Benjamin Franklin once said: 'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.' But one thing he forgot to add to that list was change. An essential and normal part of life, change affects us all, even those whose lives seem perfectly secure and stable.
And while some people actively welcome change, for most it can be at the very least unsettling and often highly stressful. Change can be major – such as getting married, moving house or starting a new job – or relatively small and insignificant, like changing your hair style.
But in general it's the big life changes – and especially the ones you have little or no control over – that cause the most stress. Getting married and moving house, for instance, are often cited as top causes of stress. The death of a loved one, going through a relationship break-up instigated by your partner or being made redundant from your job, on the other hand, are often much harder to cope with.
The good news is that becoming more resilient on an emotional level can boost your ability to cope with change, even the big ones. Here are a few handy tips that may help. Just remember that dealing with change is rarely instant, and that coping with or adapting to change can take time.
See things differently
Instead of dreading the changes in your life, try to see each as an opportunity to learn. If you can see change in a positive – rather than negative – light, it can boost your resilience and help you deal with it more positively too.
This can be especially helpful at work, since having a negative attitude towards change could mean you'll be overlooked when new and interesting projects come along. These days work environments are changing at a faster pace than ever, so seeing change as something to grasp with both hands instead of something to fear and resist could bring many new opportunities.
Meanwhile, instead of letting change creep up on you, try to be more proactive and look out for any changes that may be coming. Thinking ahead and planning for the future can also make you feel that you have more control over what happens to you.
Keep a record
The next time you're faced with a major change, keeping a note of how you feel about it, as well as how you plan to deal with it, could be useful. Instead of burying your head in the sand and hoping everything will go back to normal, write about your feelings towards whatever is changing in your life.
After you have recorded your feelings, decide what you want to achieve in respect to the change in question. Then write down your goals and how you plan to make them happen, including the skills you have that could help. Be really specific where your goals are concerned, and think about how you can measure your success. Don't forget to set achievable goals and, where possible, set a clear timeframe for reaching them.
Also try finding the benefits or opportunities that this change might bring and write them down too. If you have been affected by things such as bereavement, illness, redundancy or financial loss, this can obviously be difficult – but those who look hard enough can often find something to be positive about, no matter how small. Make a point of writing at least one benefit a day.
When change comes along that you can't control, don't let it get the better of you. Try to carry on with everything else in your life as normally as possible, as this itself can reinforce the ways in which your life isn't changing – which itself can be reassuring. Realise that there are some things you can do, and some things that you can't do, and instead of dwelling on any mistakes you may have made, put them behind you and move on.
One way to keep your worries in perspective is to take a long-term view. For instance, how do you see the changes that are happening now affecting you in one, two or even six months? Remind yourself that change itself never lasts, and that things will become normal again at some point as the change becomes more familiar to you.
Be a team player
Helping others is a great way to gain experience and build resilience, so take every opportunity to make life easier for those around you who are experiencing changes.
And when you find yourself affected by change, don't try to go it alone – know when to ask for help. Build a network of people who can support and guide you whenever you need them, and support and guide them when they need help too.
For instance, if you are experiencing changes at work, talk to your colleagues and find out how they are coping. You could well find that you can help each other to manage any changes that are happening in the office more effectively.
Look after yourself
Change can be exhausting on an emotional – and often physical – level. So instead of battling through it, take time to recharge your batteries. This doesn't have to involve a complete break, but could be something as simple as taking a walk in the fresh air to clear your head.
Sometimes change can also mean less time to yourself – after having a promotion at work, for instance, when you may feel pressured into working longer hours. At times like these it's especially important to remember to eat healthily, to get some exercise and to relax as much as possible when you're not at work.