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How to Cope with Overwhelming Change

Sometimes the simplest things can have the biggest impact.

The only constant in our human lives is change. We are forever evolving and growing, as are our surroundings and the people in them. Change is simply something we can not evade, no matter how much we try. However, that doesn't mean that change is always easy, even if it's a change you've chosen to make yourself.

Photo by Fabien Bazanegue on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Fabien Bazanegue on Unsplash

Whether it's moving, changing your job, or breaking up a relationship, change can feel overwhelming. It can make you feel unsettled, lost and insecure. It can make you question the choice you made to make the change or desperate to understand the meaning of a change you didn't ask for. These are all natural sensations to have, especially when you're knee deep in it.

It's easier to see the growth and purpose of change once it's passed, yet when you're in the eye of the storm it can feel impossible to comprehend. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can learn to feel calmer and more confident in the midst of change - and it doesn't even have to be hard.

In fact, it can be as easy as doing any one or more of these six things:

1. Recognize that it's OK to feel this way.

If you're feeling overwhelmed or drained by the change you're going through, the worst thing you can do is beat yourself up about the way you feel. This will only make you feel worse, and unnecessarily so. The minute you stop fighting how you're feeling and instead make peace with it, the easier it becomes. In fact, you're very likely to feel an immediate sense of relief simply by saying how you feel. That's because you're giving your emotions, whatever they may be, more space to breathe and hence they're less likely to become internalized and overpowering.

2. Acknowledge that this too shall pass.

Everything passes. The only permanence is impermanence. Nothing is ever fixed and that includes every situation you are going through. Even the change in itself, and especially how you feel about it, will pass. Simply acknowledging that whatever you're going through is not permanent will help you to feel calmer about it. Naturally, if you've lost your job or lost a loved one, unfortunately, they will not come back. However, how you feel about the loss will change with time and healing.

3. Be extra kind to yourself.

Change takes more out of you than you think. Even if it's a change that you've done before, like changing jobs or moving countries, it's still a new change. It can be draining and you have to make sure you are kind to yourself when you're going through it. Don't expect your usual focus, performance or productivity from yourself, and don't try to add other, unnecessary new tasks onto your plate. Do what you know you need to do and spend the rest of your time recovering. Remember, you're only human. You're not expected to be your usual self during change. Nobody is.

4. Remind yourself of previous instances of change you overcame.

Think of previous challenging times that you overcame. This will remind you that you are capable of going through challenges. Remind yourself that you are older and wiser today than you were then, and you still got through it. If you want to take it a step further, you can ask yourself what made you overcome that change - and then repeat the same steps for the current change you're going through.

5. Celebrate the positives.

These positives might be tiny little steps you take forward to feel more in control. If you've just moved house, it could be reorganizing one shelf in your kitchen cupboard. If you've just started a new job, it could be introducing yourself to one person in the office. The positives could also be simply noticing some of the nice things about your new scenario. For example, if you've just moved from the buzzing city to a quiet countryside, you can appreciate the calm around you. If you've left an unhappy job to go freelance, you can say thanks for being able to manage your own schedule and ways of working.

6. Seek support.

You do not have to go through this alone. Ask for support from your loved ones in any way you feel you need it. Seek others who are going through similar change so you can together talk about getting through it. You can even seek professional help from a therapist or life coach. They are trained to deal with situations like this and are incentivized to help you through it.

Finally, if you're looking for philosophical inspiration, take the words of Socrates to heart: "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." Good luck.

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