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Coping with change

Nov. 23, 2020

man doing virtual yoga in living room

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  • The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way of life for most Canadians
  • Change can elicit a range of responses and coping mechanisms
  • There are several tips and tricks you can use to help you cope with change

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a year of change like no other. 

The outbreak in March upended what was, for many of us, years of routine and consistency. Commuting, schooling, social lives, wellness routines and just about everything in between have been impacted. As the pandemic continues into 2021, there’s lots more change to come.

How do you accept major changes?

There are several ways people cope with change, most of which can fall into one of two categories:

Category:

Avoidance

Control

Ways people cope with change:

Also known as ‘escape coping’, people who fall into the avoidance category take deliberate action to avoid dealing with change. This could include:

  • Ignoring bills, letters, emails or phone calls
  • Cancelling plans or social interactions
  • Avoiding discussions or conversations that address the change or make you feel uncomfortable
  • Delaying the start of tasks or work
  • Avoiding physical sensations or touch

Control or acceptance coping is a proactive way to deal with change. It involves taking practical steps to manage change, including:

  • Making to-do lists and action plans
  • Talking things through rationally with yourself and others
  • Getting organized
  • Finding support
  • Seeing change as an opportunity – not a threat

Avoidance coping has been linked to depression and anxiety. Shifting away from this mindset is a great starting point when it comes to dealing with change – and there’s more you can do to help manage change and uncertainty.

Tips for coping with change

Create a routine. Try to give yourself some positive structure each day. This could include starting your day with a morning routine that reduces stress. It may include choosing your clothes the night before, having the coffee pot ready to go, or taking time to listen to your favourite music. Positive things to include at any time of the day might include playing your favourite audiobook, journaling, meditation, exercise or catching up with friends or family over a video call. 

Carve out down time. Adapting to change can take emotional, physical and mental energy. It’s easy to feel burned out quickly if you don’t take a break. Make sure there’s down time in your routine, whether that’s time spent relaxing or doing an activity to help you unwind. This might include some gentle exercise or meditation, taking a bath, reading or spending time doing any other stress-relieving activity.

Reflect on what’s going right. When dealing with change – particularly the negative kind – it can be easy to dwell on what’s going wrong. Although it might be difficult, take some time to think of what’s  going well or what you’re grateful for, like family, your health, your home or your job.  On particularly tough days, taking time to appreciate the little things like a great cup of coffee, a clear blue sky, or a favourite TV episode can add up over time.

Eat well. Change can result in stress, which can impair your immune system and leave you feeling run down and at heightened risk of getting sick. You might find comfort foods like cookies or chips provide a quick mood boost. That’s because they do. They increase the brain’s levels of serotonin, the “happy chemical” that gets depleted during high periods of stress. While there’s nothing wrong with reaching for the snack cupboard every now and again, healthy eating will boost your immune system. Then, your mind and body become better equipped to handle change. Foods like avocados, bananas, fatty fish, dark leafy greens, oranges, nuts and drinking plenty of water can help.  

Finally, remember:

  • Not all change is bad, and not all good change is easy. Even positive change can trigger a stress response. Moving to a new house, having a baby, graduating or starting a new job can all be joyful events – but also stressful. Positive change can bring its fair share of challenges, too. Remember to share how you’re feeling and practice some of these tips to get you through the trying moments of life’s milestones.
  • Ask for help. Speak to friends and family if you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed about change. We’re also here to help. Visit Workplace Strategies for Mental Health for resources.

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