Had any major life changes lately? Maybe in the past year or so?
It’s a cliché to say COVID-19 changed everything … but it kind of did. Everything from where we work to how we interact with others got massively upended. While things are slowly getting back to normal, it’s a safe bet some situations are going to continue to be different going forward.
It may be surprising to hear, but major disruptions to one’s can cause actual psychological harm, especially if they’re negative events like job loss or deaths of loved ones. Fortunately, there are plenty of positive ways to cope with major changes to one’s world while keeping healthy. Here’s five:
Remember things are often out of your direct control. Traffic, the weather, lines at vaccination sites … the things you want control over are too often the things you simply have no control over. It’s enough to make the most patient, mindful, easy-going person completely lose it.
Try this: step back from the situation you’re in and examine it. Is this red light that much of a problem? Do you honestly care that much about the car that cut you off? Focus on those things you can control.
If you focus on those things you can work to change, situations that make you feel helpless will seem less so.
Be kind to yourself. Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve likely beat yourself up more than once. How’d that fight go? Did you win?
Yeah, yeah, we know – we should see the other guy. Next time, take the opposite approach. Self-love isn’t indulgent or egotistical – it has genuine psychological benefits. Harvard Medical School tells us self-compassion lowers anxiety and depression. Finally, Stanford University researchers say a little bit of self-compassion doesn’t just help you help yourself, it helps you reach your goals.
Avoid falling into denial. Denial isn’t just a famous river, it’s a powerful defense mechanism which can feel like armor for a person who’s struggling. Sometimes, denial can be helpful by giving you time to process traumatic events or information before you act.
However, it’s important to also remember the reality of your situation is still going to be there … and may even get worse if you continue to ignore or pretend things aren’t what they really are. Which leads us into our next tip …
Don’t neglect self-care. It’s a sad fact that change often involves loss – something particularly true in the wake of the recent pandemic. Plus, it’s okay to feel down even after a positive change like moving to a new city or the first day of a new job. Change rattles people, and acknowledging your sadness is fine.
So don’t forget to take care of yourself. Mindfulness meditation is easy to do at any time of the day. Dislike meditation? There’s other ways to keep healthy, level, and sober even if you’re down. Remember: it is okay to not always be okay.
Never be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is hard, largely because it’s a little like letting someone else drive for a while. Also, it can be a pride issue for some; it’s especially hard to appear vulnerable during a time of unease and crisis. Everyone has problems, so why burden them with yours?
The thing is nobody gets through their entire life alone. If you’re fortunate to have a support network of friends and family, don’t be ashamed to take advantage of them. Remember, they might be struggling, too, and sharing experiences can be very helpful.
How One Big Change Can Help With Everything
It’s easy to dismiss feelings of anxiety or depression as minor things, temporary emotions that will go away once things improve. That’s not always the case; moments of depression and anxiety can become genuine mental disorders. Too often, these become gateways to more severe issues, including substance abuse.
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