Change, whether big or small, in all of its forms, can bring about feelings of discomfort and uncertainty. Whether it’s summer coming to a close, kids starting school for the first time, embarking on a new adventure in an unknown country, or starting a new job, change can induce bouts of anxiety and worry that often feels overwhelming and uncontrollable.
Even in a fast-paced city such as Hong Kong, many of us struggle to adapt and resist change, spending a lot of mental energy fighting the unknown out of fear. Sometimes, even positive changes—the ones we want—such as getting married or moving in with a partner, for instance, can feel unsettling and cause concern.
Change is inevitable. But we can learn to become more comfortable with the unknown and learn to cope with change, both good and bad. Here’s some food for thought on how to deal with change when it comes your way.
1. What can you control?
Oftentimes, when something in your life is changing, it feels disorienting. It helps to take a step back and think about how much of that change is within your control. Some changes—like the turning of seasons, kids growing up—are inevitable, and as a result, we can end up spending a lot of valuable time and energy worrying about things we can’t change. Instead, try to let go and accept what’s beyond your control. This is the first step towards altering how you perceive changes to your life and surroundings.
Here’s a touch of inspiration: “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” Guess who said that? The Dalai Lama XIV. Wise words indeed.
2. Take care of yourself
Self-care may have become a millennial buzzword to promote the billion-dollar skincare and wellness industry, but the core of its philosophy remains beneficial even without the product endorsements.
Self-care can be as straightforward as eating well, exercising regularly, and getting quality sleep at night. If those sound like unattainable goals that are totally incompatible with your Hong Kong lifestyle, start off by keeping to a regular routine to offset the change that is happening around you. Rooting yourself with a reliable and constant day-to-day routine will help make the curveballs coming your way feel less daunting.
3. Give yourself time and space
A lot of resistance to change is brought on by nostalgia. While some changes in life are bigger and more sudden than others, you are allowed to give yourself permission to process what’s happening. Give yourself time to feel what you feel and accept your emotions for what they are. The key takeaway is to accept that change is taking place, and acknowledge that even good changes can be uncomfortable and cause stress.
4. Challenge your thought patterns
When change is in motion, you might find yourself spiralling into negative thoughts. Stop for a moment and question them before letting they overwhelm you. What is causing your fear and concern? Ask yourself if what is worrying you now will be worrying you in a week, a month, or even a year’s time. We often ascribe unwarranted weight to some of our worries, causing them to appear more grievous than they actually are.
Try to identify the positives of change. Studies show that people who can take an optimistic outlook on negative events tend to bounce back quickly.
5. Practise mindfulness
Practising mindfulness might sound a little hokey, but you don’t have to fully commit to an intensive yoga retreat or meditation session to reap the benefits. Mindfulness is all about grounding yourself in the here and now, rather than let your mind wander and zero in on uncertainties that you cannot control.
Not sure how to get started? Next time you’re taking a walk somewhere, pay attention to the way your body moves and how the fabric of your clothes feel against your skin. Do you feel a breeze? What can you smell? Turning your attention to little things in your surroundings can help you feel grounded. Instead of allowing your mind to drift, try to be present in the moment and focus on what’s happening right here, right now.
6. Define your priorities
Change often happens at inconvenient times, whether it’s your choice or not. A helpful way to manage the anxieties arising from change is to put that energy towards things that really count. This can be a good opportunity to think about what really matters to you and get your priorities sorted.
One of the best way to manage the bumps in the road is to visually map out the parts of your life that you want to focus on. Make goals. Start a to-do list, even if it’s aspirational. Break it down into segments, such as personal growth, people and relationships, health, career, money, and leisure time.
7. It’s ok to ask for help
It may be hard to remember when your mind is clouded with anxiety, but try to maintain an awareness that change happens and everyone goes through life’s unexpected curveballs. Struggling with difficult times does not mean you have to do it alone. Whether you reach out to those closest to you for support or get professional help, talking things through often gives you a fresh perspective.
8. Take charge
This is easier said than done, but be proactive rather than reactive to situations affecting you. If you have even a little bit of heads-up before changes take place, being prepared can help you feel you have agency. This technique of active coping is all about using the resources you have to manage or solve a problem. This might take the shape of finding out information, getting support, planning ahead, and reframing situations, which can all help to reduce the feelings of flux that change can bring. Rather than waiting for things to happen, take action and steps to prepare for change.