Starting anew and embracing change

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By Ashley Lourens, Head of Wellbeing, Plumm

As the saying goes, ‘the only constant in life is change’. Whether it be a new job, home, manager at work, or even a different exercise plan, we encounter change in our lives every day.

And it’s not just humans; it is a constant in any living organism – even the Earth changes every day. So, if we know this to be true, why can change often seem so daunting?

Why is change so uncomfortable?

The first step to embracing change is accepting that it is inevitable. Therefore, we should reframe how we approach it, taking the time to understand why we react the way we do.

Biologically, our brains are wired to resist change; predictability has always given humans an evolutionary advantage. In short, anticipating our environment aids our survival.

For example, imagine if our pre-historic ancestors knew a lion always came back to the same spot to hunt, they would avoid it, right? If one day it changed its hunting grounds, they would immediately be at risk, and, therefore, stressed. 

For this reason, change has always been something humans resist. That uneasy feeling at the thought of change is a perfectly natural, biological response.

The underlying central element of change is uncertainty about how it will shape the future, which creates a stress response in the body – even if the change is exciting. Our feeling of safety and security is interrupted, and it can feel overwhelming and stressful.

Cortisol and adrenaline are released into the body as it prepares for danger, and that makes us feel anxious, panicked, and uneasy, sometimes even activating our fight or flight response.

Controlling your reaction

Change comes in all different forms, with phases lasting for different periods of time. In this way, it’s similar to grief.

Grief involves a sudden loss and drastic change in one’s life. Similarly, when change first happens, you might feel shocked. After a while, you may go into denial and try to resist the change before ultimately passing into a stage of acceptance.

Once you accept change, you can begin to explore the new reality and potential opportunity.

Though change can feel overwhelming, it’s important to remember that your response is normal. It is uncomfortable, no matter how resilient you are. The feelings of unease are temporary, and they will pass.

These steps may help you come to terms with change:

  • Assess what you can control, as well as what you can’t
  • Take steps to prepare yourself for the change you are experiencing and process your emotions rather than avoiding them
  • Try to keep to your typical routine as much as possible
  • Remember, you cannot control the change, but you can control how you respond to it
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Growth based mindset

Another way to embrace change is to shift your perception of it. Fighting change will only make feelings of distress worse. So, reshape how you approach it and see it as an opportunity for personal growth.

Every period of change brings the potential for growth and development – you are never a fully formed person; there is always more to learn about yourself and your abilities. 

With a fixed mindset, we view ourselves at a standstill and resist change as it makes us feel overwhelmed and threatened. But nothing is static. If we aren’t growing, how can we truly improve upon the talents and abilities we have?

Don’t trick yourself into equating a lack of change with comfort. Change signifies potential and presents an opportunity to reach both your personal and professional goals.

Implementing mindfulness 

Finally, mindfulness is a fantastic way to develop resilience to change. In simple terms, mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment, observing your thoughts and emotions non-judgmentally.

Mindfulness is an amazing tool for creating peace in the chaos of life. By taking control of our mental and emotional abilities, we can learn to cope effectively with crises, protecting ourselves from stressful emotions.                                                       

Mindfulness also allows us to be in touch with our physical body. Enabling us to develop an understanding that not all signals from the body symbolise disaster.

It’s important to stay in the moment, even in a crisis, as difficulties arise when we avoid confronting things. So how can you incorporate mindfulness into your daily life?

Practicing gratitude daily can help us to appreciate moments outside of our thoughts. Additionally, breathing exercises, time in nature, mediations, and focusing on tasks with intent are all great ways to build a mindful approach to day-to-day life.

With these new techniques in hand, try approaching the next period of change in your life with openness and intrigue. Yes, you may feel scared – and that’s okay. But this moment may lead you to a place you always dreamed of being.

After all, change is inescapable, so embrace it and thrive.

Ashley LourensAbout the author

Ashley Lourens is the Head of Wellbeing at Plumm. Ashley previously worked as a counsellor and initially joined Plumm in 2020, before being promoted to Head of Wellbeing later that year.

Ashley’s journey with mental health started with her own quest for personal healing. Ashley’s experience with her therapist completely changed her life and inspired her to pursue a career helping others.

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