06 May 2020

12 Tips for dealing with change and transitions

There is nothing like a pandemic to bring into sharp focus how we cope with change and adversity. The global reach, speed and impact of this unanticipated event on so many lives and livelihoods is what makes it different. 

These 12 transition tips were put together for individuals coping with major changes. I hope you find them helpful.

1. Accept rather than resist change

Some decisions being made are outside our control or ability to influence (e.g. moving between Covid-19 alert levels). 

Rather than resenting or resisting the changes, look towards what you can influence. Find ways to ease the situation and reduce anxiety for yourself and others. 

2. Acknowledge loss and practice self-care

It is natural to grieve what has been lost when a major change occurs, like losing a job and social connections or facing a significant drop in income. 

Reflect on what you have learned from this experience. Set aside time each day to pay attention to what is happening right now. Practice meditation or breathing techniques to still your busy mind and tune into your body.

3. Look after your health and wellbeing

One advantage, if you are working from home, is being able to go for more walks and bike rides.  

Spending regular time in nature helps anchor us in challenging times.  Aim to eat healthily, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up from time to time. This is not the time to be aiming for perfection. 

4. Hold space for change

Emotive headlines often accentuate the negatives and point to worst case scenarios. Avoid torturing yourself with ‘what if’ scenarios and wasting precious energy on what might not happen.

Take time out, to pause and reflect on what is most important, to rediscover who you are and how you want to live your precious life. Consider keeping a journal for candid self-reflection as you weigh up your future options.

5. Schedule for success 

Changed work routines present fresh challenges, especially when there are competing interests and different responsibilities.  

When are the best times for you to be productive and creative? Allocate your most productive time of day for the most important activities that can contribute to a successful transition. 

Keep talking honestly to your family and housemates about your respective needs as you adapt to changing circumstances.

6. Rediscover your true identity

The stories we tell ourselves shape who we are and who we become. At different times in our lives we combine different roles e.g. student, parent, caregiver, business owner, breadwinner. Sometimes the balance gets out of kilter. 

Work gives us meaning and purpose and shapes our identity. Losing a job challenges our self-worth. 

The good news is change opens up fresh opportunities to rediscover our core values, what really matters and what brings happiness and fulfilment. 

7. Recall past successes 

This is a good time to look back and remember previous successful transitions like changing jobs, moving cities, becoming a parent or overcoming health setbacks.

Make a list of ways you showed resilience in the past and use those skills to get you through. Focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. 

8. Treat change as a golden opportunity 

Use your imagination to come up with fresh ideas. Experiment with different ways of doing things.  

Look for inspiration.  Who are people you admire? Watch TED talks and read inspirational books about individuals who have succeeded in endeavours that interest you. Be prepared to make mistakes and to have setbacks as you embark on your bold new direction.

9. Invest in lifelong learning 

Be flexible about changing direction to sectors and roles where new skills are in demand. Continue to refresh your knowledge and update your skills in areas where you have gaps. Discover MOOCs - free online courses. 

Talk to people who are thriving in transition, watch webinars, listen to podcasts, read relevant articles and visit websites that offer useful advice.   

10. Enlist the right support 

Have the courage to ask for help. Being vulnerable is one way of opening up to the changes you seek. 

Find an individual or group of people (friends, colleagues, mentors) who can help you on your journey. Brainstorm ideas together. Spend quality time with people who can support you and reduce stress levels.

11. Avoid comparisons with others 

There will always be people who seem to be more successful or who bounce back from adversity with amazing speed. Their back story may be quite different. 

Rather than envying their achievements, try emulating their approach and look for ways to be inspired by their successes.  

12. Give it time 

Major work and life transitions can take months or longer especially after cumulative changes like redundancy, relocation and/or losing a loved one. 

We can expect to see shorter work cycles in future so get used to cycling in and out of paid work as you transition through different life stages.

A final note - this major event may have shaken us to the core but, in time, we will look back on it as a time of growth and renewal. 


Mary Somervell

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