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How to cope with change in life

Layne Beachley shares her top tips for coping with change


Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that an object will remain at rest or in motion, with the same speed and in the same direction, unless acted upon by force.

As a professional surfer, I was on a trajectory for 19 years, and it was my life – it was everything to me and all I knew. Surfing gave me structure and purpose, but an external force called ‘retirement’ knocked me off my path. I felt an immense sense of loss and struggled to deal or cope with the change.

The psychological effect of retirement honestly caught me off guard. It wasn’t something often talked about, and I have since understood that significant changes like this often result in a loss of identity. I lost my sense of direction, sense of structure, sense of belonging and sense of community – I felt like I had lost my sense of self!

Instead of feeling fulfilled, relaxed and free, I felt aimless, isolated and anxious about maintaining a sense of relevance after being a professional athlete for many years. Feelings of relevance deprivation burrowed their way into my mind and negatively impacted my life. I felt a sense of helplessness and worthlessness because I had told myself I had no purpose or passion.

What changes are you currently going through? Whether you’re on maternity leave, injured, have had your employment impacted by COVID-19 or are retiring from a senior position, if recent changes in your life have you feeling lost, you’re not alone. The good news is there are things you can do to help.

Credit: nib health insurance

Why do you need to learn to cope with or prepare for change?

The only constant in life is change – it’s unavoidable. There’s an emotional process that most people go through when dealing with change, such as anxiety, anger, guilt and despair. The biggest mistake we can make is to avoid, deny or deflect our feelings. We have to honour our feelings because being okay with them expedites the transformation of them.

The resistance to exploring how you feel creates numbness and disconnection, hindering the ability to move forward. If we don’t honour our feelings, we deny ourselves compassion, and self-compassion is the first place to start.

Tips for coping with change

1. Write down and acknowledge how you’re feeling

Put a timer on for 10 minutes and start writing down what you’re feeling. Start with the sentence “I feel ____ because…” and let the words spill out on paper, free of judgement, criticism or fear.

Journaling will help you gain clarity and get more in touch with your feelings. It will give you the ability to honour yourself and to be authentic with others. It can also help you manage personal adversity and change and emphasise important patterns and growth in life. It enables you to prioritise problems, fears and concerns.

2. Focus on the positives

For just two minutes a day, I want you to write about one positive experience you’ve had. It could be anything from where you were to what you were doing, who you were with, to what you were wearing. Big or small, it doesn’t matter – just write it down!

By doing this, your brain will start to scan your life for something meaningful. Your brain, as a pattern maker, connects the dots for you. Suddenly you’ll start to take note of more positive experiences as you go about your day.

Learning to accept change is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.

3. Silence your inner critic and listen to your inner fan

What's the inner critic? It’s your internal judge and the voice that keeps a record of all your errors and faults. The inner critic refers back to your past to validate how you’re currently feeling. When we feel like we’re lost and not good enough, the inner critic will validate that with statements such as, “You’re not good enough”, “You’re not smart enough”, “You’re not doing enough”. It will continue to validate those feelings in you.

Your inner critic does not motivate you, but do you know what empowers you? Your inner fan.

This is the voice of encouragement, self-compassion and possibility. The inner fan validates and reassures you through statements such as, “I’ve been here before”, “I know what to do”, “It’s okay to feel this way”, and “I don’t have to have all the answers”. The more you can focus on silencing your inner critic and amplifying the voice of your inner fan – particularly through times of great change – the better.

4. Don’t suffer in silence

Relying on people around you to share in your struggles keeps us connected and centred. My mentor helped me detach from judgement, along with my need to validate who I am and what I have achieved. My mentor created a structure and process to project me onto a new trajectory of growth and improvement. This structure created freedom.

I have many ‘honesty barometers’ in my life who keep me honest, grounded, humble and genuine. If you’re going through change, finding a mentor or honesty barometer could be the next step for you. If you’re struggling to adapt or need extra support, please also consider speaking with a counsellor or another mental health professional.

Related: 6 ways to get help for mental health – and you won’t have to pay a thing!

Final tips for dealing with change

Give it time. This may be the most important lesson I had to learn. It took me around five years to adjust, let go, embrace the changes and find myself again. Learning to accept change is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.

For me, life is different now and better in so many ways. I’ve stopped beating myself up, and I now talk to myself kindly. I celebrate both success and failure because I know that’s what it takes to become wiser. Embrace change, and you’ll start to appreciate it for what it is: a chance to grow.

Does this resonate with you? Join me at Awake Academy, where you will learn all my life lessons and tips to transform your life. If you’re an nib member, I’m offering you $100 off the Own Your Truth course. You can access the discount and sign up via nib Rewards today.

Let’s do this.

Love Layne xx

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