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How to deal with unexpected change

Life is constantly changing. From the moment we’re born, our lives are in constant flux. Sometimes our lives change based on our needs, desires and life stage. Many of these changes we choose or expect, like finishing school, moving into a new home or changing jobs. But often there are changes in our lives that we don’t expect, like COVID-19 and everything we’ve had to cope with over the past year.

Why is adjusting to change so hard and how can we get better at dealing with unexpected change?


Why is unexpected change so hard?

For many people, change will always be hard to cope with and will be something we actively resist.

When you’re happy with an area of your life and it suddenly changes, it’s understandable that you’ll feel sad and probably angry about it. Instead of a path you expected, you now have to change your thinking and spend energy to come up with an alternative plan for your life.

If the demands of the recent change are too great, it can create stress in your life which can lead to physical and emotional problems.

Unfortunately, when there’s a big change in your life (like a global pandemic), you probably can’t control the actual change. But you can control how you deal with it.


What are some ways of adjusting to change?

There are many things you can do to help you deal with change more positively.


Don’t ignore it

You might want to stick your head in the sand and pretend the change hasn’t happened, but this can’t last for long. Ignoring the change will make it more difficult to deal with later.


Work out what you can control

When you’re looking at a big change, it’s helpful to think about what you can control in the situation .

For example, there’s nothing you can do about the pandemic but you can minimise your risk of infection by wearing a mask, sanitising your hands and social distancing. Finding small things you can control in a change helps make the whole thing easier.


Find positives in the change

Although the change was not your choice, look at the situation and see if there are any positives in it for you. Some of the most resilient people try to see every change as a possibility, not always something you should fear.

For example, if you’ve lost your job, it’s normal to worry about the future. But think about whether it’s time for something new? Perhaps you could change career path or even see if your skills transfer into a whole new industry. Even the most fearful changes can bring about unexpected joys.


Be kind to yourself

For every transition we go through, whether it’s negative or positive, there will always be a sense of sadness. These feelings are normal and it’s important to let yourself grieve that loss. Indulge in something that makes you happy, such as seeing friends, baking a delicious cake or going for a walk in the sunshine.


Find positive ways of dealing with stress

Big changes can often be stressful, but it’s important that you find healthy ways of dealing with it. Getting some exercise is great for reducing stress – many studies have found that people feel calmer after doing 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise[1]. You can also do some mindful meditation to help calm your breathing and relax your muscles.

Having a nutritious diet rich in vitamin C, complex carbohydrates, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids can also help reduce stress[2]. By eating lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables (particularly citrus fruits and leafy greens), fatty fish (like tuna and salmon), nuts and seeds, you can help your body reduce the stress of an unexpected change.


Ask for help

If you’re finding it difficult adjusting to change, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes talking to an unbiased professional will give you more ideas of how to deal with unexpected change and help you move on.

Concerned? Talk to a CAREinMIND counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If it is an emergency, call 000.






The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.