Coping with change

Experiencing a sudden, significant change can feel like a physical blow. For example, a global financial crisis may result in substantial losses and redundancies. Or, a sudden bereavement or health issue may change your fundamental outlook on life.

Changes are something we all have to come to terms with at some point in our lives. Below, I’ve made a list of coping strategies which I find helpful. Hopefully, you will find them useful too.

1 Accept things are changing / have changed

Whether our change is pre-planned or unexpected, we may find ourselves fighting it and, therefore, not coming to terms with it straight away. Doing this will only put off having to deal with our new “normal”. But sometimes, accepting that change is inevitable is more manageable and less stressful than putting it off.

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2 Realise that even “good change” can be stressful

Positive change brings its challenges, e.g. moving to a new home means changing location, meeting new people and adapting to a new location. All these things can be stressful, and this is normal. Give yourself time to adjust and fit into your new surroundings. Don’t expect everything to happen overnight.

3 Try and keep to a regular schedule as much as possible

Don’t change too many things when you are going through a period of transition. Try to stick to your every-day routine as much as possible—the fewer changes you have to deal with during a difficult time, the better. If you feel overwhelmed at any time, slow down and remember, “this will pass”. What you are feeling right now is not unusual, and you will learn to adapt in time.

4 Allow yourself a set time to grieve

When my mother passed, I thought my world had come to a halt. I didn’t think I would ever come to terms with not seeing or speaking to her again.

One day, whilst I was feeling low, I remembered a story in the Bible about King David losing his beloved son.

” King David grieved his son whilst he lay ill for seven days. When the child finally died, “David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshipped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request, they served food, and he ate.”

The Bible
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I remember first hearing about this story and finding it difficult to understand how King David could “carry on regardless” after his son died. However, David had already spent a period of time dedicated to grieving before his son’s death.

In the same way, I genuinely believe it helps to give ourselves a set time dedicated to grieving our loved ones, and once this time is spent, we need to move on with our lives. Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting our loved one’s (far from it); it means deciding to live our lives in a way that is honouring their memory.  It is not honouring our loved ones if we allow grief to pull our health down.

If you have lost a loved one recently, give yourself time to grieve and afterwards allow yourself to live again.  It’s what your loved one would have wanted, and it’s the best tribute you can pay someone you cherished, i.e. to carry on with your life as they would have wanted you to do.

5 Dealing with anger

According to Dr Donna Grant, Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford, the reason we might be feeling ‘more tetchy’ than normal could be to do with the sense of loss we’re feeling at the moment due to COVID-19. She explained, “People may be experiencing a loss of routine, a loss of contact with friends, work colleagues, and family, as well as a loss of loved ones through bereavement – all of which can make us feel more irritable and angry.”

And it’s the loss of freedom that could be contributing to our lockdown anger too – which isn’t too much of a surprise. Being cooped up isn’t ideal, especially as restrictions in many areas have been lifted enough to allow for some precarious normality to return to our lives.

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Please note: The following excerpt (italics) has been taken from Lockdown Anger Explained at Woman and Home.

“People have lost their sense of entitlement to be able to do what they want when they want and with whom they want,” Dr Donna said of the initial lockdown. “For those who are living alone, this can result in loneliness and for others who are living within a family unit or with housemates in small spaces, this can result in a lack of personal space and not being left alone…

…Karen Kwong noted that while it’s normal to feel agitated from time-to-time right now, you shouldn’t let any anger fester into something bigger. She said, “It is normal to feel this way for the reasons cited. But it is not normal to feel this way for a prolonged period of time. Short-term bursts of stress can actually help productivity and spur action. However, when something is agitating one for a long period of time, it will lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.

It’s important to remember the basics. Ensure you’re getting a good night’s sleep by investing in the best pillow for your needs and a cozy duvet set, getting plenty of daylight, and staying away from the blue light produced by phones and computer screens at least a few hours before bed. Instill a sense of calm into your day by making time for a quiet period of meditation or reflection each morning and having action plans in place for when negative emotions might be triggered. 

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So how can we address any feelings of irritability practically?

Don’t ignore it – instead, try and turn it into kindness towards yourself

Dr Donna explained, “We should not try to ignore anger as it won’t go away. If anything, it will grow as tension builds, and finally, feelings of frustration and anger will overspill.”

Instead, she suggests treating ourselves as if we were children, and handle our anger as such.

“We need to try and self-soothe through compassion, tenderness and love, as we would do towards a child if they were upset,” Donna said. “It is important to recognise when we are feeling angry and show ourselves kindness, without becoming critical of ourselves for feeling angry. It may help to talk to someone in order to work out what is going on beneath the anger.”

Other self-care techniques can also be invaluable, too.

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Donna said, “Ensuring a good night’s sleep pattern is also very important, as if we don’t sleep well, we can generally feel more irritable. Breathing exercises, mindfulness, yoga and exercise in general are all good self-soothers that can help to bring us back into a state of calm. By self-soothing, anger will naturally dissipate.”

You have to do what’s right for you.

A new survey commission by Healthspan of 2,000 UK residents found that 70% of respondents exercise or go for a walk to ease some of the difficult emotions that recent events have triggered. 72% watch a movie, whilst 63% listen to music and 60% read. Each of these activities helps people to cope and support their mental health in the face of an uncontrollable world.

So whatever makes you feel soothed and positive, remember to focus on this as much as you can.

Try to establish compassion for others

In order to let go of anger, it might be good to try and understand why others are reacting to the situation as they are – even if you don’t agree with it.

Pam Custers told W&H, “The vital component is to have compassion. We are all dealing with things in different ways. We will all be experiencing our personal grief at different stages.”

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“Compassion for ourselves and for others is key. Allow yourself and others some leeway in terms of how they are managing. They may not be themselves right now, but this too will pass…”

To read the full post re: Coping with anger, visit Lockdown Anger at Woman and Home

I hope this post has useful to anyone experiencing a change in their life at this current time. Please drop me a line and let me know if you have found this post helpful in any way. I’d love to hear from you.

NEXT WEEK: 7 Tips for dealing with disappointment

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