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Coping With Change

Coping with change in positive ways will help you today and in the years to come. By Bob Hostetler
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You haven’t seen so many changes since you were in diapers. The beginning of a new school year brings a flurry of changes—particularly for first-year students. 

Just weeks ago, you were living with your family. You knew your way around town. You knew all your friends’ phone numbers by heart. You could count on Mom to fix mac and cheese every Thursday.

Then in one day, all that changed. You moved to a new school in a new town. Your daily schedule changed drastically. You got a new phone number, new mailing address, new email address and the channels on your TV were totally messed up. Suddenly, no one was around to tell you when to eat, when to go to bed, when to get out of bed, when to go to class or when to come home. And one of your new roommates has an . . . interesting aroma.

Change can be good or bad, fun or difficult, but it inevitably causes stress—whether you realize it or not. And there is probably no other time in your life that will be as filled with change—and the stress caused by change—than your college years. Learning how to cope with change in positive ways will not only help you today, but also in the years to come.

So, how do you do that? How do you handle the changes life is throwing at you these days?

1. Give Yourself a Break

First, you can relax a little. You are probably far more capable of handling change—most changes, anyway—than your parents or grandparents were, simply because you’ve already seen so much of it. When you were born, the Internet was a new thing. Microwaves were the size of Volkswagens. Cellphones were becoming smarter. You have already survived an enormous amount of change. So give yourself a pat on the back. 

2. Adjust Your Attitude

Mental health specialist Lisette Blumhardt says a good attitude is key. “If you see change as part of life, you won’t consider it a bad thing or something that shouldn’t be happening,” says Blumhardt. Remind yourself that change is unavoidable, and much of it is out of your control. But you can control how you respond to the changes that confront you. It’s always stressful to concentrate on things you can’t control, but it can be energizing to focus on things you can control.

3. Say a Little Prayer

Change often catches you by surprise. One way to adjust to sudden change—or too much change—is to pause, consciously take a deep breath (or several) and calm yourself. This slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure and relaxes your muscles.

It’s also a good idea at such times to say a quick prayer or affirmation. Keep a few self-affirmations handy for stressful moments, such as, “I was smart enough to get into college; I’m smart enough to get through it,” or even something as simple as, “You can do this.” You can pray something like, “God, help me see this as an opportunity and not a threat,” or even memorize a helpful Bible verse to use at such times, such as, “But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me” (Psalm 22:19, NIV).

4. Reach Out

Families and friends can be a source of love, support and advice in changing times. “Family members or those close to you can’t help unless they know about the stress,” says Marilyn Nelson, a mental health counselor in Dallas. If you’re feeling stressed, let others know; they can often share a suggestion or insight that provides—or leads to—a breakthrough.

Martin Kelly, a psychiatric clinician in Hartford, CT, suggests that joining a support group or keeping a journal are healthy ways to cope with change. “There’s something about writing your feelings down that makes situations more manageable,” he says. 

5. Minimize the Change

It may seem obvious, but when you’re struggling to cope or keep up with changes in your life, it’s not a good idea to instigate more changes. So, for example, if you have to sleep on a new bed at school, keep your old pillow. If you can’t attend your home church, you can still go to a similar church near you. The dining hall may not serve your mom’s three-alarm meatloaf, but you can still try to eat regularly. Hold on to things you don’t have to change while you’re trying to cope with unavoidable changes.

6. Focus on What Hasn’t Changed

Seeking the positive in any change you go through helps lead to a healthier, happier life. Remind yourself that there are many things in your life that haven’t changed. God hasn’t changed. His love for you never changes. His Word is timeless and unchanging. His Sovereign control over all things hasn’t changed.

These techniques may not work wonders in your change-filled life, but they may bring about one more very big, very important change in your life: a new aptitude for coping with change.

For Further Study

Read:

  • Ecclesiastes 1:1-20—This passage is entitled in the NIV translation, “A Time for Everything.” 
  • Welcome to Adulting by Jonathan Pokluda 
  • Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen 
  • If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey 

Watch:

  • A message to my fellow college friends by Sadie Robertson 
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Bob is an award-winning author of more than 50 books, including Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (co-authored with Josh McDowell) and American Idols. He lives in Nevada with his wife, Robin.

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