DO YOU STRUGGLE TO COPE WITH CHANGE?
Big life changes can be both exciting and overwhelming. In this post, I’m going to share with you 5 simple ways to cope with change. These are the main habits, strategies and mindset shifts I have been leaning on during this exciting time of big life changes.
What big changes am I referring to?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
My family and I are currently in the process of downsizing from our 3000 sq foot, 4 bedroom house into a 40 ft fifth wheel tiny home. This means two adults, 3 year old twins and 3 rescue dogs in a “house” the size of our current living room.
We are also currently preparing to head up north to the Northwest Territories for 3 months where I will work as a temporary locum doctor in a new hospital and acclimate to a new community.
These are big changes that we have been planning for and anticipating for a long time. That being said, even though they’re positive and exciting, they are STRESSFUL.
So I want to share how I have been directing my time, energy and mindset so that I can cope during this stressful time.
If you struggle to cope with change, I think these 5 simple ways to cope with change that will help you A LOT!
Prefer to listen rather than read? Head over and listen to Episode 18 of the Mind Over Motherhood Podcast!
A LOT OF CHANGE IN A SHORT TIME
So, we are experiencing a lot of change and a lot of transition in a very short time.
Periods of transition can be so incredibly stressful, not only for the “grown-ups” who are doing all the work, but also for children.
If you struggle with anxiety, like I do, periods of intense transition can be very overwhelming and can really throw your anxiety management for a loop.
Finding ways to cope with change has been vital to us enjoying this big transition!
5 SIMPLE WAYS TO COPE WITH CHANGE
NOW IS THE TIME TO DOUBLE-DOWN ON SELF-CARE
So the number one thing I recommend to help you cope with change is the one thing that tends to go to the wayside the quickest, and that is your self-care routine.
So if you’ve listened to my podcast or you follow me at all, you will be well aware that I am a huge advocate for creating and maintaining a regular self-care routine.
A daily self-care routine or ritual helps you take time out of the day to really reflect and take care of the body and mind that you inhabit.
SEE BELOW TO GET MY ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CREATING A SELF-CARE ROUTINE THAT STICKS!
It is imperative to create and maintain this routine when your life is “status-quo,” when you’re not undergoing any huge life transitions. In fact, when your life is “stable” is the best time to get a self-care routine really established.
SELF-CARE IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT, BUT EVEN MORE SO NOW
However, it’s during periods of intense stress that we really reap the benefits of the hard work of creating a self-care routine.
If you’ve taken the time to really establish a routine before everything goes crazy, and before your “regular” is no longer “routine,” then it becomes easier to stick to when you’re in periods of intense change.
The first thing to usually be pushed to the side during a big transition is the one thing we need to focus on the most.
It is easy to understand why this happens as we often have a LOT more to do when we’re going through change. All of a sudden, our To-Do List is a LOT longer and self-care just doesn’t seem to fit.
However, when you forget or neglect your regular self-care routine, everything else in your life suffers. You’re more irritable, more tired, feel sluggish and have more anxious or negative thoughts.
During periods of intense change is exactly when you need to be functioning optimally, and so NOW more than ever it is important to double-down on self-care.
Taking care of yourself during a transition means getting regular exercise, keeping a regular sleep routine and making sure to eat and fuel your body properly. It also means avoiding substances that may make your system feel sluggish (like alcohol).
REMEMBER: YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO NEEDS SELF-CARE
Yes, I know, I’m usually the one you go to to read “taking care of YOURSELF is important” and that is still 100% true.
BUT in times of intense transition, it is not just YOU who is feeling stressed. Your whole family may struggle to cope with change.
One strategy I highly encourage during periods of intense change is to ensure your whole family is getting the care they need to feel their best.
This means prioritizing exercise for everyone (even the dogs!)
Let’s face it, when kids and dogs are cooped up and feeling stressed, they cause more trouble and chaos. We need LESS chaos in our life right now, so we make sure to get everyone out for a walk or play outside every day.
We also prioritize sleep for our kids and are making sure they nap every other day (at minimum). That way, they feel their best and we get a break to get some stuff done. WIN WIN.
COPE WITH CHANGE WITH SELF-COMPASSION AND FORGIVENESS
This next strategy is not as tactical as the others, but it is important nonetheless. I promise you if you can keep COMPASSION AND FORGIVENESS in the forefront of your mind as you try to cope with change, it will just make things so much easier for yourself.
We tend to forget is that even if we are making a good or positive transition, the period of transition itself will come with stress and negative emotions.
My husband and I are very excited about moving into our trailer and we’ve been waiting on this for a really long time.
It can be easy to think that this transition is just supposed to be all positive. I’ve often had the thought that we’re supposed to be happy and getting along through the whole process.
In reality, if you have ever done anything positive (even going on vacation), there is an inevitable degree of stress. There are more to-dos that pile on top of our “regular” list and this increases our stress level. We tend to forget that this happens.
AS HUMANS, WE HAVE A LOW CAPACITY FOR COPING WITH EXTRA STRESS
So now we have all this extra stress on top of our “regular stress.”
Depending on your ability to cope with your “regular stress” level, any extra stress on top of your normal causes you to feel overwhelmed and chaotic.
When we are taxed more than usual, our reactions are not always positive. We are often more irritable, short-tempered and argumentative. We’re stressed!
We then react in ways that we don’t prefer. We snap at our kids or start silly arguments with our partners.
What follows is shame and guilt. We feel awful about how we reacted. This can send us into a shame and worry loop, which quickly can descend into second-guessing about our path or this upcoming change.
This is SO NOT NECESSARY.
It is IMPERATIVE during periods of change MORE THAN EVER to have compassion for yourself and how you’re behaving.
We must seek to forgive ourselves for behaving in ways that we don’t like, and move on.
5 SIMPLE WAYS TO COPE WITH CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE
COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION
I’m going to be straight with you: crystal clear and consistent communication is absolutely critical during periods of big life changes.
Whether it’s with your partner or children, it’s imperative that you communicate how you are feeling, what your needs are and what your priorities are in a given situation.
I make an intentional point of checking in with my husband regularly (daily usually) and just asking him how he’s doing as we go through these busy weeks.
Sometimes, he’s “totally fine.”
Other times, he’s “losing his mind.”
And if I didn’t ask, I might not have known how he felt. I might not have been as patient with him or stepped in to help him with the kids if I assumed he was “doing fine” when he wasn’t.
The same goes for telling your partner how you’re feeling and where you’re at. If they don’t know how you’re feeling, they can’t help you when you need it.
If they don’t know what your priorities are, they’re inevitably going to focus on getting their to-dos checked off or focusing on what is priority for them.
Energy levels, anxiety levels, patience levels and priorities are all important things to communicate during periods of big life changes.
DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY
So when you’re under increased periods of stress, it’s very common for you to be more snappy, more irritable and not act like your normal patient self.
It’s important to realize that this is not a personal reaction to someone, but a general reaction to the situation.
When you’re going through a big life change, try to not take anything personally when it comes to disagreements with your partner.
It is HUMAN to be more reactive, irritable and tense when in periods of change.
It’s just a reaction to the stress of the situation itself.
SAME CHANGES, BUT DIFFERENT PRIORITIES
If you’re going through a transition with a partner, it’s important to continually remind yourself that you and your partner have different priorities in this situation.
My husband and I do things DIFFERENTLY. We focus on different things and see different things as important. This is good and what makes us such a great team!
In every relationship, it is natural for us to gravitate to the things that we’re better at, or we’re more skilled at managing. So for example, Ryan’s doing a lot of the mechanical things in the trailer and making sure all of our systems are prepared.
In contrast, I’m focusing more on the downsizing going through a lot of our things in the house, deciding what is being sold, what is coming in the trailer, etc.
Sometimes it can be easy to forget that while we’re making the same transition, we’re not always on the same page about what is priority. The priorities I have and the things I want to focus on might not jive with what he wants to focus on.
So it’s really important to keep in mind that we all have different expectations and we all have very different priorities as we go through the same transition. We also need to talk about these priorities regularly.
CHECKING IN FREQUENTLY IS KEY TO COPE WITH CHANGE
One strategy that Ryan and I have really focused on is asking each other, “What do you want to get done today? What is priority for today?”
Some of the priorities are the same, such as getting exercise and walking the dogs. Many times however, our lists are completely different. THAT IS OK!
It’s only through discussing our individual priorities for each day that we can anticipate and make sure that our family is set up to meet each of our goals, and we can be mindful of how the other partner may need us to help them meet their goals (ie. watching the girls).
By being more intentional about communicating our priorities and needs, we keep everything running smoothly and prevent unnecessary arguments and upheaval in an already stressful time.
COPE WITH CHANGE BY SETTING BOUNDARIES
As in almost every time in our lives, it’s important to be protecting our time and energy so it can be directed to the most important things in our life.
During times of intense change and transition, this is even more important.
When you’re moving, or making a big change, there is SO much to be done and much of it is important. You NEED to have enough energy, enough time and enough cognitive resources to get everything done.
In order to do this, you must be ruthless with where you spend your limited time and energy.
Big periods of change are not the time to spend your energy on tasks that are draining, unimportant or not serving you.
It’s also important to have boundaries around buffering activities during these stressful times. Inevitably, when you’re feeling more stress, you buffer more. You may drink more wine or watch more Netflix.
I have been intentional about limiting my Netflix-watching to 1-2 episodes max when I watch, and making sure I’m in bed by 10pm. I’ve also been very intentional about consuming alcohol as my brain tries to numb the stress I’m feeling.
I don’t (and CANNOT) waste my valuable time and energy on things that are not serving my goals and priorities. To do this, I set firm boundaries and constraints around how I manage my time, what I devote my energy to and what I get wrapped up in.
I’M ALSO ESTABLISHING BOUNDARIES AROUND MY NEED FOR THINGS TO BE PERFECT
When we’re stressed, our coping mechanisms come out full blast.
For me (and for many people), our anxiety causes us to grip onto perfectionism and expect every single minute of the big change we’re making be “right” or “perfect.”
We also may feel that we need to 100% maintain the exact habits or workload that we had been in our business as well. I know for myself I’ve had to let things slide in my business during these intense times.
I cannot focus my energy everywhere, and if everything is a priority, then NOTHING IS.
MANTRAS AND AFFIRMATIONS
The inevitable is going to happen. You will freak out, second-guess your choices or decisions, and wonder if you’ve made a massive mistake. Using mantras is a powerful strategy to help you cope with change.
For me, this looks like having an overwhelmed moment, freaking out at my kids and feeling ashamed, wondering what are we thinking?! We’re moving in to a TRAILER? Will we survive? If I can’t keep my sh*t together in my house, how am I going to survive in a trailer?!
These moments are inevitable, so we might as well plan for them.
One way that I plan for this inevitability is to use MANTRAS.
Here are a few of my favourites:
It won’t always be this way.
I find this mantra particularly helpful when I’m facing stress during a big change. When we feel powerful negative emotions about an experience, it can be easy to attribute the negative emotion to the outcome/decision we have made, rather than to the stress of change itself.
In these moments, I consciously remind myself that it won’t always be this stressful. The beautiful thing about change is that it’s always happening and what is hard now, won’t be hard later.
By remembering the constant of change, and that things are always evolving, it can be easier to let go of the difficulty of the current moment and realize that it will get easier.
Everything is happening for me.
This is a big one for me!
Another inevitability about making changes is that there will be obstacles and road bumps along the way. No big change happens smoothly, and sometimes we’ll be thrown off course.
The key to coping with these obstacles is to shift from feeling like they’re happening TO US to affirming that they’re happening FOR US.
If you refused to see an obstacle as an obstacle, but instead saw it as an opportunity for growth and redirection, does it not feel easier to tackle?
For us, this mantra came particularly in handy when we realized we did not have a system for black water (sewage) management at our future RV site. As expected, this plunged us into second-doubt world and wondering whether we’d made a massive mistake.
HOW IS THIS HAPPENING FOR US?
Until we shifted to gratitude and thought, “How is this happening FOR us? How is this shifting us towards a greater good?”
We realized that an option we had since been intimidated by was suddenly becoming more acceptable: COMPOSTING TOILETS (I’ll spare you the details).
Essentially, by seeing what appeared to be an OBSTACLE as an OPPORTUNITY for redirection and the universe supporting us in our journey, we actually made a decision that was more aligned with our greater vision.
By investing in composting toilets, not only did we allow ourselves to stay on the site we planned, but made ourselves more FLEXIBLE in the future as we no longer have to be tied to a sewage system (full hookups). More flexibility and off-grid capacity is our long-term goal.
This is the power of understanding things are happening FOR you rather than TO YOU.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
BIG CHANGES ARE HARD AND THEY STRESS US TO THE MAX.
By incorporating these 5 key habits and strategies, you can make it easier for yourself to cope with big life changes:
- Double-down on self-care (and this means for everyone in the family!)
- Focus on compassion + forgiveness (stress = bad behaviour, be kind and forgive others and YOURSELF!)
- Communicate! (Don’t take anything personally and realize different priorities are GOOD!)
- Boundaries and constraints are key (time, energy and money boundaries are vital!)
- Practice using mantras and affirmations (pick ones you like or use mine!)
How do you cope with change?
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AUTHOR: DR. CARLY CREWE, MD
Dr. Carly Crewe MD is a mom to twin toddlers, a medical doctor specializing in maternal mental health AND an Anxiety + Mindset Coach for Moms and Mompreneurs who are stuck in overwhelm, self-doubt and indecision.
Carly uses a combination of cognitive behavioural strategies, life coaching techniques and motivational interviewing to support moms to quiet the chaos in their lives and master their mindset so that they can build the life (and online business) that they dream of, without sacrificing their role as a mother.