Coping with life’s curveballs: 8 tips for adapting to change

There’s no escaping change and its potential to impact our lives. Change can often be stressful and may require adjustment time. Various types of change can seem overwhelming, but may also present valuable opportunities for personal growth.

Netcare Akeso George offers eight tips to help make these transitions more bearable, positive experiences.

“Whether you have been actively seeking change or it has been imposed upon you, there are unique challenges that come with different forms of change,” says Belinda Campher, an occupational therapist and general manager of Netcare Akeso George.

“Typical life changes may include pivotal transitions in a person’s work or studies, relationships or family dynamics, moving home or relocating, loss of a loved one or significant health diagnoses. Change, and the uncertainty it brings, are part of life, and resisting change will not make it any easier.

“Change is normal, and adjusting to it comes naturally to most people; however, major transitions may mean letting go of the life you are accustomed to and embracing a new one. If a transition is intensely challenging, it can destabilise our thoughts and emotions, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and distressed,” she adds.

“Knowing how to cope with the curveballs life throws at you is therefore a crucial life skill. Embracing change in a positive way helps us become stronger and more resilient. Managing change in life is key to personal growth and enables you to live a life where you are thriving, rather than just surviving.”

Campher offers the following tips for coping with change to build a life worth living:

  1. Understand and accept the limits of what you can control and what is beyond your control. Focus your energy and efforts constructively rather than becoming stuck in anger and denial.
  2. Practise good self-care. Get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet, and feel the benefits of physical exercise.
  3. Embrace healthy coping skills. Fun activities such as listening to music, spending time in nature, reading a good book or playing with a pet are good for your well-being and can reduce your stress levels.
  4. Cut out unhealthy coping skills. If you have been turning to activities or habits that do more harm than good, make a conscious effort to cut back.
  5. Seek meaningful connections and support. Spend time with family and friends who are good for you.
  6. Let go of your regrets. Regrets can hold you back in life. Looking back at the past may cause you to miss the opportunities change presents for the future.
  7. Practise self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion as you would a loved one going through a challenging time in their life.
  8. The gift of gratitude. With reflection, you may discover a greater appreciation for what you do have and what remains constant in your life during a period of change.

“To create a life that we do not feel we need to escape from – a life worth living – we need to be proactive about how we manage the changes we face in our lives. However, sometimes, adjusting can be so daunting and overwhelming that it leads to an adjustment disorder. This may happen when the stress associated with change exceeds your resources for coping, and your reaction becomes disproportionate to the event. Consider seeking professional mental health support if you are struggling to cope with change,” says Campher.

“While the personal experience of adjustment to any change is unique, and may be expected to be uncomfortable initially, it may be cause for concern if the individual still feels overwhelmed three months or more later, or their suffering is disproportionate in response to the situation.

“Where a person is not coping in their day-to-day life, in their social relationships, at home, work or school, talking to a mental health professional can be helpful in providing emotional support and learning to identify healthy coping mechanisms and stress management strategies.

“Seek proper treatment from a therapist or psychiatrist who can help you to manage the condition and learn the skills you need to cope with change and future life transitions,” she says.   

If you are having a difficult time coming to terms with change or experiencing emotional distress, Netcare Akeso’s 24-hour crisis line is always here for you on 0861 435 787. Trained counsellors are available to listen and can guide you on the various options for assistance, whether for yourself or a loved one.

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