Sometimes, life can throw you a curve ball.
A few days before the new semester started, I received some unexpected news about a big change in my life: the priest at my church is getting reassigned. This was a very hard change to wrap my head around. He had been at my church since 2013, and in spiritual life, he helped me to grow and stretch in ways I never thought possible. I trusted him enough to tell him about my anxiety disorder, as well as my story. To say that he was an important person in my life is an understatement.
Between the new semester starting and this unexpected news, I’ve been up to my neck in changes.
Change is hard for many people, even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder. Change is even harder if you have an anxiety disorder. Many of us have had bad experiences with unexpected surprises. And because we worry, we think of all the worst-case scenarios and “what-ifs” associated with the new change. It’s enough to make you want to hide and never come out.
I’m no different when it comes to change. If it were up to me, I’d keep as many things the same as possible: school, friends, family, hobbies, etc. However, we live in a world that’s constantly changing, whether that means losing a loved one, getting laid off from your job, or graduating from school. As time has progressed, it’s gotten easier for me to cope with change. It’s not easy, by any means, but it’s easier to cope with.
Here are my tips for coping with change:
- First, give yourself some grace. This might be a difficult time for you, but that’s okay. You might not be able to do everything that you want to do today. Focus on doing what you can right now; don’t beat yourself up if you need to take more breaks than usual.
- If possible, create a game plan in advance. That way, you can minimize any negative effects. For example, plan to incorporate more self-care into your routine, whether that means more exercise, grabbing coffee with a friend, or making more time for your hobbies. By taking precautions, you can reduce the risk of relapsing during this stressful time.
- Allow yourself time to process your feelings. It’s okay to feel happy/sad/angry/etc. All of your emotions are valid, and it’s important to give yourself time and space to process through them.
- Find a way to get closure. For example, our church had a goodbye reception for our priest, so I went and said goodbye in person. I also wrote him a letter and told him how much he means to me, and how much he’s helped me on my spiritual journey. That helped me to close this chapter of my life. Because of that, I’m in a better place to welcome our new priest.
- Distract yourself if needed. As important as it is to honor this change, don’t let it consume you. Do things to maintain your sense of normalcy. For example, if you normally meet up with your friends on the weekend, keep doing so. I know it might not be easy, but it’ll help you to keep the change in perspective.
- Remember all of the things that haven’t changed. For example, list out all of your family and friends who are still in your life. As much as it seems like everything has changed, there are things that have stayed the same.
- Talk to your support network. Let people know if you’re struggling with a new change. Change is often easier to bear if we have support. Text or call a friend if you need to vent. Meet up with a friend for coffee if you need to get out of the house. Your special people want to support you, especially when you’re going through a hard time. Let them.
- Know that it’s okay to seek help, especially if you’re struggling. For example, maybe it’s time to see a therapist if you aren’t already. There’s absolutely no shame in seeking help, especially when you’re struggling. A therapist can help support you during this change and give you more specialized and personalized attention and care.
For me, it’s been a few weeks since I received my unexpected change. At first, I was a heartbroken, weepy mess. Now, though, I’m doing better. I’ve told a few of my closest friends what happened, and I can text or call one of them if I need someone to talk to. Knowing that people are on my side has made all the difference.
I know change isn’t easy. In fact, sometimes it comes at the worst possible moment. Above all, just know that you’ve made it through tough times before, and you’ll make it through this one. Give yourself some grace, surround yourself with your support network, and know that it’s okay to seek help. It’s going to be okay. I promise.