As someone who has struggled with anxiety one of the biggest challenges faced in my life was and probably always will be, change. As much as I may have tried to avoid or resist change it has always come. So now as much as I can and as difficult as it is sometimes I try to embrace it.
Change, I have come to realise, is like some huge irresistible force that ultimately consumes everything and seeps into every aspect of our lives. Facing it can be incredibly uncomfortable and indeed scary at times. I can certainly relate this perspective, for I believe any kind of anxiety greatly increases the fear of change. The more anxiety you have, the chances are the more you will struggle when it comes to change.
Coping with change?
In many ways when I perceive my own experiences with anxiety I see it as a coping mechanism for dealing with change. A not particularly pleasant or effective mechanism but a mechanism all the same. Essentially anxiety shut me down when it came to dealing with it. When some kind of change related event took place, my body and my brain reacted in such an extreme way (panic attacks, vomiting etc.) that I was put in a position where I was physically incapable of dealing with or taking part in what was happening. Of course this did not always stop the change from happening it just made going through it ten times worse.
Coming to terms and managing my anxiety did not mean that I all of a sudden became comfortable with change. If anything it made my inability to cope with change more stark. It just meant that I had one less way to deal with it. Now don’t get me wrong, this was no bad thing. Without the debilitating inertia of anxiety I could actually now do something. But this did kind of lead back to square one. To get off it I attempted to use routine as a means for coping with change.
For me routines were good, they still are. I build my comfort zone into routines. With a routine I could do lots of things, deal with stress and unpredictable events, and put myself out there. All the things my anxiety had prevented me from doing. But I soon found that while routines are great and they can get you through so pretty tough times (they literally saved me when it came to the covid pandemic) they don’t help in adapting to change they kind of just drive through it and still resist it. So in this sense a routine can only take you so far. I soon realised this.
An indicator of change
I soon found that developing a routine would more than often not be an indicator of a big change occurring. I would see it come and then do my best to get into a routine to cope with it. In so many cases, in the long term, the routine just did not help. It just left me behind. Yes, in many ways it may have felt like it softened the blow. But it put me in a place where I was always having to be reactive and playing catch up with the inevitable, which change always is.
A new direction
As difficult as I found it, when it comes to change, for me, being proactive is the best approach. It takes lots of effort and it is often the last thing I ever want to do but it buys you time. It means you can prepare. Even if change happens out of the blue, being proactive means that you can take action immediately and really embrace the change. It is a bit like the difference between pulling a plaster off in one quick movement or slowly peeling it off. You never want to do it but at least with the former, it may hurt for a little while but this is preferable to the latter’s long drawn out and painful process.
Just sitting with change helps. Analysing it and really questioning what it will mean to us is positive and part of this proactive approach. Often we find that we are more than capable of dealing with it (keep reminding yourself this, you are so much more resilient and resourceful than you think). And if we think really hard, whatever that change is, there will be some way of turning it into an advantage. Also by doing this we can start not to worry so much. Worry is one of the biggest things when it comes to both change and anxiety. If we can take that out of the equation then we can certainly make things easier.
It is not simple, I know. But when it comes to coping with change we don’t really have a choice. It’s coming whether we like it or not. So we can either do it the hard way or the easy way. It is our choice at the end of the day. How do you cope with change?