Whether you’re starting a brand new job, going through a divorce, or moving to a new city, change can be scary. It’s hard not to panic when life throws you a curveball — but our experts promise you’re more resilient than you think. Here are some of their tips to chart a new, empowering path and become less afraid of change.
Pinpoint specific fears.
When you’re facing change, just ask yourself, What exactly am I afraid of? advises Carla Marie Manly, PhD. For example, you may need to downsize your home to help your retirement money go further, but you’ve been putting it off because you’re afraid you won’t be happy. “Ask yourself if your fears are realistic. If you’ve been saying, ‘I can’t handle this transition,’ find a kinder way to talk to yourself, like, ‘X change may be hard at first, but I’ll get used to it, and I will succeed.’” Changing your self-talk can quell anxiety.
Discover your resources.
Look back and focus on what you’ve done in the wake of past changes that made them successful, suggests expert Carrie Ditzel, PhD. She encourages asking yourself what kind of self-care strategies you used, be it leaning on friends or spending time in nature. “Home in on what helps you cope so you can rely on the same strategy as a ‘change plan’ next time.”
Make small shifts.
Prepare yourself for bigger transitions by making small, everyday shifts, urges expert Randi Gunther, PhD. “Take a new route to work or plant something new in your garden to break old habits,” she says. “You’re always evolving, which is why noticing the tiny changes you make every day will help make bigger ones less scary and more exciting.”
To make desired changes easier, start by ditching one word: should . “Instead, remind yourself why you want to make this shift,” says Manly, explaining that “should ” is a shaming word that of ten leads us to judge ourselves. “Whether it’s starting a healthy new habit, taking a class to learn a new skill so you can get more out of life, or simply challenging yourself to grow as a person, just saying the word ‘want’ makes your brain much more engaged, resilient and open to change.”
When it comes to unwanted changes — from a job loss to a sudden move or relocation — reframe obstacles as opportunities, suggests Ditzel. “Ask yourself if there’s another, more positive side to the situation.” For example, a job loss might allow you the freedom to look for work you’re more passionate about. “This resets your perspective and helps build your confidence.”
Look to future joy.
Perhaps the best way to keep moving for ward is to remind yourself it’s never too late to change, says Manly. “You’re more flexible than you think,” she assures. “While change takes patience, perseverance and practice, if you keep picturing what you want — either mentally or with a vision board in which images represent your goals — you’ ll f ind the courage to get where you want to go.”
Meet our expert panel
Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend, is a psychologist. Visit DrCarlaManly.com.
Carrie Ditzel, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and the Director of Geropsychology & Neuropsychology at Baker Street Behavioral Health in New Jersey.
Randi Gunther, PhD, author of When Love Stumbles, is a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor practicing in Southern California.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.