You’ve probably heard the adage: the only thing that’s certain in life is that change will happen. But how do you go about adjusting to change in a constantly changing world, with rapid technological shifts, people coming and going from your life, and even weather sometimes changing from minute to minute? This post provides some advice for adjusting to and coping with change.
What are Major Life Changes?
Life changes a lot. It’s seemingly constant. Just when you find a flow, it throws you a plot twist. At some point, you may have experienced one or more of life changes that can cause emotional upset.
Life changes can include:
- Growing up and moving away from home
- Having a baby
- Going back to school, adjustment to college or the workplace
- Graduating from high school or college
- Buying a house
- Marriage or a new relationship
- Retirement, job loss, or career changes
- Questioning faith, spiritually, sexual, or gender identity
- Death of a loved one
Some of these events are predictable. You may know that you’re planning a move across the country or that you’ll graduate from college and enter the workforce. But some of these events, like divorce, job loss, or the death of a loved one, are unpredictable and can happen at any time.
Unfortunately, there’s no “right” time to go through some of these events. We don’t usually plan for hardship. For this reason, unpredictable events can cause emotional distress and difficulty coping with the change. But that doesn’t negate the importance of other significant life changes that are more planned or even more positive. They also can be as upsetting and momentous.
How Does Change Affect a Person?
Sometimes, change can be refreshing and exciting. Other times, change presents great challenges and affects our mental health.
You may be in a place where you can handle the stresses that come with life’s changes by making adjustments to your schedule, seeking help from your support system, and engaging in stress-relief practices that work for you.
If you find yourself experiencing stress that interferes with your daily life and your work, relationships, school, or personal life are suffering as a result, you may be experiencing what mental health professionals call an “adjustment disorder.”
Is It an Adjustment Disorder?
Before diagnosing an adjustment disorder, mental health professionals look for specific signs and symptoms. These criteria include experiencing symptoms within three months of a particular stressor, with the symptoms harming your daily life. These experiences can’t be due to another mental health disorder if you’re experiencing an adjustment disorder.
Types of adjustment disorders:
- Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood – Includes feeling sad, down, tearful, and low.
- Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety – Includes feelings of worry, nervousness, unease, or trouble concentrating.
- Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Symptoms – Could include symptoms of both depression and anxiety.
- Adjustment Disorder with Disturbed Conduct – Could appear as behavioral problems such as fighting.
- Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct – Could include a combination of all of the above.
- Adjustment Disorder Unspecified – Includes some form of interference in daily life that is not described by the categories above.
Of course, you don’t need to experience a full-on adjustment disorder or any other mental health disorder to seek mental health treatment. You can initiate treatment anytime in your life when you feel you would benefit from counseling to cope with change.
Why is Adjusting to Change So Important?
We’ve discussed how change is a constant in life. Besides the simple fact of knowing that changes will occur, why would it be necessary to learn how to cope with change?
Adjusting to change is important to a fulfilling life because:
- Change Can Be Exciting – A new job opportunity, a child, a partnership, or a new career path can be exciting! Change can indicate that you’re growing as a person.
- Life Satisfaction – Adapting to change can bring you more happiness and overall life satisfaction.
- Shows Your Strength – Being able to cope gives you hope for the future and the challenges that may arise. With this, you realize your strength.
- New Opportunities – New opportunities can increase your chances of succeeding and reaching your goals!
- You’ll Learn Something – In determining your needs, you’ll grow as a person. Not to mention, bouncing back from setbacks becomes easier.
How to Adjust To and Cope With Change
The following list includes some examples of what you can work on to help you cope with change. You can work on these methods of coping with change on your own or with a mental health professional’s help.
Ways to cope with change include:
- Understand Your Perspective in the World – Our worldviews shape how we view the world. If you’re in a situation where you’re adjusting to a change, you may need to shift your perspective to cope.
- Reframe Your Situation – A mental health professional can help you reframe a situation, meaning change how you see the situation and your role in it to a more positive light. For example, a difficult challenge can be reframed as a positive opportunity to grow.
- Don’t Underestimate Your Ability to Adapt – You are capable of growth and change. Engage in some self-appreciation and realize you’ve made it this far in life.
- Find People Who Understand – Having a support system in life is vital, specifically during times of change.
- Seek Professional Support – If this list is overwhelming, or you’re having trouble adjusting to a change in your life, seeking help from a mental health professional is a great way to gain perspective and tools to help you cope.
How Long Does It Take to Adjust to Change?
While there’s not a specific time it takes to adjust to change, some patterns appear to be fairly common for many people. Most people find it takes a little more than a year to 18 months to adjust to life’s biggest changes fully. Of course, many factors can influence your ability to adjust and cope. You don’t have to wait 18 months (or any amount of time) before reaching out to a mental health professional.
It’s possible that seeking assistance from a mental health professional will help you adjust to change more quickly. Your therapist will use counseling approaches and techniques that work for you and your specific life challenges.
To help you adjust to change, your counselor might:
- Help you identify and understand this major life change
- Help you know how to deal with and accept change
- Remind you that sometimes change is good or most likely temporary
- Help you build self-confidence and communicate effectively
- Develop realistic goals and prioritize them
- Get continuing support
How All Counseling Can Help
Life brings unexpected challenges and changes. Knowing this, you may consider seeking outside help to assist you in adjusting when you experience a significant change. If you or someone you know is dealing with major life changes, All Counseling’s therapist directory can help you find a therapist who specializes in managing life transitions.