How to Cope with Change When it Feels Scary

In one way or another, everyone experiences their own level of fear or unease when it comes to change. This dates way back to our ancestors, when the unknown typically equalled danger. As a result, our brains are hardwired to favour consistency and routine, so when change is on the horizon it can trigger stress and anxiety.

As we’ve evolved, so have the threats that face us on a daily basis. But that doesn’t mean our inherent fear of change has been eradicated. The prospect of making changes, whether big or small, can still send people into a frenzy of nerves and panic and prevent them from progressing with their lives.

When a fear of change is stopping you from taking the next steps to move on with your life, or from reaching your potential, it can be hard to see a way out. Change is inevitable and it’s something none of us can avoid, no matter how hard we try. Finding ways to manage change is a must-have to keep moving forward and become who we are supposed to be, even if it feels uncomfortable or scary at the time. Keep on reading to hear Morale’s top strategies to cope with change.

What is a fear of change and why does it scare us?

Modern neuroscience has shown that uncertainty actually elicits the same feelings in our brains as failure, so it’s no wonder that people look to avoid it. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible and for most people, it’s something we just have to manage. For others, a fear of change can escalate into something more serious. Metathesiophobia is an intense phobia of change and can cause persistent and extreme anxiety when faced with new situations or experiences. 

Change can crop up in any corner of a person’s life, such as work, relationships, or lifestyle for example. When people struggle to cope with change, they might opt to stay put in their current situation, even if it’s making them miserable or there are better options waiting for them. For people on the outside, it seems like the logical decision to take the leap, but when you’re dealing with an extreme fear of change you aren’t able to think with such clarity.

Humans are pre-programmed to avoid unknown situations as a survival mechanism. For our ancestors, the unknown = bad and that hasn’t changed much today. Whilst we aren’t hunting for our food or avoiding deadly animals that want us for dinner, the innate survival mechanism telling us that the unknown is a scary place still exists in our brains. Studies have shown that our mental health fares best when we have structure and routine in our lives. When life is predictable, we naturally experience less stress as we know what’s around the corner isn’t going to make us jump.

Unfortunately, life just doesn’t work that way all the time. In the world we live in today change can come much more rapidly and being able to adapt and roll with it is the key to getting ahead and making progress.

How to cope with change

Even positive change can be perceived as a threat. A promotion comes with new responsibilities and perhaps a schedule change which can cause just as much inner turmoil as something perceived as a negative change. In order to prevent missing out on all the good things life offers you and to realise your true potential, you need to embrace change. And whilst that’s easier said than done, there are a few tips and tricks you can try to open yourself up to new opportunities and manage the change that comes with it.

Here are our top 7 strategies for conquering change and seizing life by ‘the you know what’s’…

  1. Plan ahead

Ultimately, when change and uncertainty scare you, it’s due to a lack of control of a situation. Planning ahead for every eventuality and preparing yourself for the change that’s on the horizon can help you to feel more in control of the situation. Obviously, there will be a lot that is outside of your control and that you can’t plan for. However, doing what you will help you to feel more prepared and make the upcoming change seem less daunting.

  • Take things one at a time

If you know that you’re likely to get overwhelmed and stressed out when faced with a lot of change, don’t put yourself in that position! Try to minimise the amount of change that you’re facing at any one time. Break it down and deal with each thing one at a time, and then allow yourself a bit of time after to adjust and decompress before jumping straight into the next one. 

  • Stick to your routine

Even if you’re facing some change, maintain some semblance of normality by sticking to your routines. If you’ve got your morning routine down to a fine art, then don’t stop doing that just because. By maintaining your healthy routines, your body and mind can seek refuge in consistency and help to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that comes with change. If you wake up at 7.30 every morning, make a coffee, and do 20 minutes of journaling then make sure you keep doing that!

  • Visualise your goals

When you’re faced with change, it helps to picture where you want to be, your dreams, and your goals. Whilst uncomfortable at the moment, that little bit of change could be taking you a few steps closer to realising your goals or getting what you’ve always wanted. Focusing on the future and the positive outcomes can help to recentre your perspective and remind you what your priorities are. Creating a vision board is a great way to keep your goals in your sights and remind yourself regularly what you’re working to achieve.

  • Build a good network

Having a circle of supportive people around you can make managing change a lot easier. A good network of friends and family not only creates consistency in your life but gives you someone to lean on for a bit of support if you’re struggling. You don’t need to have a huge group of people, just a few people who have your best interests at heart and will be there when you need them. Dunbar suggests that 5 people is plenty for your inner-most circle!

That said, it’s important to stay vigilant on who around you might be bringing you down or contributing to your negative emotions. Limit your time with people who drain you or bring unnecessary negative energy.

  • Reframe your perspective

The way you think about a situation will ultimately impact how you deal with it. Negative self-talk can be seriously detrimental to your mental wellbeing and stop you from perceiving the situation clearly. By reframing your mindset and opting for a more positive approach you are more likely to find a solution to manage change, rather than letting it consume you and staying stagnant. A positive mindset can influence your self esteem and self belief which are two highly empowering traits when it comes to coping with change. If negative self-talk is something you struggle with, Morale has a whole article here to help you stop it in its tracks.

If quick, easy, and effective are all things you look for in a mental health app then look no further! Now you’ve got your close network of supportive friends getting you through the change causing you some anxiety, remind them that you’re also there to support them too by sending them some daily words of encouragement. Within your circle, send and receive mindset-boosting affirmations to help you grow in self confidence and remind you all that you’re capable of handling any change life throws at you. It’s quick to download, easy to use, and highly effective in keeping your mental health in check…

Download the app from Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

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