5 Tips for Mastering Change

December 18, 2020

5 Tips for Mastering Change

You may have heard the expression, “Change is the only constant in life”. This saying certainly reflects the reality of 2020, a year marked by uncertainty, adjustment, and continuous change. This year we have all experienced changes outside of our control – losing a job, kids being remote from school, inability to visit family or go on vacation, etc. Amidst all the uncontrollable changes, you may have also implemented changes in your life to benefit your health and wellness. Have you tried learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby during quarantine? Controllable or not, large and small changes to our everyday lives can be difficult to navigate. Here are tips to help you set yourself up to adapt well and be successful in making valuable changes.

Start small. Identify small objectives within the bigger goal. Break down the steps as much as possible, making them more manageable and realistic over a short period of time. For instance, are you burning the candles at both ends and feeling short on sleep? If you want to get more rest, you may feel tempted to move your bedtime up by a full two hours on day one and hit the sack by 10 pm. Starting small means shifting your bedtime back for 10 or 20 minutes at first, which can be increased 1-2 hours over time. Small steps lead to big changes!

Link new habits to your already-established routine. Mentally attaching a new habit to something you already do sets you up for success in making a sustainable change. For example, if you want to incorporate stretching into the start of your day, try doing a few stretches while your morning coffee is brewing, or while the shower is warming up. Not only will you make good use of ‘waiting’ time, but you will then reward yourself for stretching with a hot cup of Joe or an invigorating shower. Using some of  these natural reinforcers that you already do will help to set up a new routine, allow you to feel good about what you’ve done, and create a smooth transition for the new behaviors.

Don’t go at it alone. Identify at least one person – a friend, coworker, partner – who knows about the change you’re making. Or join a virtual group of others with similar interests. Make sure you connect with a person or group that is supportive and can provide a listening ear when you hit a roadblock, or a high-five when you reach a milestone. Sharing about your experience not only increases accountability, it also helps you reflect on what’s working and what’s not.

Ride the emotional wave. Changing a pattern of behavior or routine that you’ve been following for years can feel like swimming upstream. Frustration is a given as are “starts” and “stops”. Instead of giving up in frustration, ask yourself, “What is getting in the way this time and what can I do next to work through this?” Accepting that you’re going to experience some roadblocks and a range of emotion helps you ride out the current challenges and prepare you to tackle future ones.

Practice self-compassion. It’s human nature to respond to set-backs with criticism and self-doubt, especially during times of change. Practicing self-compassion is the best way to flip the script on that inner dialogue. Put simply, self-compassion means taking a perspective toward yourself as you would with a friend or colleague. Rather than criticizing yourself when you struggle, try saying “This is hard” or “I am doing the best I can”.

Change is inevitable and the bumps in the road that come with it are part of the process of building resilience. Take a moment to reflect on all the changes you’ve been faced with already in 2020! Moving forward, use these tips when faced with a new obstacle – controllable or uncontrollable. And remember to be kind to yourself!