Change is inevitable. You’ll inherit new responsibilities at work, your marriage may go through trials and your roles in life will shift. Even positive changes – a promotion, birth/adoption or new home – can cause inner turmoil. From personal shifts to a changing political climate, adjusting to a new normal can be challenging. You may feel a mix of emotions ranging from joy to sadness and depression.
With nearly every kind of change, stress is part of the equation. Trouble is, when you’re stressed, the pillars of healthy living – eating well, exercise, sleep and social time – tend to fall off your priority list. A better approach is to navigate tumultuous times with these six tips.
- Plan ahead. If you know change is on the horizon, do some prep work. Think about what you might do when an elderly parent falls ill. If your company has been through recent layoffs, consider how you’ll navigate a job change. Change is less stressful when you have a contingency plan in place.
- Reframe your thinking. Figure out what’s going on in your mind when you’re feeling sad and break negative patterns. Once you become aware of negative thoughts, you’re better equipped to shift them to emphasize the positive. For example, instead of “I don’t deserve this raise,” tweak the thought to “I worked hard for this recognition.”
- Take time to reflect. With today’s jam-packed schedules, most people don’t take time to mark or mourn what they’re losing before diving into something new. Rather than numb feelings of sadness with new distractions, give your thoughts a voice. Write in a journal, talk with a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist. You might even consider honoring the loss with a scrapbook, quilt, poem or painting.
- Strive to maintain some normalcy. Structure and routine are comforting, so the more you can maintain your tried-and-true routine in the midst of a change, the better off you’ll be. Go for your usual morning walk, visit the same coffee shop (if you can) and try to stick to your normal sleeping, waking and eating times.
- Create some comfort. Incorporate stress-relieving and enjoyable activities into your day. Listen to relaxing music, meditate, go to the gym or take a warm bath. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s comforting to you – and healthy. Avoid quieting troubling emotions with unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking and gambling. And don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether from a trusted friend or a therapist.
- Count your blessings. Whether you just received a difficult diagnosis or you’re about to start a new job, counting your blessings in a gratitude journal or sharing the top three highlights of your day with a family member at dinner can go a long way toward making you feel less depleted. Even during difficult times things like noticing a starry sky or beautiful sunset or watching a colorful butterfly can act almost like a reset button for your mind.
It’s not uncommon for stress to mount slowly. You might not even recognize it in yourself. The best assessment of your level of stress may be monitoring the comments of the people around you. So pay attention when friends, colleagues and family members mention that you seem irritable or distressed. Most importantly, build a reserve of personal resources so you’re equipped to navigate a change when it strikes. Eat well, exercise, get sufficient shut-eye. Otherwise, even something minor can set you off.