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Your Action Plan for Dealing With Change
A period of change is often just around the corner, but dealing with change can be extremely stressful. These tips for facing major life events, from moving to a new city to retirement planning to losing a loved one, will help to make the transition easier.
By Chris Iliades, MD
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Coping with expected changes like retirement planning or a planned move can be hard enough. Dealing with change that is sudden and unexpected, such as the death of loved one, can be devastating.
"The only thing we can count on is that things change and there are inevitable life changes that occur in everyone's life," says Irina Firstein, LCSW, a psychotherapist practicing in New York City for more than 20 years. “Some changes we initiate and put into motion and some are out of our control.”
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How we approach both types of changes can make for an easier transition in even the most difficult of circumstances.
Dealing With Change: Moving to a New City
"Moving to a new city can be very stressful and scary. Usually there is a good reason to make such a move and it is important to keep those reasons in the front of one's mind,” says Firstein. “It is also important to know that there may be a period of feeling lonely in a new city and that this is normal."
Here are tips for putting together an action plan for a move:
- Anticipate stress.Even planned change can be stressful. Be aware of possible stress symptoms, such as anxiety, aches and pains, headache, and fatigue. Make sure to eat well, get enough sleep, and find ways to relieve stress.
- Prepare well.Making a change is easier if you have put aside more than enough money, asked for enough help, and simplified life as much as possible. It is better to be over- prepared than under-prepared.
- Think of moving as an opportunity.Fear of the new can keep you from seeing new opportunities. Develop a positive vision of what life in a new place will be like. "It is important to try to anticipate what will be most stressful and at the same time be open to new possibilities," says Firstein.
Dealing With Change: Retirement Planning
"Another stressful scenario is retirement. For those whose sense of self and meaning of life were connected to work, it is a time and an opportunity to discover and get in touch with new parts of oneself that could not find expression before," notes Firstein.
Consider these tips when putting together your retirement action plan:
- Plan for new activities.The euphoria of having no obligations fades quickly. All that extra time you have been looking forward to can quickly turn to boredom if you’re facing a big void. Fill up your time with activities that are rewarding and meaningful for you.
- Watch out for depression.Just as with other periods of change, retirement can be stressful. If you find yourself without interest in activities, feeling lonely, or having problems with sleeping and eating, ask for help.
- Be flexible.Periods of change rarely go completely as planned. One of the most important aspects of retirement planning is flexibility. "Look at retirement as an opportunity to grow and expand yourself rather than trying to control everything to your specifications or comfort level," advises Firstein.
Dealing With Change: The Loss of a Loved One
Losing a loved one is one of the most painful life changes. It makes a difference if the loss is sudden or a result of a prolonged illness, says Firstein. “It is important to know that loss is inevitable in life, that it is a universal experience, that it is normal to have pain, and that with time pain dulls and becomes less acute,” she explains. “It is important to talk about one’s feelings and have space to grieve the loss."
Here are other tips for dealing with this period of change:
- Grieving is a process.Everyone deals with loss differently and there is no time limit. Although grief eases over time, it can feel like you’re on a rollercoaster for a while. Be aware that grief may resurface during the holidays or on birthdays.
- Know when to get help.When grieving, normal symptoms include sadness, fatigue, and even anger. If you are struggling with symptoms of grief that are getting progressively worse and are interfering with your day-to-day living, seek professional help.
- Take care of yourself.A period of loss adds stress to your life. Don't be afraid to ask for help and support from friends and family. Make sure you eat well, get some exercise, and engage in activities with others.
Periods of change may be in store for all of us, but some of us are better equipped to handle these times than others. "People who are best at dealing with change have a flexible attitude to life, an easygoing personality, good support systems, satisfying relationships, and meaningful work or interests," says Firstein.
Your Relaxation Toolkit
If you are a spiritual person, one final tip that may help is to let go and trust in your faith. Dealing with change can challenge your faith, but it can also strengthen it and enrich your appreciation of life.
Video: How to Create an Effective Action Plan | Brian Tracy
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