How to Get Better at Dealing With Change

Tips for dealing with change

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

Change is an inevitable part of life, but knowing that doesn’t mean dealing with change is easy. Finding ways to accept and cope can make these transitions smoother and less troubling.

This article discusses why change is so difficult and what you can do to become better at dealing with change.

Why Dealing With Change Isn’t Easy

Change requires adjustments. Sometimes these can be small things like finding a new way to do something or adding a new step to some of your daily routines. In other cases, you might find that change introduces significant disruptions to the way you live your life. This can create stress or feelings of anxiety and depression in some cases.

This doesn't mean change is always bad. But even good changes you are excited about can be stress-inducing. Things might not have been perfect before, but you may have been comfortable in your previous state of equilibrium. You had a routine. You knew what to expect, so you weren't thrown off by surprises or unexpected challenges.

As change happens, your routines are disrupted. You suddenly have to adapt as you are pushed further and further out of your comfort zone. 

The stress these changes bring can feel overwhelming at times. And it can have negative effects on both your physical and mental well-being. For example, you might find yourself experiencing symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite
  • Depression or sadness
  • Irritability
  • Muscle pain
  • Problems sleeping
  • Stomach upset
  • Tension headaches
  • Trouble concentrating

Having strategies to cope can help you become more resilient to stress and make it easier to adapt to the transitions in your life. You might not be able to stop changes from happening, but you can take greater control of how you respond.

Recap

Change, whether it's positive or negative, can create stress that affects both your physical and mental well-being. Sometimes this can even lead to unpleasant symptoms such as anxiety, sadness, and headaches. This is why you might find yourself struggling even after a positive change has happened in your life.

Tips for Dealing With Change

How you cope with your changes can play a role in your overall mental well-being, including how you feel about your life. If you are struggling to cope with a change in your life, you might be left with feelings of negativity, bitterness, or regret about the outcome.

If you tend to be resilient in the face of life’s challenges, you might bounce back and adapt with relative ease. But if you tend to struggle more with transitions, you might need a little extra help to get back on track.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take when dealing with change to help make those adjustments easier. 

Prepare Yourself 

Change often happens when you don’t expect it, so keeping an eye on the future and preparing yourself, at least mentally, might be helpful. Spend some time thinking about events that are coming up in the future that may lead to changes or disruptions.

For example, if you know that you will be switching jobs, moving, or helping an aging parent, there are steps you can take now that will make those transitions less stressful. For example, you might:

  • Create checklists of things you need to do before the event happens
  • Save money to avoid financial stress during times of transition
  • Talk to career planning or financial professionals about your goals 
  • Discuss what will happen in the event of an emergency
  • Make conscious choices about what you want to change in your life

When you are the one to initiate a change, there’s a stronger chance that you’ll feel like you have more control over what’s going to happen. It is often the unexpected changes in your life—whether it’s a job loss, divorce, or death of a loved one—that can leave you feeling afraid and unsure of what will happen. 

One thing you should avoid doing is relying on avoidance coping techniques when you are confronted with stressful changes. When you use avoidance coping, you try to avoid the stress instead of dealing with it. 

While avoidance can sometimes reduce stress in the short term, research has found that it actually increases stress and anxiety in the long term. For example, avoidance coping might lead you to stay in a job you hate or a relationship that makes you unhappy because you are afraid of dealing with the stress of making a significant change in your life. Avoiding that change, however, will inevitably lead to more stress and unhappiness down the road.

Preparing yourself and taking proactive steps toward dealing with changes is a better way to take control and feel empowered.

Change How You Think

The way you think about change plays a major role in determining how well you deal with it. Automatic negative thinking patterns can undermine your ability to focus on the positive. When negative thoughts bog you down, it is more challenging to have faith in your coping abilities. 

Cognitive reframing is a technique that can help people change these negative thoughts. It's a strategy you can utilize in your day-to-day life to help look at situations with a more realistic, hopeful attitude.

Cognitive reframing is all about shifting the perspective from which you view a situation. For example, if you see a change as something that is upsetting the balance of your life, chances are that you're going to find it much more challenging to handle that change effectively.

It's more empowering to shift that perspective to focus more on your strengths and abilities to adapt. This way, you might see the positives that come out of the situation or believe in your ability to survive and thrive through change.  

While cognitive reframing is something you can work on with the help of a therapist, it is also something that you do anytime you notice yourself caught in a pattern of negative thinking. 

If you want to shift into a more positive mindset about a change in your life: 

  • Notice cognitive distortions: Are you engaging in patterns like catastrophic or all-or-nothing thinking that worsen your thoughts?
  • Consider the evidence: How realistic are your thoughts? What evidence is there to dispute your negative thinking?
  • Be kind to yourself: Is your self-talk kind and compassionate? How can you show yourself kindness in this situation?

Recap

Negative thinking patterns make it more difficult to deal with change. Shifting your mindset to be more positive and hopeful can help you feel more resilient and capable.

Maintain Routines

When the world is changing all around you, holding on to some sense of normalcy can be a useful way to minimize stress and find comfort. Research has found that maintaining routines can help people get a better handle on symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Simple things like going to bed and waking up at the same time each morning can provide you with a sense of structure, even if it feels like other areas of your life are less predictable.

Other activities you might want to incorporate into your daily routine that may help your mental well-being during times of transition include:

  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Eating healthy meals
  • Getting plenty of rest each night
  • Creating realistic daily goals
  • Carving out moments for relaxation techniques like mindfulness or deep breathing

The routine that works for you depends on your own situation and needs. Think about the habits and daily activities that bring you comfort and peace and try to work some of those into your day, even if you are dealing with difficult or dramatic shifts in your life.

Find Social Support

Social support is essential for mental well-being, but this can be particularly true when dealing with change. 

Friends, loved ones, and other social connections can provide support in various ways when you are dealing with changes in your life. Ways you can benefit include gaining:

  • Emotional support: Friends and loved ones can listen and provide empathy and comfort.
  • Encouragement: Your social support system can also encourage you to succeed when confronting some type of challenge.
  • Information: Social connections can also be a great way to learn things and gain information that you might need as you make a change in your life.
  • Tangible support: Sometimes, changes bring a need for actual physical help with certain tasks. For example, you might need someone to bring you meals when you are sick or drive you to appointments. 

Research has shown that social support interventions can be helpful for people who are dealing with health-related changes in their lives. According to one study, group meetings and phone calls help people feel less lonely and isolated after a severe diagnosis. These interventions also promoted health behaviors, such as getting exercise and taking medications, and were linked to improved survival rates.

It's important to remember that other people might not be able to recognize your need for a specific type of support. In many cases, asking for the kind of support you need is a great place to start.

For example, you might call a friend and ask if they have time to talk about what you are experiencing. Or you might ask a loved one if they are willing to help you move or drive you to an appointment. Being specific and making a direct request can help ensure that you get the help that you need.

Caring For Yourself

In addition to mentally preparing yourself for the challenges of making a change, it is also essential to be sure that you are taking care of yourself physically during a transition period. When things are in flux, you might find that you neglect many of your basic needs. 

Stressful events often seem much worse when you are exhausted or hungry, so taking some time to attend to your basic needs by eating a healthy meal, getting some rest, or just taking some time to relax can restore some sense of equilibrium to your life.

When to Get Help

In some cases, people may develop an adjustment disorder following a difficult or stressful change. These conditions are marked by experiencing emotional and behavioral symptoms that create significant disruptions in a person's life, including relationships, work, and school.

If you are having difficulty dealing with change, talk to your healthcare provider or mental health professional. They can recommend treatments that may help. In some cases, psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two may help deal with symptoms of stress caused by changes in your life.

A Word From Verywell

You can't always control change, but you can manage how you respond to those changes. Developing a positive mindset is a great way to promote resilience, but it is also important to care for yourself during these times of transition. Make sure you are sticking to a routine, caring for your physical and emotional needs, and asking your loved ones for help when you need an extra hand.

Was this page helpful?
7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Stress. Updated January 28, 2021.

  2. Hofmann SG, Hay AC. Rethinking avoidance: Toward a balanced approach to avoidance in treating anxiety disorders. J Anxiety Disord. 2018;55:14-21. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2018.03.004

  3. Clark DA. Cognitive restructuring. In: Hofmann SG, Dozois D, eds.,The Wiley Handbook for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, First Edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2014.

  4. Eilam D, Izhar R, Mort J. Threat detection: behavioral practices in animals and humans. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011;35(4):999-1006. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.08.002

  5. Ko HC, Wang LL, Xu YT. Understanding the different types of social support offered by audience to A-list diary-like and informative bloggers. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2013;16(3):194-9. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0297

  6. Smith TB, Workman C, Andrews C, et al. Effects of psychosocial support interventions on survival in inpatient and outpatient healthcare settings: a meta-analysis of 106 randomized controlled trials. PLoS Med. 2021 May 18;18(5):e1003595. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1003595

  7. O'Donnell ML, Agathos JA, Metcalf O, Gibson K, Lau W. Adjustment disorder: current developments and future directions. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(14):2537. doi:10.3390/ijerph16142537