Change Can be Scary

Jennifer is working for mindyourmind as a Research Associate, she is here on a student placement from Western University in London, ON. As a future librarian she is passionate about connecting people to information and developing resources that help in times of need. Outside of work she loves reading, rugby, and watching terrible movies with her friends.

Change happens in our lives constantly, they can be little things like the bus timetable shifting meaning you have to go to work at a new time or much bigger like leaving home and starting university. While change can be a good thing in many ways, it upsets our balance and routines that get us through the day. During times of change in the past I know I have felt more emotionally fragile and have over reacted to the smallest of things because I felt unstable within my environment.

I have been through a couple of big moves in my life, when I was 13 I moved to Canada to live in Vancouver and at the end of high school I moved out to Ontario to go to university. Both of these situations were exciting and I looked forward to starting the next phase of my life however in both cases I found the reality harder than I had expected them to be. Once the initial excitement wore off I found that I was unhappy, when things caused me stress during the day my support structures were no longer there to comfort me. I know from speaking to friends who have gone through changes that they felt the same way, when you come down from that excitement about new opportunities the reality of an unfamiliar situation can be very upsetting or sometimes it can be terrifying from the moment that it starts. It can make you question whether you are doing the right thing, it’s tempting to retreat into your shell and try to protect yourself or just throw your hands up and say I can’t do this and try to go back to the way that things were before. I know personally I felt guilty because I had this amazing opportunity and I felt like I wanted to walk away from it and go back to the family and friends and routines that had been in my life for years.

The first thing I figured out was that it was okay and normal to feel like this, changes are upsetting and it is probably not possible to get through life without going through some sort of upheaval. The wonders of the internet and cell phones mean that if I have had a terrible day I can immediately talk to one of the people who support me; granted it’s not the same as getting a hug and talking things out over a plate of nachos but at least you can see and talk to them in real time. The really important thing I found was to build a new support structure in my new environment; for us introverts that can be very tough and can leave you feeling even more tired and strained but long term this really helped me feel at home. Looking forward I know that another big change is likely to happen in the next couple of years for me, I know it will be bumpy in the beginning and there may be a few evenings calling people for comfort and advice, but if I force myself to get out of my shell I can make it work. I try to start small, I let myself turtle up at home and pretend that the world doesn’t exist for a few nights a week but I also try to get out and be social a couple of nights. As I get to know the new routines and become part of a new community it becomes easier and while I still need some quiet down time I also feel more comfortable in my new surroundings.

Change is scary, it doesn’t matter whether we choose it or not or how big a change it is. While hiding from the world can feel good in the short term, long term we have to engage with what is happening around us. New situations can present new opportunities for us and while there will be instability in the short term, we have the ability to adapt to the new situation and build new routines to help us get through whatever it is we are now facing.