Tips for Managing Big Change

Liesel Teversham

Liesel helps HSP introverts to embrace their sensitivity as a superpower, and overcome obstacles so they can thrive. She also works with clients to solve their health issues, and has authored 2 books. More here.

Published on 2017/09/06

I wrote this article in 2017 just before we moved to the UK. That was many years ago. We’ve since become British Citizens and everything worked out well! Yes, there were hard times, and now (I’m updating this in 2024) I love my life here and am grateful for the transition. Perhaps it will mean something to you as you’re going through your big change.

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How comfortable are you with big changes? Divorce? Separation? Moving house? Moving to a different city? Or a different country? Leaving friends and family behind…. Leaving your hairdresser, healthcare, familiar surroundings…..

What emotions do you experience just thinking about big changes?

I have some big news. We’ve been considering moving to another country for several years. And suddenly, for good reasons, Andrew decided 2017 seemed like a good year to do it. His grandparents were born in the UK, so guess where we will be soon!

Change for introverts and extroverts

Change can be scary and unpleasant for most introverts and HSPs. Our nervous systems are wired for more stability and certainty.

From my work, I have noticed that extroverts, and people with the Gallup talent of Self-Assurance find change easier. They’re excited by the adventure and newness. They love the thought of all the lovely new things they will experience. New sights, new smells, new environment, new people to meet….  They meet the thought of risk with courage and strength, and in fact, the change might not even feel risky to them. They might think “Of course I can do this. I’ll make a plan along the way. Everything will work out! What fun!”

For most introverts and HSPs, it’s a different story.

We’re more careful and even risk-averse. We enjoy our comfort zone. We sometimes find it hard to meet new people, and too many new things at once (environment, country, sights, smells, way of doing things) can be overwhelming. Our nervous system copes less well with change and uncertainty, than extroverts who thrive on adrenaline and dopamine.

Too big to face

I’ve had the mental knowledge since the beginning of the year that we will leave South Africa. In early May, it became more real for me when Andrew started planning a trip to the UK to investigate options. He went for 10 days in June. Suddenly, I had to face the whole thing.

And you know what?  A part of me still kept denying it. A part of me just ignored it and went about my business as usual.

The thought of it was simply too big for me. Leaving everything I know behind… my parents, my sister, and her family (my brother and his family moved to Sydney, Australia, in April), I had to find a new, loving home for my kitty (almost the most painful of all). I have the most awesome complementary medicine team I’ve ‘gathered’ over the past few years – and I’d need to find a new team. Plus, they would not be available on the NHS. Ugh….

Andrew worked hard night after night, to get all our documentation ready for the ancestral and dependant visa applications. While I kept myself busy with my work and courses I’m on.

Until one day, not too many days ago, when I realised…. I’m going to have to get my head out of the sand. I had hardly told anyone except immediate family and a few clients and colleagues, that we were making this big change.

Uncertainty

It was hard for me to face the facts. I’m leaving my country. I’m scared. There is a ton of work ahead of us to make it all happen.

And there is so much uncertainty. Andrew is going to expand his current company in the UK, which means we have no answers yet to where will we live, where to look for accommodation, should we sell our home or rent it out, should we sell our furniture or take it with, should we rent an AirBnB, should we look for a furnished rental….. Massive, massive amounts of uncertainty and ‘not knowing’. Every person who asks me a question hears “We don’t know yet.” And I can see or hear the disbelief every time…. “You have 5 weeks to go and you don’t know???”

Sigh, yes.

Which is probably why I’m only telling you all of this now. I don’t have firm answers. My insides are fluttering uncomfortably most of the time. And in a small way, I’m getting a tiny bit more used to ‘not knowing’.

Implications and Support

I will of course, continue my practice online (as I’ve been doing for most clients anyway). In-person appointments may still be able to happen when we return to SA on occasion. Online is so convenient and easy, though. Plus – you receive a recording of your session!

I’ve had to ask for lots of support from colleagues and exchange partners to help me through this uncertainty. Buckets of tears have been filled. I’ve felt guilty and selfish (for leaving my parents and kitty here), sad and terrified. My brain has cycled through trusting it’ll all work out, right back to “OMG why are we doing this? It’s terrifying and I don’t want to go anymore!” Over and over.

If you’re going through big changes right now, I wanted to extend a hand of compassion to you. It IS hard. Very hard.

Safety

We’re designed for more certainty – because then we feel safe. Our whole body and being wants to know that we will be safe because then we’ll survive. Our survival instinct is made this way. It’s normal, it’s natural. And – it makes it hard when change is on our doorstep.

(Side Note: The funny thing is – we have no certainty even in our normal daily lives, even though we might think we do. No one knows what the next moment is going to bring. Even when we have a home, a job, school, food in the cupboards, friends we know, a hairdresser around the corner. All of it can change in a moment because of some external circumstance. So blissfully, lulled into a sense of certainty, we go about our days as if nothing will change…. Until something shifts and we must face and work through our fears and uncertainties.)

What change are you going through, or have you gone through recently? Or perhaps something is on your doorstep too?

Here are tips that have helped me so far to cope with all the change:

Physical:

  • Make lists of everything you need to do to tick it off and bring in a bit of certainty (for instance “I have done this one thing”). And you can measure progress.
  • Group the lists into weeks so you have an idea of how much time to schedule in your diary – because let’s face it, often things take a lot longer than we think they will. Andrew and I do this in a shared spreadsheet on OneDrive, so we can both access it from anywhere and update or add.
  • Regular exercise. It’s great for the mood, helps us to feel more optimistic, and builds endurance. It’s an awesome stress-reliever. A while ago I started exercising at least 20 minutes a day, 7 days a week. It’s made a huge difference in how I can handle the uncertainty. It’s the one thing in my day I look forward to now!
  • Healthy eating! I know it’s the last thing on our mind when we’re busy and stressed. It’s easier to grab a quick junk food meal or reach for a chocolate bar. I have found though, that I have more energy and resilience when I have at least one salad a day, lots of water, I make green juice and have small portions twice a day, we eat loads of fish and greens, drink kefir and lots of water. It all contributes to more sustainable energy.
  • Breathing slowly and deeply is great for stress relief. It sends a signal to our parasympathetic nervous system that “It’s okay – relax – you’re going to be fine” – so even if you can pause a few times a day and just do that, it’ll help.

Emotional:

  • I receive other help like EFT and coaching sessions with colleagues. It’s provided huge relief for my stress levels. Every time I work through a specific piece of the fear, I feel more resourceful, calmer, and I can think more clearly so I can take appropriate action.
  • Emotions. The biggest one, I believe. We need to completely acknowledge all the difficult emotions. There’s a process of mourning involved, for all the loss. YES, it is a huge adventure. And we don’t jump to the fun immediately if we’re an HSP or an introvert. We need to be kind and gentle with each emotion that shows up. They’re all valid, real, and have a message for us.
  • Know WHY you’re doing this. Write down the things you’re looking forward to on the other side of the change. For us, we love to travel. We’re going to start planning one or 2 weekend trips to awesome places. My brain, nervous system, and whole being needs to know that there’s something really pleasant waiting for me after all the hard work and stress.
  • Ask for support. Life is stressful as it is… adding huge change to the mix makes it even more crucial that we get extra support. Let those around you know that you’re going through a hard time so they can give you that gift. Most people love being able to support their loved ones.

Mental:

  • Find someone who can help you brainstorm the strategy. Making plans and strategising are not my strengths, so I have several people with whom I discuss different areas. I rely on their strength of strategic thinking – I feel too anxious if I have to do it.
  • Meditation is of course a great stress reliever, though It’s not always easy for me when my mind is so busy trying to sort through all the thoughts in there…. Therefore I sometimes do breathing exercises, or Heartmath, or a guided meditation.
  • Mindset. Choose a few guiding principles that will help you get through it. Your values (for instance kindness, compassion for yourself) or Trust in God, or Spirit, or a belief that you want to cultivate like “I know it’s not easy, and I have a learning attitude so every step is a good step in our new direction, and all will work out for me.”

 

I’d love to hear from you.

What changes are you experiencing or have you been through, and what is your experience with that? Do you need tapping support? Please do reach out. I’ve been through many big transitions and love supporting introverts and HSPs going through stressful change.

 

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