Fear Change? Seven Ways to Quiet Anxiety of the Unknown

Thursday, April 9 2015 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

It's not surprising that a great number of human beings fear change and experience significant anxiety when it comes to the unknown. It makes sense, actually. From infancy to old age, people need predictable routines in order to thrive. We strive to create routines so we feel safe and secure, organized, in control, and confident in who and what is in our lives. Isn't it annoying and anxiety-provoking when change comes along and messes with us? While we won't be able to stop change from happening throughout our lives, happily we can do something about how we handle it. There are surprising ways to decrease the fear of change and quiet anxiety of the unknown.

Fear Change? I Get It

Change happens. It's not always bad, of course. Sometimes we're offered a promotion or a new job or we change our relationship status or have a baby or change our hairstyle, or, well, you get the idea. Even when change is positive, though, it still involves adjusting to something new. Positive or negative, big or small, change disrupts our routine. Facing change and the unknown can cause the fear, worry, dread, and uneasiness we call anxiety, and it can even be extreme enough to lead to anxiety attacks.

Fear change; have anxiety of the unknown? It’s possible to beat it. Read on for 7 surprising ways to stop the fear of change and anxiety of the unknown. While we often can't stop change from altering our lives, we can stop fearing change and feeling anxious about the unknown. These seven suggestions for quieting change-related fear and anxiety are surprisingly simple, little actions to take charge of change in your life. Some contradict each other, which is part of the beauty of taking control of change; it means there are many approaches to conquering the fear of change and anxiety of the unknown and you get to choose what works for you.

7 Ways to Ease Your Fear of Change and Anxiety of the Unknown

1. Organize

Feeling disorganized can make us feel out of control, which increases anxiety and that unsettled feeling. Getting organized can help you take charge of what's happening before the change becomes completely overwhelming.

2. Do Your Research

To fear what we don't know is part of being human. The best way to make the unknown known, and thus reduce anxiety, is to learn. Research what you can. Libraries, bookstores, and the Internet are great resources for learning about new towns, raising twins, new diet restrictions, and everything else that change throws your way. Research can mean talking to people around you, too, which has an added bonus of increasing human connection. If you live with social anxiety, reaching out to ask one question of even a single person can help you knock down the barriers that social anxiety puts in your way.

3. Embrace, Rather than Avoid, The Change

Approaching a change can be like approaching a pool. Is the water cold? Are you going to like it? There are two ways to find the answers to these questions: jump right in or stand there dipping in a toe and recoiling. I've done both, and I've discovered that if I must go into a pool (like I must face change in my life), I do better if I embrace it rather than avoid it. I get used to the water much more quickly, and I begin to enjoy myself more quickly, too. If I dip and retreat, I grow increasingly anxious because I think it feels cold and unpleasant, I don't want to go in, but I know I have to. Embracing the inevitable change helps you get the difficult things over sooner so you can settle in and be more relaxed than anxious.

4. Run Away from It

Embracing change rather than avoiding it does decrease the fear of change and anxiety of the unknown, so jumping right into that pool is truly helpful. Live the change! But sometimes we just need to run away. When we become overwhelmed by the stress and anxiety caused by change, sometimes it's vital to take care of ourselves by taking a break. Do something you love, something that will truly let your mind be still. Read a book, take a walk, do something that makes you laugh, visit a museum -- the possibilities are nearly endless. When you are refreshed, worry and anxiety find it difficult to lock you in a vice.

5. Sleep on It -- But Not Too Much

Proper sleep is vital to mental and physical health. When we are going through a change and experiencing anxiety because of the change and the unknown, we especially need a good night's sleep. Having enough sleep helps us better problem-solve and approach a change more calmly rather than anxiously. Too much sleep, however, can make us groggy and prone to increased anxiety and depression.

6. Develop a Routine

The fear of change settles down when we make the new change part of our normal lives. Develop a new routine around a change that you are experiencing. Then, it's no longer change to be feared or the unknown to be anxious about.

7. Get Away from Your Routine

Routines are important and so are breaks. This is similar to "running away." Sometimes, we just want things to go back to the way they were. As much as it's possible, take steps to make it happen. Recently married or had a baby and miss the evenings out with friends? Make arrangements to have evenings away with them, occasionally. Having a routine makes things comfortable, and getting away from it makes the change seem less all-encompassing.

You Don't Have to Forever Fear Change and Experience Anxiety of the Unknown

The fear of change can be paralyzing. As if adjusting to something new weren't challenging enough, this unknown, this change, can create intense anxiety. How wonderful it is that we have control. Change is just change. It can't hurt us if we take action. Seeing yourself as able to control your reaction to change can truly make the fear of change and the anxiety of the unknown disappear.

You can also connect with Tanya J. Peterson on her website, Google+, Facebook,Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest.

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

View all posts by Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC.

Fear Change? Seven Ways to Quiet Anxiety of the Unknown

Dr Musli Ferati
says:
April, 13 2015 at 2:21 am

Excellent analytic observation on fear change, because life embrace a wide specter of unforeseen events and situations, as well. Therefore, it is of vital importance to develop some psychosocial skills, in order to overcome satisfactory life problems. The conclusion of these smart suggestions is our proactive approaching to unavoidable changes during daily global life functioning. So, it ought to be alert and ready to deal with unexpectedly and irreconcilable changes along our everyday functioning. The most admissible recommendation is second one, because it ought to research thoroughly each unknown events, in order to face in appropriate way with it. To be honest the last one suggestion is a bit contradictory way, because to develop a kind routine is incompatible with the your advise to get away from any other routine. It is more difficult task to lead healthy lifestyle with two routines that are excluded with each other. Thank you for your understanding!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 13 2015 at 1:53 pm

Hello Dr. Ferati,
I wholeheartedly agree with you that it's important to be proactive. Change is unavoidable, and while we often can't predict exactly what change will occur and what it will bring, we can be flexible and have healthy coping/living skills so we can flow with change. You are also right that the suggestion for having a routine is in contrast to getting away from routine. I did that intentionally! :) Routine is essential for healthy functioning (from infancy through old age). I've found that stepping away from ordinary routine (such as a vacation or even a morning walk rather than an evening workout) can not only be mentally refreshing but can be a way of maintaining flexibility. But in general, yes -- a healthy lifestyle needs a consistent routine. I'm happy that you mentioned that!

Christy
says:
April, 14 2015 at 2:51 am

I am a Nurse Manager for a busy hospital ICU. There is constant change (not due to a lack of leadership, but rather the inherent nature of Healthcare and Medicine). I have found that the people that seem to have the MOST (subjectively speaking of course) difficult time with change... big or little, are nurses and doctors. I have spent years trying to motivate and find ways that would help these people handle change less invasively, and of course a few respond here and there... but I've noticed, it's not necessarily because they WANT to do so, but rather, I am asking them to do so and they respect me ( well most of them anyway) at least enough to humor me and give it a shot. If you have anything else that dives into the psychology of why we are, if not scared of change, at least hesitant to accept it. I would love to read it!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 14 2015 at 3:35 pm

Hi Christy,
I think that your hospital is fortunate to have you as a Nurse Manager! Every workplace could use someone so dedicated to going beyond orchestrating, arranging, directing, etc. to enhancing the wellbeing of people. The idea of resistance to change is fascinating to me. Knowing how to accept, and embrace, change is so important because change happens all the time. I'll see what I can dig up about the psychology of change and let you know. (I've read many things, but from different sources so I need to investigate.) :)

Adriana
says:
August, 12 2017 at 7:56 pm

Every time I try to do something that is going to change my life I experience intense anxiety. It makes me so overwhelmed and in that moment I become a prisoner in my own body. I hate it so much. I just want to live and not let fear ever be a factor in my life. Or atleast not be immobilized by it. I'm a person in a body of water fighting to keep my head above the waves. Everytime I catch my breath I am sucked back underneath. I don't want to keep living this way.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 13 2017 at 4:53 pm

Hi Adriana,
I love your water analogy. It really captures this type of anxiety. You might be able to use this analogy to help deal with change. Rather than fighting the waves and getting sucked under, visualize yourself riding the waves or floating on them, moving with them rather than against them. You don't have to force any other images if you don't want to. Just use it as a reminder to breathe and to move with it (as opposed to fighting it or being immobilized). Visualization like this helps reduce stress in the body. It won't help you love change, but it can calm you enough to deal with it.

In reply to by tpeterson

Adriana
says:
August, 14 2017 at 12:09 pm

Thank for the guidance, I will certainly give it a try.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 15 2017 at 5:06 am

Discovering ideas, trying what resonates with you, and keeping the strategies that work for you is a powerful path to healing!

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