How to deal with big changes in your life
Change reminds us that anything is possible....
Even though I was little worried about big changes, because I believe that change is necessary for a person to develop, however, lately, I realized that I wasn't so confident and prepared until a big change occurred.
Change can be unpredictable...
Three years ago, I decided to study my master's degree in The Netherlands and although it was my choice to go abroad, however, my life was full of big changes in a personal and professional level, where I felt completely vulnerable...
I moved from a sunny and warm country, Greece, to a rainy and cold one, The Netherlands. I moved from a private big affordable apartment (in Greece apartments are really cheap) to a shared small extravagant studio. Furthermore, I had to quit from a highly qualified job as a psychologist and researcher to find employment in lower-wage jobs that require relatively little formal education, which were barely paying my bills. Nevertheless, in spite of all my attepts to find a job related to my studies, I was constantly rejected. This transition from a secure to completely insecure and uncertain environment, was incredibly challenging. My inability to adjust to these changes fired up ambivalent emotions of happiness, stress, depression, and confusion. In these three years, I changed completely my way of thinking, I compromised to things that made me unhappy and I was adapted to a new unpleasant reality full of rejections and responsibilities.
Honestly, during these changes, I felt stuck, trapped and without any purpose in my life. I was constantly focusing on the idea that because of these changes I could not move forward anymore. I lost the powerful trust of myself, I lost my confidence, and I lost me. My mind was constantly looking to find something positive to refocus and start working on my passions again. Coelho once said, "Sometimes you have to lose yourself to discover who you are" and that was exactly what happened, I lost myself to discover who I am.
After this overwhelming period, I realized that I need to take control of my thoughts, to remind myself that life is full of unexpected changes, and accept the idea that change is inevitable. Obviously, big changes can be extremely stressful and can cause us undesirable frustration, however, with the right attitude, way of thinking and a clear change management plan we can overcome any resistance to change.
1. Accept your resistance
It's absolutely normal to have a certain level of resistance. As I said above, big changes can make us lose control, feel stressful, angry and helpless over situations. It's imperative to realize that this is a normal automatic procedure (survival origins) and the only thing that we can do in a first place is to accept these feelings. Acceptance of your resistance does not mean staying passive. However, it means that we give a short break to our mind to focus on the feelings and not on the change per se. At the end change is all about feelings (denial, fear, stress, anger, confusion). We need to allow ourselves to accept that it is ok to have resistance to change because only then we will take a proactive step to manage it.
2. Clear your thoughts and listen to your feelings
Refocus is the magical word here. Unfortunately, nowadays, we forget to listen our feelings and we keep burying them deeply inside us.
Ask yourself, why do you feel the way you feel? Why are you stressed? Why do you feel overwhelmed, trapped and unsatisfied? Is the fear of the unknown that causes you stress or that you are not prepared for the next step?
Visualize these questions (we are more sensitive to visual information) and write them down. Give answers to your questions and read them aloud. Start working on finding the solution towards your fears.
3. Communicate your feelings
Aristotle, said that "it's our ability to think and act rationally that makes us humans", but also humans are creatures of language. Sharing feelings with other people helps us to become self-aware. It can be a friend, or someone who shares a similar experience, or a counselor. Moreover, talking and sharing our worries can be healing. Whenever we feel overwhelmed by a change, we need to share these feelings. Communicating our feelings will give us a better understanding of the change and be emotionally healthy, as storing our feelings can lead to higher stress levels.
4. Reframe the way you think
Instead of feeling the weak victim who is not ready for big changes, embrace them and find the positive aspects. Obviously, we are controlling our reactions, our reactions do not control us.
My changes, although daunting, gave me a positive and powerful lesson. For instance, although, moving to a new country was particularly difficult, I met new people, I learned how to live in an organized and structured environment where my complaints have a voice and the quality of life is of primary importance. Furthermore, I learned an additional language (Dutch), I improved previous ones (English and German), I worked in unqualified jobs and I saw my job from a different perspective. In addition, I learned to be more social to take responsibilities and to care more for my house and expenses (shared house). I started building my confidence and I believed in myself again simply by changing my way of thinking. Yes, I was absolutely out of my comfort zone, but my perspective helped me move on, be more aware of my thoughts and develop.
5. Be prepared
If something doesn't work one way, create a new way... Planning is one of the most accurate ways to find solutions and be well-prepared for big changes. If you expect a big change in your personal or professional life, it is imperative to be prepared for how you will approach the new situation. If you have to move to a new company, plan everything in advance, get to know the culture of the company, plan how will you create a new network, which will be your goals for this company. If you are not satisfied with your current position and you look for a change, create your action plan towards the new one by clearing identifying what you want to do and the steps you need to take to go there.
Change is an opportunity to re-examine our life, transform our thoughts and ourselves. Although sometimes difficult, change can bring a great lesson of who you actually are and how you react to diverse life situations.