Updated: Apr 21, 2020
The one constant in life is change. That doesn't mean we ever get used to it or fully embrace it, though. Here are 10 tips for coping with big changes in your life and coming out a better person for it.
1. Acknowledge that things are changing.
Sometimes we get so caught up in fighting change that we put off actually dealing with it. Denial is a powerful force, and it protects us in many ways. However, stepping outside of it and saying to yourself, "Things are changing, and it is okay" can be less stressful than putting it off.
2. Realize that even good change can cause stress.
Sometimes when people go through a positive life change, such as graduating or having a baby, they still feel a great deal of stress—or even dread. Keep in mind that positive change can create stress just like not-so-positive change. Stress is just your body's way of reacting to change. It's okay to feel stressed even when something good has happened—in fact, it's normal. (If you've just had a baby, talk to your doctor about whether you may be experiencing postpartum depression.)
3. Keep up your regular schedule as much as possible.
The more change that is happening, the more important it is to stick to your regular schedule—as much as possible. Having some things that stay the same, like walking the dog every morning at 8 am, gives us an anchor. An anchor is a reminder that some things are still the same, and it gives your brain a little bit of a rest. Sometimes when you are going through a lot of change it helps to write down your routine and check it off as you go. It's one less thing for your brain to have to hold inside.
4. Try to eat as healthily as possible.
When change happens, a lot of us tend to reach for carbs—bread, muffins, cake, etc. This may be because eating carbs boosts serotonin—a brain chemical that may be somewhat depleted when you undergo change (stress). It's okay to soothe yourself with comfort foods—in moderation. One way to track what you are eating is to write it down. You can either do this in a notebook or use an app. When you see what you are eating, it makes you take a step back and think about whether you want to eat that second muffin or not. (If you have a history of eating disorders, it is not recommended that you write down what you are eating.) Also notice if you are experiencing an increased use of alcohol or other substances; your use can sneak up on you when you are under stress.
Keeping up regular exercise could be a part of the "keep up your regular schedule" tip. If exercise is not currently part of your routine, try adding it. Exercising two to three times a week has been found to significantly decrease symptoms of depression (Barclay, et al. 2014.) Even just walking around the block can help you feel better. (Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.) Remember, you don't have to feel like getting some exercise; just get out there and move. You'll find that many times your motivation will kick in while you are active.