Overcoming your fear of change

Dealing with the unknown doesn’t have to be terrifying. Try these six simple strategies and take the fear factor outOvercome your fear of change of change. 


Words: Melanie Hearse


1. Accept the idea of change

Despite the potential pitfalls, wellness coach Jen Knutson from The Happiness Institute believes humans are built to cope with change. Clinical psychologist Dr Cindy Nour agrees, explaining that resistance to change can actually hinder your ability to not only come to terms with the idea of change, but to deal with the change itself. “This is because resistance could be a sign of being stuck in a rut,” she says. “Feeling stuck can reduce your ability to be creative and to solve a situation that needs a change.”


2. Take smaller steps

When faced with change, instead of looking at the big and overwhelming picture, look at the smaller pieces of the puzzle. “Break things down into less threatening pieces and take short-term steps that will result in long-term change,” suggests Knutson. “Small changes will often help you become accustomed to long-term change. For example, if you want to lose 50 kilograms, break it down into 10 lots of five-kilogram goals instead.”


3. Believe in yourself

“You need to believe in yourself and have faith in your abilities to handle a variety of situations,” says Knutson. She advises focusing on your strengths and calling on them when uncomfortable situations or times of change occur.


4. Approach it differently

“Try to see problems as challenges instead of threats,” suggests Dr Nour. “If you are afraid of change, your immediate reaction is to see a threat in anything that’s different to what you’re used to. So, you tend to stick with what you know, even if it is not serving you well.”


5. Develop a sense of optimism

“Anxiety gets in the way of change and results in us avoiding the things that we need to change in our lives,” says Dr Nour. “This is called learnt helplessness: people learn to be helpless in life so they don’t have to make changes. Learnt optimism is the opposite of this, whereby through life’s experiences, you learn to be positive.”


6. Investigate your values

One way to confront change, says Knutson, is to work out what your personal values are, as these can guide your decision-making. She offers the example of a vegetarian wanting to lose weight, but is told that to do so, they must eat a high-protein diet of meat and poultry. “When change is not aligned with our values, it makes it harder to deal with,” she points out. “This can lead to a sense of ambivalence, where it’s hard to be motivated to do anything at all.”


Where to get help

  • To find a psychologist near you, visit psychology.org.au or visit your GP for a referral
  • For those aged under 25 and experiencing difficulties, visit reachout.com for help and guidance
  • For anyone needing support or advice for depression or anxiety, visit beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 224 636
  • If facing a mental health emergency, visit lifeline.org.au or call Lifeline on 13 11 14

Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.