Hate Change? How to Prepare For—and Even Enjoy—New Challenges

Posted on January 2, 2011 by VITAL WorkLife

Does it ever seem like the minute you get comfortable, someone or something pulls the rug out from under you? If you're someone who hates change, life is going to be full of challenges—because the only sure thing in life is that things will change.

"You can't avoid change," says Jody Bertram, senior EAP consultant for VITAL WorkLife. "But, you can control how positively or negatively change will affect your life."

Common Reactions to Change

When faced with change, many people experience strong physical or emotional reactions—that may occur during and/or after the change actually occurs. People often feel different from their normal selves in the process of change. Don't be surprised if any of the following reactions occur:

  • Physical Reactions: Fatigue, hyperactivity or nervous energy, changes in appetite, pain in the neck or back, headaches, dizzy spells, chest pains, heart palpitations.
  • Emotional Reactions: Irritability, anger, guilt, feelings of anxiety or helplessness.
  • Impact on Mental Processes: Impaired concentration, intrusive thoughts or images, impaired decision-making, confusion, suspiciousness, uncertainty.
  • Behavioral Changes: Increased sleep, decreased sleep or insomnia, nightmares, increased or decreased appetite, nervousness, restlessness, social withdrawal, increased conflicts with others.

Normally these reactions get better over time. To minimize the physical and emotional impacts of change, make sure you:

  1. Maintain as normal a schedule as possible.
  2. Structure your time more carefully. It's normal to forget things when you are under stress.
  3. Maintain control where you can. Make small decisions even if you feel that they are unimportant or you don't care as much about the outcomes.
  4. Spend time with others.
  5. Give yourself time to adjust to the new realities of the change.

Suffering Versus Embracing Change

Another factor in how well you adapt to change is how resilient you are to change. Resilience is defined as the ability to recover quickly from misfortune. Resilient people seem to "bounce back" more quickly from life blows such as divorce, job loss, losing a loved one, a serious illness or unexpected financial difficulties.

Resilience also comes in handy when dealing with the stress caused by events that "ought" to be happy such as weddings, job promotions, newborn babies and winning the lottery.

"Change, whether good or bad, can be stressful," explains Bertram. "If you dread or run away from change, change will be more stressful than if you face your fears and develop skills for handling change."

Building Your Resilience

For most people, the first step in building resilience is making some changes in their attitudes about change. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:

  • Are your expectations reasonable? Do you expect a trouble-free life—and fume when things don't go your way? Nobody enjoys negative events, but the people who recover the fastest know that everybody is going to encounter trouble at some point in their lives.
  • Do you find yourself thinking "Why me?" Resilient people spend more time thinking "What's next?" and "How can I improve this situation?" than worrying about "Why me?" People who view themselves as victims of change are less resilient than people who look at change as a growth opportunity.
  • What can you control? When faced with a negative situation, resilient people look for what things can and can't be changed. There will be things you cannot change—but often there are things within your control that you can and should do to make the experience less painful and more enjoyable.

"Don't freeze or despair without first exploring all of your options," cautions Bertram. "Sometimes a sympathetic ear makes all the difference."

We Can Help

When you're uncertain about how to tackle a life change, VITAL WorkLife is here to help. Access your VITAL WorkLife EAP resources either through your VITAL WorkLife App or by calling 800.383.1908 Your EAP benefit includes free and confidential professional support resources from VITAL WorkLife—24 hours a day, 365 days per year—to help you and your family members address a wide range of life-changing situations, including:

  • A change in job or job responsibilities
  • Interpersonal conflict at home or work
  • Marital and relationship troubles
  • Legal and financial problems
  • Preparing for your own or your spouse's retirement
  • Children moving away from or returning home

If a change is making your life miserable, pick up the phone," says Bertram. "It can be extremely helpful to talk to and get feedback from someone who is objective about the changes going on in your work or personal life."

Working with an EAP consultant, you can sort through actions and behaviors that may improve your satisfaction and ability to cope with a new set of circumstances. Some people can resolve their issues about a change occurring in their lives with a single call—others may want multiple sessions in order to develop coordinated plans for:

  • Developing skills required for new or different jobs
  • Creating financial plans to address new realities
  • Resolving legal issues
  • Setting and enforcing healthy boundaries at home and work

"There's no one-size-fits-all approach," notes Bertram. "We'll work with you to find solutions that address the specific issues you're facing today, as well as your hopes for the future."

Coping With Change: Helpful Online Resources

Your Member Website houses hundreds of helpful articles and links to resources that can help you manage change and build your resiliency, including:

  • Bouncing Back, The Power of Resiliency
  • Bent, Not Broken
  • Coping with Change
  • Changing Your Attitude
  • Staying Resilient Through Tough Economic Times
  • What You Can Do: Building Resilience
  • Unshakeable Confidence During Shakable Times

Accessing these resources is easy. Simply follow these steps:

  1. To find these articles, go to www.vitalworklife.com, click on member login and enter your user name and password.
  2. On the page that comes up, in the left hand column, click on the "Your Work & Life Resources" button.
  3. In the shaded area at the top the screen, click on the pull down menu that says "Balancing." In the middle of the page, click on the topic "Personal Growth."
  4. In the Categories box on the right side of the Personal Growth page, click on "Managing Change."

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