As the winter months settle upon us, seasons change, and many aspects of our lives do as well. Change can take on many forms and manifest in several ways, from minor adjustments to our daily routines to more significant transitions such as a new job, ending relationships, or relocating to a new city. These shifts can be planned or unexpected and, above all else, a daunting experience. With change all around us, it is an inevitable part of our lives and can often bring great discomfort and fear. Still, by understanding how to manage it successfully, we can better navigate our mental health amidst change.
As creatures of habit, as humans, we fear the unknown. The uncertainty that comes with the unknown can cause mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. We see parallels happen in our own media. The Hulu miniseries Normal People displays conflicts where the main protagonist, Connell, deals with anxious and depressive emotions as he works through major changes in his own life. For example, as he moves to a new university in a new city, he is both afraid of what’s to come and mourning his past. These feelings are completely normal, and by recognizing them, we are a step closer to embracing the transitions in our lives for our mental well-being. While these feelings can be uncomfortable and take us out of our comfort zone, they can also invite a period of exploration and growth that we might not have otherwise sought out.
In order to better deal with newfound emotions, highlighting ways that change can bring positivity into our lives can allow us to handle these unfamiliar situations. Change can allow us to become more adaptable and navigate the novel situations we find ourselves in. Adaptability is an essential life skill that enables us to handle uncertain terrain and bounce back from adversity. When we willingly confront life’s shifts, we build mental fortitude and develop the ability to cope with unexpected challenges. Additionally, personal growth is an important part of how embracing change can push us out of our comfortable boundaries. By confronting our own fears regarding big shifts, taking these risks can increase our self-esteem as we begin to understand what we are capable of.
Below are three strategies I’ve found that allow us to better manage the complicated and, at times, stressful feelings associated with change in our lives, big or small:
- Practicing mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can allow us to stay present in the moment and ease our anxieties about the future. Once we are aware of our negative thoughts, we can be more active in shifting them to a positive light. Rather than resisting the change, accept that change is a natural part of life that allows us to stay present. Give your thoughts a voice and commit to doing things that show yourself kindness ( journaling, meditating, and finding a moment for ourselves can put us in a good mindset). By shifting our focus on the here and now, we can accept change as a part of life rather than something that we should shy away from.
- Adapting a growth mindset: Approaching change as a learning experience can foster growth in our own lives. Viewing every challenge brought upon us as an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves is a perfect way for us to gain new skills and insight during a particularly difficult time. With a different mindset towards how change can benefit us rather than hinder us, we can use this as a superpower towards moving forward to our goals.
- Finding community: We don’t have to face these changes alone. The fact of the matter is that everyone goes through these transitions. Talking to loved ones about our struggles can bring us a sense of comfort and give our thoughts a voice by allowing us to talk through our feelings. Visiting people you feel comfortable around can also ground you and bring you back to a sense of familiarity you may have lost before.
Embracing change is not always easy, but it is a crucial step toward improving our mental health. By better dealing with the emotions associated with uncertainties, we develop adaptability, resilience, personal growth, and a broader perspective on life. Change doesn’t always have to equate to a negative, as we can invite the limitless possibilities that come with transformation. The next time life throws curveballs your way, embrace it with open arms and an open mind — your mental health will thank you.