Healthful Ways to Manage Change

We live in a constantly changing world in these times of potential terrorist attacks, heightened airport security, a boom-bust economy and rapid-fire technological and scientific advances.

"In this present environment, it can be challenging to retain a sense of control, especially if you're someone who likes to maintain the status quo," says psychologist Elizabeth Stirling, Ph.D., a change coach in Santa Fe, N.M.

In general, says Dr. Stirling, it's more difficult to react to change that happens to you, such as getting laid off or experiencing a health scare. But the change you initiate, such as switching jobs or moving, also can be difficult.

"The unknown is always a little scary," says Dr. Stirling, especially if you haven't done a lot of changing previously, or if change wasn't fostered during your upbringing.

"But personal change can become easier if you adopt a positive attitude and an environment that diminishes the fear of the unknown and heightens your sense of adventure," she says.

Dr. Stirling offers the following tips for riding the waves of change with your sanity intact.

Solidify your support

To cope with change effectively, align yourself with a group, such as a religious organization, and/or nurture relationships with friends and family members with positive outlooks.

"You need cheerleaders, people who are going to encourage you when change happens," says Dr. Stirling. "When someone says your new job sounds exciting, your confidence gets a boost."

Appreciate nature

For general stress relief associated with change, "connect with nature to get a sense of being part of a larger whole," suggests Dr. Stirling. "Go for a leisurely walk in the park or sit by a river. Experiencing a deep sense of sacredness of all things, like the splendor of a spring day, can ease stress and put your issues into perspective."

Look on the bright side

With many changes come excitement, a sense of adventure and the opportunity for personal growth. If possible, "tap into the benefits of change," says Dr. Stirling. "Ask yourself: 'What will I gain by making this change?'"

Even negative changes offer opportunities for learning.

Overall, "staying positive can help you reach your potential and recover faster from setbacks," says Dr. Stirling.

But seek psychotherapy if change occurs and you're chronically anxious about it or stuck in the grieving process after several months.

Flex your change muscles

Change gets easier when you do it often, so force yourself to experience enjoyable change frequently, especially if you haven't changed much in a while or you feel stuck in a rut. You might, for example, take a different route to work every other week, get involved in a new hobby or enroll in a class that interests you.

Stay in good physical shape

Before and during times of change, it's important to stay in good physical shape and not let your eating habits slide.

"Healthy nutrition and regular exercise can help your body support you," says Dr. Stirling. If you experience a major health setback, for example, you'll be in a stronger position to recover. And you'll also feel more psychologically prepared to cope with change.

"By eating healthfully and exercising regularly, you'll gain a sense of personal control that can translate to the change at hand," she says.

The StayWell Company, LLC ©2016

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