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Managing change

We are all aware that change can be very difficult for people to manage. It can leave individuals feeling very unsettled and uneasy.  It can cause anxiety to rise and often people crave a sense of ‘normality’ or their usual routine. As things start to change it can leave them struggling to focus, feeling confused and at times overwhelmed. It is important to remember that while positive things can come as a result of change. The initial management of it can be very scary and very challenging at times.

Change can happen in lots of areas and across many different aspects of people’s lives. While the outcome of change can be good in the end, whatever the change is,  it can bring about some levels of stress, and more often than not, it can be difficult to get used to.

People often feel secure when they know where they stand, and when they feel that they are settled in some kind of routine.  This could for example be there job, perhaps it is where they live, or it could be the relationships that they have in their lives.  When something changes to one or some of these areas it can be hard for people to adapt.

A lot of this has to do with identity.  Where we work, live, who we spend time with, and how we feel about these areas of our lives, all contribute towards a sense of knowing who we are.  When things around us change, people can be left feeling unsettled and questioning things about themselves. 

For example – if someone is made redundant this can naturally be an unsettling and anxious time.  Even if the redundancy is welcome, it can bring about a sense of not knowing what will happen next. It can also lead to individuals feeling unsure about where to go or what to look for in the next chapter of their life. 

While this can bring about excitement – and a time to try something different, it can also leave people feeling worried, anxious, on edge and unsettled.  This can also apply when people leave a job, or when they start a new job.  Even if it has been their decision, and they feel pleased with the change.  The period of adjustment can often be a difficult and daunting one.

Outside of work, moving house, or changing who we are living with, can be difficult for people.  Our home is ideally meant to be a place where we feel safe and settled.  If this changes it can also heighten anxiety and bring up a variety of emotions.  Adapting to a new living environment can be difficult.  Again it can be something that is exciting for some people. But it always brings about some level of stress.

Change can also apply to relationships.  Friendships, family relationships and romantic relationships can at various times break down.  Perhaps they end, or perhaps they go through difficult periods.  Sometimes people can get extremely close, but then dynamics can change, and they no longer feel as close.  All relationships go through a transition of change and evolve as they go along.  People can often find this difficult to deal with and feel very unsure and unsettled when the relationships around them experience change.

Other life changes can happen, for example when people get married, or when they have children.  Or when young people move out, maybe they go travelling or start university, or their first job.  These are significant changes in the ‘stages’ of our lives.  Often – they can be enjoyable and happy times, but equally they can be daunting, hard to cope with and overwhelming.  Sometimes they can bring about questions for people – such as how they think they should be, as a student, mum or wife for example.  People often put immense pressure on themselves to conform to what society expects, and consequently beat themselves up when they don’t feel they are living up to this.

Stages in life can involve a lot of change.  Equally when people feel they are not ‘where they should be’, this can bring up anxiety and a sense of panic.  For example when people turn a certain age they often think they should be married, or should be having children etc.  If they aren’t, and those around them are, then this can leave them feeling inadequate in some ways, as though other people are changing/ moving forward, and they aren’t.  This can be really difficult for people to deal with.

In addition to this, with age, people’s bodies, health and looks can change.  This can be hard for individuals to deal with.  Whether this is around size, shape, hair, the need to slow down etc, it can leave people feeling unsettled.  As people get older things do change a lot and this can be hard to contend with.  For example as children grow up and leave home, parents can be left wondering what to do with this change, or as people retire, maybe they feel unsure as to what to do with their time.  Again, these changes relate to identity, and people have to adapt to the change, and try and make sense of who they are in their lives now, and what their role is.

Ultimately as people we evolve, change and grow/develop.  This as mentioned can be exciting, it can be moving and it can bring about a lot of positive difference.  However it can also raise levels of anxiety, leave people feeling unsettled about who they are.  If you think for example about when someone gets divorced, or when they partner sadly dies.  They are often left with the question, who am I without this person in my life or this sense of not knowing who to be on their own.  This can be so hard for people to contend with.

I always talk to my clients about the fact that change is beautiful in the end. Scary at the start of course and often messy in the middle. But the end always brings something beautiful and positive. We just cant always see it at the time.

So how can we help people to cope with these periods of change? There are a lot of things that can be helpful. Here are some of the most useful strategies –  

  • Focus on the things that are in your control – rather then stressing about the things that are not
  • Make time and space in your week to slow down and reflect. Allow space to process where things are truly at.
  • Focus on your own self care and well being. Make it a priority
  • Keep a journal – a safe place to record your thoughts and feelings
  • Create some structure for your day (this will make you feel calmer)
  • Try to focus on acceptance. Being able to accept the way that things currently are will enable you to feel more at ease.
  • Give yourself time – and during this time be kind and compassionate to yourself
  • Ask for help from your support network whenever you need too
  • Spend time with those that make you feel calmer and more positive
  • Invest your energy wisely – do the things that bring out the best in you
  • Plan ahead where possible. Sometimes you might know if change is occurring soon and planning can enable you to feel more on top of things
  • In general focus on the here and now. Adapt the ‘just for today’ approach and everything will feel a lot more easy to manage
  • Take care of your physical and psychological well being

Finally therapy is a really useful place to explore feelings around change.  It offers a safe place where they can discuss what is going on for them, and they can explore what is coming up for them around the change they are going through.  Ultimately it can help people to understand more about who they are, and what their identity is.  It assists them in getting to know them more and to appreciating, that they haven’t lost themselves to being a wife / mum/ dad etc.  They can work hard in therapy to deal with the change they are going through, the anxiety it is causing, and the panic it may leave them feeling.  Therapy can help people to work through this change and to ultimately feel a sense of still knowing who they are. It also enables them to work towards a place where they feel more grounded in themselves.

Here at your counselling service, we appreciate how difficult change can be.  If you or anyone you know is having a difficult time adjusting to change, or going through some big changes, then counselling could be really useful.  Please feel free to pick up the phone and call 07590 663938 or to e mail