Change. Take a look at this word and tune in to your reaction. What effect does one word have on you? Many clients come to therapy in light of a recent change or an anticipated change that is generating fear and anxiety. Change can come into our lives at all different angles (at a job, in a relationship, with your environment, etc), and it can be experienced in solitude or with others. And most importantly, it is inevitable. So if it is bound to happen, why do we keep getting scared when things change?
As with most things, I always recommend to clients that we explore their thoughts. What do you associate with change? Many relate change to negative words, such as unknown, uncertainty, risk, uncontrollable, loss, stress, and difficult, which generates a negative connotation that develops into a patterned reaction over time. Yes, all of these words can relate to what change is, but if you only see change this way, think about how it impacts your emotions and actions. You are ready to fight change, to not accept it, and will feel anxious throughout this fight. It might prevent you from seeing other solutions, asking for help, or finding confidence.
Without options, support, and self-esteem, it will be difficult to cope with change. Even if change is welcomed, it is still challenging. I tell clients that change is an inevitable challenge that can be beneficial if you modify the way you view it. A simple way to get started is to remind yourself that change is an opportunity to...
- Learn: New experiences create new opportunities to gain knowledge, develop awareness, and practice understanding.
- Grow: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Being challenged in life gives you the opportunity to expand on your skills and use the ones you already have, leading to increased confidence and self-esteem.
- Relate: As you experience change, you learn how to interact and work with new people you maybe never would have in the past. Through this, you develop new perspectives and expand your world.
- Develop: Change helps to recognize values and priorities, learning what is really important when faced with challenges.
- Tolerate: Change can be uncomfortable and can create many different emotions. It is an opportunity to learn how emotions can come and go, just like change, and things will be ok in the end.
Change is stressful for everyone, but if you can modify your relationship with change, it will help you be stronger through the challenges of change. Recognize that you have control over seeing change as opportunity, and that you have ability to adapt and adjust. You have probably already done so in many different ways at many different times in your life. So, don’t forget, change is an opportunity and this isn’t your first time.
Amy Brightman, LCSW is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in managing change, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn more about how therapy can help.