If there's one thing we can count on in life, it's change. While some of us can jump right into a big life change, most of us can remember a time when change left us feeling upset, stressed or overwhelmed.
But not all change is equal. Sometimes—as in the case of a new baby or a longed-for kitten or puppy—we know what to expect and are happy about it, and yet we might still find the transition hard to manage. Other times, a relationship or a job we thought would last forever comes to a crashing end and we're left feeling hijacked.
Though we can try to avoid change, doing so can actually make us miss out on opportunities. And no matter how hard we try to control the course of life, we all know at heart that there is no way to opt out of its inevitable changes.
The good news is there are plenty of tools to help us cope with change. The more skilled we are at managing life's fluctuations, the more we can reduce the stress, anxiety, worry and depression that can accompany them. And whether we realize it or not, we all have these abilities—often called resilience—but some of us need to dig a little deeper to find them. And what's more, the skills we learn to help cope with life's inevitable changes are the same abilities that help us face other challenges. Following are five things that can really help when confronted with any change, big or small, happy or sad.
Be kind to yourself. The first thing to remember when facing a change or loss is that you are not alone. There is no one on the planet that hasn't endured a difficult or wrenching transition. So an important rule is to be gentle and treat yourself with the care and compassion you'd show a loved one. When a hard change comes, reach out to trusted friends and family for support, take extra time to rest and consider talking with a health professional if things feel overwhelming.
Check in with yourself. Sometimes we're not even aware of worst case-scenario thinking or how we talk to ourselves. If you're stuck in the negative, try to give yourself a break, at least for a while. Negative thought patterns can be hard to break and can keep you stuck in old habits. Try a gratitude practice — one of the most effective ways to let some sunlight in and break a negative thought cycle.
Be flexible. Trying to control situations tends to make us rigid and tense. If we can just relax our grip on what we think is the best course to allow possibilities to arise, we sometimes find the change that's happening is the change we need. Acceptance is a skill that will serve you through life. This is not to be confused with giving up, but knowing that there are certain things that are out of our control.
See the positives. This does not mean be cheerful at any cost. Loss sometimes requires a lot of time, care and help to readjust. But sometimes we can be so focused on a change that we don't see the opportunities or silver linings. Though painful, the end of a relationship or a job can send us into a tailspin, but it can also open up the time and space to reassess what we truly care about, what we may have missed out on and what new paths we might pursue.