One of the things we all have in common is, no matter what stage of life we’re at, change is always constant. Children have to adjust to new schools and teachers, teenagers and young adults must adapt to college and first loves, adults must learn how to deal with marriage and careers, and older folks must acclimate to empty nests and retirement. No matter our age, we all have to cope with things like death, sickness, coming and going of people, changing seasons, and other unavoidable evolutions. Adjusting to changes in life is a skill we all must learn.
Still, even though change is normal and, at times, even welcome. Acclimating to these different phases can be difficult and stress inducing. How can we make these transitions less anxiety-ridden and more easily accept what life offers? Here are some ideas:
Accept the Impermanence of Life
First, recognize the fact that life never remains the same — not for anyone. If it did, any many ways it would grow boring. Regardless of where you are now, your planned future is not a guarantee. When you accept this principle, it’s easier to “go with the flow” when unexpected things arise. Instead of panicking, you can recognize the event for what it is — a natural change — and focus on how you can make the best of the situation. If something negative arises, such as death or divorce, allow yourself time to grieve but understand you can move on from the incident and still have a fulfilling life.
Recognize Your Feelings
Just because change is natural that doesn’t mean you should dismiss your uneasy or sad feelings as silly. Yes, we all have to deal with things like death, sickness, and job loss, but that commonality doesn’t make your emotions any less valid. Give yourself the opportunity to feel, and if you’re really struggling, consider talking to a therapist or attending a support group. Working through your emotions instead of stifling them can help you enter the next chapter of your life with a healthy mindset.
On the other hand, those who ignore their feelings may see them manifest in other counter-productive ways, such as substance abuse, relationship problems, disengaging from work or family, eating disorders, and more.
If something negative happened because of a poor choice you made, acknowledge your accountability, make amends if necessary, and then move forward. Even if your decision sent your life an entirely new direction, forgiving yourself and understanding that everyone makes mistakes is the only way to get things back on track. Wallowing in self-blame or pity will only compound the problem and keep you stuck in a place of unhappiness. Don’t forget, your current choices define you — not your past.
Also, humans can adapt to almost anything, which means you can always reach a new state of contentment.
Use it as an Opportunity for Growth
Although change is uncomfortable, in most cases we come out the better for it. It forces us out of our comfort zone, makes us see the world in new ways, and ultimately it’s the polish that makes our personalities shine. With each new chapter in our lives we can set new goals and improve as a person. Often the most important way to make a change positive is through a change in viewpoint. In other words, we can either commiserate over the past or design concrete ways to make the most out of our present. Still, improvements don’t happen instantaneously, so remain patient and try to enjoy the journey.
Overall, keep in mind that you have ultimate control over your existence. Even as things fluctuate in your relationships and environment, you choose how to react to those changes. Will you have positive or negative self-talk? Will you give up or make new plans? Only you can answer those questions, but if you find yourself in a life you don’t like — do something about it.
As Maya Angelou said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
If you’re having trouble making those changes on your own, talk to a friend, loved one, or therapist who can help.