Updated July 2020
[This article was written with Dr. Lindsay Henderson, Director of Psychological Services for Amwell]
Change is hard and yet it happens many times throughout our lives. These changes come in all shapes and sizes – both positive and negative. Perhaps you got a new job or was let go from an old one. Maybe you got a new puppy or had to say goodbye to a friend. No matter what the case may be, adjusting to all types of change can be proven difficult. Luckily, there are coping mechanisms that can help with these adjustments. Our Behavioral Health director, Dr. Lindsay Henderson, shares her top eight tips on coping with change.
- Write it out. Getting your thoughts down on paper helps. Dr. Henderson recommends writing pros and cons lists. “By writing things out, especially as pros and cons, you are able to take a step back and evaluate your situation. This is a step I always recommend to my patients, but it’s a mechanism I constantly use, as well. After you see your situation down on paper, you quickly realize you’re either over or under-reacting and this usually helps one tackle the change.”
- Allow yourself time to adjust. It’s normal to have a tough time adjusting to change, but this feeling will not last forever. Be realistic with yourself and recognize that you are only human! Change puts us out of our comfort zones and it will be near impossible to adjust to these changes as quickly as desired. Give yourself the time to adjust and know that it will get better.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Did you know that your body is designed to release 70 percent of its toxins through breathing? If you think about the times you’ve been overwhelmed, angry, stressed, etc. you can probably feel your body tense up and your muscles constrict. By taking a moment to slow your breath, you are telling your body to relax and release those unwanted toxins. If deep breathing isn’t enough for you to relax, give meditation a try. With hundreds of free meditation apps and courses online, you can try it anytime.
- Take care of yourself. Self-care is critical and yet often forgotten when overcoming a major change. It’s necessary for an individual to be aware of their health and hygiene during these adjustments. Remember to take care of yourself by showering, sleeping, eating appropriately, tidying up, talking to friends, and whatever else helps you feel mentally and physically nourished.
- Make time for yourself. If you’re going through a rough patch, it’s crucial for you to do whatever it is that makes you happy. Whether it’s going for a walk down the street or planning a bucket list trip, do something small (or big) that makes you smile.
- But don’t isolate yourself. While making time for yourself is one of Dr. Henderson’s tips, she recommends limiting this time. When dealing with any sort of emotional struggle, you don’t want to isolate yourself more than necessary. Human interaction and support is critical to feeling well and navigating change. So, make time for yourself, but remember, you’re not alone.
- Set realistic goals. When you’re trying to cope with a difficult change, it is important to set achievable goals for yourself. Break things down into smaller steps – baby steps are still steps, after all, you have to start somewhere. Nothing is going to change overnight, so no need to fret about something you cannot control.
- Talk to someone. If you need someone to talk to, Amwell has therapists available for on-demand and scheduled visits. Or, grab a friend or neighbor and go for a cup of coffee. Talk about your struggles or don’t – it doesn’t matter! The important takeaway here is that getting the support you need, talking about the change, or getting it down on paper, will help lighten your load.
Hopefully, these tips help as you cope with a difficult time in your life or a positive change that requires intense personal growth. Just remember – change can be hard for everyone, whether good or bad, and you don’t have to go at it alone.