sorting funeral arrangements
- Changes to financial situation
- Arguments occurring when people are upset
- Changes to living situation
- General feelings of feeling lost
The 3 A’s of Coping:
The first step in the healing process can often be the trickiest. Before we can begin to adjust and stabilise, we have to be willing to admit that something is wrong in the first place. Even with minor changes this can still be a difficult process. Many of us, when something drastic changes in our lives that we didn’t plan, want to immediately go back to what we are used to and comfortable with. However, this only amplifies our feelings of frustration when we realise that this isn’t an option.
To be clear I’m not saying when things change that you aren’t allowed to feel. Be sad, be angry, be jealous. Feeling these emotions can be totally normal and by no means make you a horrible person, but you also must be willing to accept the changes that cause them in order to prevent the feelings from doing damage to your mental health in the long term. It can take time, but the quicker changes are accepted, the faster we can move on to our next stage in coping:
With the big changes in life, it’s reasonable to take your time to come to terms with the finer details. When you’ve managed to accept these, you then have to adjust to ‘what happens now?’. If you have just ended a long-term relationship, you maybe have to adapt to finding a new place to live or discussing arrangements with your ex. If someone in your life has passed away, you may need to adjust to not seeing them when you used to or not having the same plans as before.
This step in the process is definitely easier said than done but it is essential. I know that it can be easy to want things to go back to the way they were, but to paraphrase the old adage, time waits for nobody. I don’t know how many times, including these recent months, that I have looked at the world and wished things would ‘go back to normal’. Though, when I really started to think about it, I realised that normal isn’t a stagnant thing, but something that changes and adapts with us. It’s impossible to go back.
In order to move forward we need to address this head on, and control what we can. You may not be able to control the change itself, but if you’re struggling or still upset from it, you can control how to make yourself feel better. Choosing to look after yourself in the process of adjustment is just as important as eventually coming out the other side. Talk to someone about your struggles, try some self-care remedies that work for you, just do it while moving forward and without dwindling on what you aren’t able to change.
I’ve said it about a hundred times at this point, but it bears repeating: Change is scary, it’s complicated and challenging. Though when it comes down to it, as blunt as it may seem, you can either stay in place and be upset whilst everything around you continues to change, or you can accept this change, adjust to it and begin to grow.
“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”-Abraham Maslow
It may not be as easy as just flipping a switch and getting on with it, but evening a ‘fake it until you make it’ approach can provide us with a springboard for learning from our actions. How often do you look back on some change in the past that terrified you and then thought to yourself “that was nothing compared to this”? Back then I’m sure it wasn’t nothing, but it goes to show how often we can initially overreact to the challenges and changes ahead of us. We can also look back on these previous instances in order to learn how we got through it, and apply each of these lessons to current struggles with change that may occur.
This 3-A’s method may not go about solving all of your problems, but it has helped me a lot in the past and it is a starting point. Truth is, with a lot of the topics on this blog, there aren’t really direct fixes to problems, because all of us react to things in our own unique way. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s okay, but there isn’t any harm in trying. We’re all just winging it when it comes to keeping up with the changes life throws at us.
I know we’re all currently in the process of adjusting to a lot of change at once in the world, and with it I’m sure there will be even more challenges to face, but as long as we take our time and keep trying we’ll come out better on the other side.
If you enjoyed reading this be sure to follow my blog for more mental health and self-care content. How has change affected you recently? How do you manage big changes? Do you have a different method for getting through those rough patches? Let me know in the comments down below.
If you’re experiencing any of the feelings described in this post such as depression or anxiety, or know somebody who is, then there are many things you can do to help. Talking to somebody about how you or they are feeling can be very beneficial. If you’re not sure what to do but need urgent help, there are many emergency hotlines that provide support and encouragement such as Mind.org and Samaritans.org. You’re not alone in feeling this way, others are there to help.