Coping with change is stressful, even when it’s positive and welcome. Too much stress at once, or even a moderate amount of stress over a long period of time, can be unhealthy. It is important to strive for balance. People who experience a lot of changes in a brief period—within a year, for instance—are more likely to experience an accident or illness within that period than people who face fewer.
During times of change and high stress, remember that regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep is needed to maintain your ability to cope. Evaluate your life on a regular basis—every few months or so—to determine how many significant changes you are experiencing. Just being aware will make it easier for you to understand and deal with the stress that almost always accompanies change.
The physical symptoms of change can be unsettling, to say the least. Change can cause all sorts of stress-related symptoms and disorders, such as headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, muscle tension and backaches, high blood pressure and cardiac problems, impaired immune response, depression or anxiety, irritability, overeating or not eating enough, or alcohol or drug abuse.
If possible, schedule planned changes so that not too many occur at once. For example, if you’re getting married, buying a new house, and coping with an ailing parent, it’s probably a good idea to hold off on looking for a new job until you’ve had time to adjust to these other changes.
When you find yourself faced with an unexpected change, take a moment to evaluate your emotional response. Ask yourself how you’re feeling. Are you happy, sad, scared, angry, threatened, resentful, excited, or indifferent? After you’ve determined what you’re feeling, it can help to ask yourself some or all of the following questions:
- Is my reaction justified?
- Is the intensity of my reaction justified by the facts?
- Am I overreacting, or misinterpreting?
- Is there another way to look at this? Is there an opportunity here?
- Are there aspects of this situation that I can control?
- Would more information help me cope better with this change?
Learn a relaxation exercise. Relaxation is one of the most effective tools for managing stress and the anxiety or tension that can go along with it. Relaxation helps your body lessen the negative effects of stress and can keep you functioning better physically and mentally.
Don’t expect to have to endure every change alone. Trusted friends, family, coworkers, clergy or professionals such as counselors with your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can assist you in coping with change and building resiliency.