7 strategies to make change less stressful

Whenever I meet a new customer, I can sense their concern that their lifestyle will change in the first few minutes – especially when we start talking about food.

The worry is that you will never be able to have your favorite food again. The fear of not being able to stick with it. The judgment of friends and family who they think will alienate them from social functions, happy hours, and dinner parties (you’ll know when they’re back in full swing).

The emotions and “what if” that occur in some people can seriously prevent them from living a life they love and absolutely deserve. The very idea of ​​change becomes such a hurdle that they’d rather get stuck in their current patterns than take steps towards something else.

Sound familiar? If so, stick with it because I’m going to unpack why change is so stressful and tangible that you can make it easier.

Why is change so difficult?

Your brain likes to protect you – that is one of its most important tasks. It loves to keep you safe in your comfort zone where everything is beautiful and predictable. Why? Because when you experience changes, your brain interprets them as a threat. Hence, any action you take outside of your comfort zone will be sabotaged because of your basic human needs for survival and safety.

Unfortunately, it is in your nature to resist change, even if it is good for your health and wellbeing.

James Prochaska, psychologist and creator of the Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTM), says we resist change, not because of the change itself, but because of our perception of change. It is this deep threat to our security.

Is it a setback or a progress?

Changing your behavior takes time and often requires backtracking, which feels like a setback, but doesn’t. You’re still moving forward. That’s because change is not a one-time event. It is actually a series of non-linear events that occur over time. This means that you go back and forth between phases and work through them until the change is fully established and there is little chance of going back to your old habits.

Take a look at the transtheoretical model levels of change to see what I mean:

  • In the phase before contemplation … You want to make a change, but you have no conscious intention to do so. While this may not make you feel on board, this is a good sign. And it’s the first step in the process.
  • In the contemplation phase…. You start an internal debate about changes and you may have more insight into why this is important to you.
  • In the preparatory phase … You are weighing the consequences of your change and may take a small step in that direction. If you want to change your diet, you can join the Keto Reset group on Facebook or search for paleo recipes online.
  • In the action phase … This is where you move from planning to work. They get involved in online groups and cook some of the paleo recipes that sound interesting to you.
  • In the maintenance phase … At this stage you have established new habits so that your old habits feel less intense or frequent.

Research also shows that you will be more successful when you see your change through a positive lens. In an analysis of 129 studies of behavior change strategies, one research group found that the least effective approaches to change were those initiated by feelings of fear or regret.

So, if you want to change your diet because you are afraid of developing diabetes, or if one day you can’t chase your kids or grandchildren around, you have statistically less chance of succeeding with that change. Studies also show that changes are easier when they are specific. If you have a big ass salad for lunch every day, you will go way beyond saying, “I have to start eating heather.”

How do you make changes easier?

Too often we are motivated by guilt, fear, or comparisons. However, experts agree that the best approach is rooted in self motivation and positivity. With that in mind, here are 7 strategies I share with my own clients to help them feel more confident about making changes.

  1. Know that change is the only constant in life
    We’re so busy forcing things to stay the same (keeping the same weight, keeping the same job, etc.) that we end up making it harder for ourselves. Familiarize yourself with the idea that life is supposed to change and you will see that it is much better to go with the flow than to force every aspect of your life.
  2. Let your imagination run wild
    It’s easy to step out of the deep end and imagine all the things that could happen when you start making this change. But as the quote says, “worry is an abuse of the imagination” so try to stay in the moment. And while you’re at it, try to get the emotions out of your thinking and maintain a neutral mindset.
  3. Focus on the positive
    Instead of thinking about not going to grab a muffin and OJ in the morning, think about what positives you might experience. You may end up finding that you have always felt sluggish after your daily gluten bomb. Or that you don’t miss out on getting hungry in the mornings. Or maybe you realize that you love the smell of freshly cooked bacon in the morning.
  4. Get specific
    As I mentioned earlier, changes will be a lot easier (and a lot less stressful) when you have a specific plan. Take a few minutes to decide what changes to make, how to hold yourself accountable, and how to know if you are successful.
  5. Break it down into small steps
    Now that you know what specific changes you are going to make, break them down into small steps. Suppose you want to lower your stress levels by meditating every morning. Literally write down the steps you need to take to achieve this. Step 1 could be to download a guided meditation app the night before. Step 2: Set your alarm clock for 6 a.m. Step 3: sit on your yoga mat; Step 4: sit and meditate. You have the idea.
  6. Don’t change everything at once
    Even if you are genuinely motivated and change too many things at the same time, you will overwhelm your attention and jeopardize your long-term success. The body and brain love consistency and certainty. So if you are embarking on a change, see if you can keep most of your current routine going, whether it’s walking the dog before work, watching your favorite TV shows at night, or sticking to your sleep schedule.
  7. Realize that you don’t have to shout it from the rooftops
    Some people love to share their diet plans and preferences with the world for accountability and support. For others, it just adds stress. You know each other better than anyone, and if the explanation that you’ve cut yourself off leads to a panic attack, you can keep it to yourself and work your way through these stages of change on your own.

7 ways to make change less stressful

Change can be a struggle. This need not be. Knowing that it is a process will make it easier for you to recover if you slip or fall off the cart. Practice these strategies and before you know it, be sure to swap out your toast and OJ routine for a tray of bacon and eggs for good.

  1. Know that change is the only constant in life
  2. Let your imagination run wild
  3. Focus on the positive
  4. Get specific
  5. Break it down into small steps
  6. Don’t change everything at once
  7. Realize that you don’t have to shout it from the rooftops

Now it’s your turn! How do you deal with change?

About the author

Erin Power is the coaching and curriculum director of the Primal Health Coach Institute. She also helps her clients reestablish loving and trusting relationships with their bodies – while restoring their metabolic health so they can lose fat and gain energy – through her own private health coaching practice, eat.simple.

If you are passionate about health and wellness and want to help people like Erin for their clients every day, you should consider becoming a certified health coach yourself. In this special information session hosted by PHCI Co-Founder Mark Sisson, you will learn the three simple steps to building a successful health coaching business in a maximum of 6 months.

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