Change large and small constantly happens in our lives, without the right coping strategies this can have a detrimental impact on our mental health and is one of the biggest causes of stress. Understanding more about the process of change and choosing how we react can be a real game changer in managing our wellbeing. The recent Covid-19 crisis has left many reeling from the amount of change and lack of control, but it's important to remember we can gain control over how we react.
Stages of Change There are four stages of change which our brains will work through to process the new situation, sometimes you will move backwards and forwards between these stages, they are not always linear. These stages of change can be used to understand our reactions and move forward whether this is changes at work, a relationship ending, illness, bereavement or any other changes within our lives.
Shock and disorientation.
It is perfectly normal to have these reactions to change, acknowledging the shock helps you to normalise the process. In the initial stage of coping, you'll likely feel confused and uncertain. Your first priority should be to seek support, talk to someone you trust and gain reliable information to help make sense of the situation.
Anger and other emotional responses.
You might be angry about a change, or fearful about the impact on others. Even if the change is something that you've instigated, you may find yourself swinging between optimism and pessimism. This is quite natural, as our brain tries resolving the situation. It's important not to suppress your emotions but bring awareness to them and express how you are feeling to someone you trust.
Coming to terms with the "new normal."
During this stage, your focus will likely start to shift away from what you've lost and toward what's new. This process may be slow, and you might be reluctant to acknowledge it, but it's an essential part of coping with change. The key here is to make a commitment to the future. Start to explore more deeply what the change means, search for the positive aspects. But remember, coming to terms with change is a gradual process, be patient.
Acceptance and moving forward.
Acceptance doesn't mean giving up entirely on your former situation. You'll have valuable memories, skills and relationships to carry forward, but the point is that you are moving forward. Reflect on your learning from the past and set yourself goals and create an action plan to make the most of your new situation.
We have two ways of coping with change - escape or control coping, with a major life change we often respond with a mixture of both.
Escape coping is based on avoidance. You take deliberate actions to avoid the difficulties of the change. For instance, you might deliberately miss training for a new working process, or ignore opportunities to discuss your relationship with your partner. Some people take refuge in alcohol or drugs. Escape coping wastes time and energy, it can lead to stress and ill health, avoidance is not a solution it just builds up further issues and means you ignore what is important in your life. Control coping on the other hand, is positive and proactive. You refuse to behave like a "victim" of change. Instead, you manage your feelings, get support, and do whatever you can to be part of the change. Spend time listing what you can control in the situation, there are always things you can do: e.g ask to have a meeting with your manager or spend time discussing with your partner what can be improved in your relationship. Self Care Change can be stressful so make sure you are doing all you can to look after yourself; eating and sleeping well, along with sharing how you feel. Prioritise self care activities that work for you- exercise, relaxation techniques, getting outside or switching off and having fun with friends or family.