Health: Four ways to cope with life’s big changes
Stephanie Betschart, August 10, 2017
Life transitions are unsettling. They challenge our identity. Going to university, starting a new job, moving home, getting married, getting divorced, the kids leaving home, losing your job, starting a new job… Any big change, even a happy change, can leave us feeling shaken and less sure of who we are.
Our minds are designed to reinforce what we already know and believe and to promote habitual behaviour. Routine helps us to function more effectively, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day when we get up. But at the same time, it can make it hard to grow, move on and embrace our full potential. Change forces us out of automatic pilot.
A life transition, unnerving as it can be, is something to be celebrated. They are opportunities to shed your old skin so you can regrow a new one, embodying the wisdom gained on the way.
1 – Acknowledge it’s a big deal
It will probably feel uncomfortable, you may experience resistance, self-doubt or anxiety, and that is totally normal. Especially if the change is unwanted, grief or shock may be your strongest emotion. It’s ok to admit that you’re scared. Courage is about feeling those feelings and getting on with it anyway. Rituals, such as rites of passage, are integrative ways to acknowledge the situation and help us release and normalise the emotions associated with that change.
2 – Don’t try to be a superhero
When something big happens, it’s easy to think we should carry on as normal, but it’s often not realistic.
Try ‘commitment cropping’, a well-known resilience tool: resist the temptation to take on new commitments, delegate, consider dropping activities that are not essential – except exercise, and take time off when you need to.
3 – Seek refuge in what is not changing
When everything is new or changing, it can feel both exhilarating and unsettling. But, there will also be some things in your life that are still more or less the same as before. Familiarity can be grounding and nourishing at times of change. Visit family or go a familiar walk in nature to remind yourself that not everything in your life is new.
4 – Be willing to turn the page and step into the new chapter
Transitions are full of potential. They offer a unique in-between time when we’ve thrown away our old shoes but haven’t yet stepped into the new ones. This give us an opportunity to redefine ourselves. So, give yourself permission to dream. If the kids have left home, what opportunities does the free time give you? Moving to a new house could help create that lifestyle you always wanted. A different job could give you the chance to express yourself in new ways.
The circumstances will vary, but the awareness and skills needed to make the most of transitions are the same: patience, kindness and a certain spirit of adventure. Take your time to process the old, dream the new and be generous with yourself.
Stephanie Betschart is a Clinical Hypnotherapist who helps people work through big changes and transitions using relaxation and resilience skills, hypnosis and solution focused dialogue. See: stephanie-hypnotherapy.co.uk