The Fear of Change

Health Writer

With the dawning of a New Year, many of us vow to make changes in our life; positive, life-altering changes. We may want a new job or career, be planning a move to a new city, start preparing to head off to college, end an unhealthy relationship or start a new one. When most people think about anxiety, they believe it only occurs when some negative or frightening experience is occurring. But positive change can also trigger anxiety.

Anxiety is often triggered when we feel overwhelmed or unsure of the future. Think about starting a new job. It may be a great career choice; a job you have always wanted. It is definitely a positive step in your life. But even so, as you prepare for your first day, your stomach is in knots, you are having a hard time breathing, you are anxious and afraid.

We feel most secure when we are in our comfort-zone. Whether the situation is bad or good, if it is familiar, our anxiety levels are usually lower. We feel assured knowing what to expect. It is the unknown that causes fear. And good situations and change, just as much as negative ones, include the fear of the unknown. When starting a new job, you don't know what to expect. You don't yet know your boss, your co-workers or the job itself. You worry about failing or not being liked by colleagues.

Steps to help you overcome the fear of change:

Write down the reasons for the change. What benefits are you going to get from making this change in your life? Will you be making more money at your new job? Is the neighborhood you are moving to nicer? Safer? Will you be happier without the baggage from your current relationship? No matter what change you are facing, think about the good that will come from it. Write down all of the benefits.

Write down what fears you have. If you are changing jobs, are you worried you don't have the skills for the new job? Are you afraid your co-workers won't like you? If ending a relationship, are you concerned about financial issues? Are you worried about being alone? If starting a relationship, are you worried about being hurt? Write down all your fears, no matter how silly they may seem.

Think about each fear. What is the worst that can happen? What are the chances of that really happening? How will you react if it does? Sometimes, when you find solutions to the "worst case scenario" dealing with other problems fall into place. Write down your solutions to each of your concerns.

Create a network of supportive people. We all get scared or worried about big changes in our life. It helps to have people around you to talk to. Build a supportive network of friends and relatives that will help you through the difficult first moments of the change you have planned. Knowing there is someone to talk to can help.

Use past events to help gather strength. This isn't the first time you have made a change in your life. Look back over your past and review how you made it through previous changes, what the results were and use your past experiences to help you through your current change.

Congratulate yourself. You have taken steps to improve your life. Make sure to take the time to acknowledge how difficult this is and that you have made the decision to move forward.