The makings of a positive friendship


Change: Not as scary as it sounds

Six months ago, one of my closest friends told me she was moving overseas for work. Her excitement was palpable, and after I got over my surprise, I felt extremely excited for her and the adventure she was about to embark on. I did, however, notice that alongside the excitement I was feeling at this news, I was also experiencing sadness and a sense of loss. Over our 16-year friendship, we’ve been lucky enough to live within half an hour of each other and this has been a wonderful chapter of our lives, now we are moving into new and exciting chapters, which takes some getting used to. As humans our bodies are constantly trying to achieve homeostasis-balance and stability, and it makes sense that transitions can be a huge adjustment. For this very reason it is realistic to struggle with change.

Change is a natural part of life and it is something we can count on to rear its sometimes-unwelcome head. Our lives can be changed by unpredictable losses and trauma, planned events such as relocations or career changes, or the personal need to achieve a new goal or alter an unhelpful habit. Change is essential for growth and is often incredibly rewarding and invigorating, but it can also be uncomfortable and frightening. A wide range of emotions are often felt when we experience change, which can be confusing and make it harder to adjust to changes or follow through with positive action.

So how do we make a change?
In the late 1970’s, Prochaska and DiClemente theorised that in the process of making a behavioural change, we move through the following stages:

  1. Precontemplation – In this first stage there is no intent to change any behaviour in our life, as we either don’t notice the need for change or we are too aware of the potential risks and challenges of changing our behaviours, without looking at the potential rewards and benefits of doing so.
  2. Contemplation – In this stage there may be some ongoing ambivalence about making a change to our behaviour, even though we have recognised we need to make a change.
  3. Preparation (Determination) – In this stage we have decided that we are ready to start making some changes, and to take steps towards implementing the change that we want or need in the near future.
  4. Action – In this stage we make changes to our behaviours and we make plans to continue with our behavioural change.
  5. Maintenance – In this stage behavioural change has been sustained for a substantial period and we accept the changes as the new norm.

Although these steps make the process seem simple, change is not as straightforward as a 5-step process and a return to past behaviours is not uncommon.

How can we be more flexible to unexpected change?
We don’t always have to like or enjoy change, but sometimes, even if we don’t like it, we can work towards finding acceptance. It takes time, awareness and practice to adjust to any change, as well as psychological flexibility to respond to the state of flux we are in during times of transition.

It’s no easy task to adapt to negative and positive changes, both those we choose to make and those that are outside our control. When change is of an emotional nature, it can be difficult to practice the skills mentioned above of psychological flexibility and acceptance, and it can also be difficult to look at the situation objectively. At times like this, it can be helpful to seek the support of a psychologist, as they can assist you with viewing situations from other angles, developing your skills for adapting to change and processing your feelings surrounding change.

If you would like to talk to someone about changes in your life, get in touch with our team at Shoalhaven Psychology Services to make an appointment with one of our psychologists today

Lauren Horsley



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