Change is inevitable. We will all face thousands of changes in our lifetime. Some changes happen without much fanfare and others have a more dramatic impact.
As September begins, we face a change in seasons, students returning to their classrooms and beachcombers leaving the shoreline. These changes are expected, and most of us adapt to them as part of an annual routine.
September will also, inevitably, bring people together in marriage, while others will give birth, start new jobs, experience the loss of a loved one. These changes, or life transitions, both positive and negative, can create stress. However, short-term stress is not necessarily a bad thing if we can channel it into adaptation and personal growth.
Why is change so difficult? Often, change takes us out of our comfort zone. Change also makes us feel insecure as we face something unfamiliar.
How can we best adjust to life’s major changes? It is important to remember that when change occurs, we need to keep moving forward. Surround yourself with those who support and understand you. It is easier to move forward during challenging times when embraced by your family and friends.
Whenever possible, plan in advance for the change. Start by researching the impending change. The better informed you are, the better equipped you will be to plan and take appropriate actions. For example, if you have loved ones who are seriously ill, you can help prepare yourself by understanding their current health status. The more you understand the expected course of the illness, the better prepared you will be for a loss.
When anticipating a life transition, try not to make decisions that will bring about other dramatic changes in your life. For instance, avoid starting a new job the same month you are getting married. Adjusting to change takes time. Try not to make significant back-to-back changes.
During periods of stressful change, maintaining your physical and emotional health will help you cope. Eat balanced meals, avoid junk food, exercise, get adequate sleep and continue your regular healthy daily routines.
Although most of us can adapt to life transitions over time, talking to a professional can prove beneficial if you are very depressed or anxious, or if more than a month goes by and you are still having difficulty coping with the change in your life. A therapist can also help you prepare for a change that you anticipate, so that you can better cope with it.
The Counseling Center at Jewish Family Service (JFS) has trained, professional therapists who can talk with you about your specific situation.
For more information, call Clinical Director Meghan Cavanaugh at 401-331-1244.
ERIN MINIOR, LICSW, is CEO of Jewish Family Service.