This post was written by an external contributor. Change can seem scary, but Lucy Skoulding tells us how to embrace it, deal with your emotions and keep doing you…
I listened to a podcast about change on BBC Radio 1 recently. It focused on many of the big changes humans go through in their lives, and how that makes us feel. Whether this is changing schools or jobs, moving to a new place, moving in or out of a relationship, or even making a lifestyle change.
If you’ve been through one or more of these changes, you’ll know it makes you feel different, even out of control. Often we desire change, but we feel scared about what we don’t know, and so making the leap to actually enact the change is a huge hurdle to overcome.
Having recently moved to a new place, started my first full-time job, and accepted a place on a journalism course, I would love to share some advice on handling change. I am no expert, but there are a couple of things I have learned, particularly in the last year since graduating from university.
Accept it will feel strange at first
The first step in dealing with change well, is to recognise that it will feel odd. If you move to a new city, the streets and people around you will feel unfamiliar. You won’t know the best travel tips or the locals’ favourite bars. At least not straight away.
The change you go through might feel exciting, overwhelming, stressful, or fun. Don’t be surprised if you experience all four. When I first moved to London having grown up in the countryside, I would dart between feeling awestruck and energised by what the city had to offer and confused or stressed at the fact it was so different to what I was used to. Now, having been here a year, I feel much more at home and I fall more in love with the city every day. Except maybe the tube.
A good tip when going through a big change, is to aim to keep some routine or regularity in your life. It might be tempting to change everything at once. Moving house? Surely this is the perfect opportunity to start a new job, pick up a hobby, and sign up to the gym. Turning over a completely new leaf is desirable, but in practice it could be too much to handle.
Instead, find what is comforting and familiar to you, and make extra effort to achieve it. This could be anything, including sticking to a regular morning routine, keeping up with an exercise regime or hobby, decorating your room with familiar ornaments, or just going to the supermarket on a Wednesday evening like you’ve always done.
Rather than sitting worrying about the change you are going through, make plans! This one is particularly useful if you’re going through a breakup, but it’s a good idea in any situation. Planning activities for your free time both prevents you from dwelling on your change and ensures you have things to look forward to.
Being busy can mean meeting up with friends, but it doesn’t have to. Equally fun is deciding to start a new hobby, taking yourself off to explore a new place, or just relaxing in your own home by watching your favourite television show or cooking. Why not make a list of things you would like to do in the next six months, and then set about achieving as many of them as you can?
Stay in touch with loved ones
During a period of uncertainty, this will help you no end. The people we love give us amazing advice, and they encourage us, lift us, and make us laugh even when we’re feeling stressed or unsettled. Family and friends are often links to our past, which is a great comfort when moving into the future.
I had friends who went to live abroad as part of their university education, and I imagine this was the biggest change they had ever been through. You might think that staying in touch with loved ones would be difficult in this scenario, but don’t underestimate the comfort a phone call can bring you. Even a message or social media interaction helps.
Do what makes you happy
This seems obvious, but in today’s world many of us are so busy that happiness can take a back seat. Ask yourself: how often do you do something just because it makes you happy, without needing an ulterior motive of ‘it helps my career’ or ‘it will please my friend’.
Gather up a few activities which fall into this ‘just because’ category, write a list of them if you’d like to (in case you haven’t noticed, I love lists), then plan time for them in your week. These can be as tiny as watching a film you love, or as big as planning a holiday. If your change of situation means you’ve got a lot going on, such as starting university, try to still find time for yourself.
Time really does make a difference
If a change has unsettled you, remember the importance of time. Never ignore how you’re feeling, but do try to ride with it. What initially feels strange in your life will start to gradually feel normal.
When I first moved to London, I had an intense worry about making friends. Trying to meet new people in such a big city seemed impossible, but over time this has happened to me naturally. I have made friends at work and through hobbies, by re-connecting with people, and through friends of friends. Waiting can be awful when you’re feeling low, but when you do start to feel more settled, it is amazing.
See opportunity in change
If I had to choose one piece of advice, this would be it. I believe attitude and positivity can make such a difference to your life. This doesn’t mean pretending to be ok all the time. It means trying your very best at any one moment, being in touch with your feelings, and dealing with situations in the best way for you.
If you can realise the opportunity in the change you have made, if you have something motivating you, then getting through that initial period of uncertainty will be easier. Why did you decide to make the change in the first place? Where would you like to be in six months? What can you do or achieve now that you couldn’t before?
Erica Jong once said, “I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back”. For all of you going through a change right now, I hope this article helps. Above everything, remember to cut yourself some slack! Accept it might feel strange at first, be kind to yourself, and enjoy the ride!