Anxiety about change makes it difficult to make important life decisions and pursue goals. For example, anxiety about change in routines can influence whether or not to start a family or switch jobs.
Sometimes it is possible to spend more time thinking about making changes than taking action steps towards them. This can lead to feeling stagnated, lost, worried, and overwhelmed.
In fact, fear is often one of the primary reasons that keeps people from making change. This is true even when the change is highly likely to result in positive rewards, such as improved health, relationships, or financial status.
Why Do I Have Anxiety About Change?
Just thinking about change can stir up many different feelings.
For some people, change brings about feelings of excitement, adventure, and a sense of hope and fresh opportunities. For others, doubtfulness, dread, fear, and confusion are more commonly experienced.
So, what makes one person more likely to have anxiety about change and life adjustments than another? There are a multitude of possible reasons and explanations. Here are just a few factors and ideas to consider:
Factors That Influence Anxiety About Change
Is the change planned or unexpected?
For example, adjusting to a new job can be less stressful if you are told what to expect. You are familiar with your job responsibilities, work hours, and received new employee onboarding support.
Compare this to being suddenly thrown into a new job with little guidance, knowledge, and preparation.
This would feel much different and might lead to anxiety about change. You might second guess if you made the right choice to change jobs.
Predictability brings a sense of stability and safety to new situations. Knowing how things will pan out make them feel less risky somehow.
Some people need a certain amount of predictability to feel comfortable with life adjustments. If it is not there, there is reluctance and fear to move forward.
Locus of Control
Is it an external or internal factor that is forcing the change?
Locus of control refers to how much you believe that you can affect outcomes in your life. People that have low belief in their ability to impact life events and choices may be more prone to anxiety about change.
With an external locus of control, there is a sense of helplessness and fear that personal efforts won’t improve reality. “It is what it is”.
Change and life adjustments feel scary because it feels as if life is happening to you and not because of you. With external locus of control, it seems as if you don’t have authority, input, or choice.
For example, adjusting to a new job because of a layoff vs. having resigned due to your own personal accord. Anxiety is more likely to arise from feeling that you don’t have control over things possibly turning out badly.
On the other hand, an internal locus of control brings confidence and belief that you can manage a new situation.
Believing that you are capable and have the power to adapt can make you less aversive to life transitions. And therefore, experience overall reduced.
Desire and Motivation
Is it a desired change?
Wanting to experience something different and having motivation to change influences how you will feel about it.
For example, having a desire to get engaged to be married is more likely to bring up feelings of joy. You might not experience as much anxiety about change in routines that come with preparing for married life.
However, when there is little motivation and interest to alter your current lifestyle, a transition in can be uncomfortable. Rather than focus on the positives and looking ahead, you may focus instead on the negatives.
This can create feelings of nervousness and worry to change. You may focus on how to keep things as they are rather than on how to adapt and evolve.
Magnitude or Intensity
How big is the change? Is it a small step forward or an overwhelming leap?
For example, adjusting to a new job in a new country will feel differently than one in a nearby town. Transitions that are larger require more resources of time, energy, and discipline.
In fact, small steps and advancements over a period of time is often recommended. Small adjustments are not experienced as a jar the system and are more tolerable.
For instance, imagine being told by your medical provider that you need to make lifestyle changes to improve your health.
It is much less overwhelming and worrisome if you implement a new routine over a set period of time. Such as adding more vegetables to your lunch everyday for one month and then measuring your progress.
If you are feeling worried about modifying your lifestyle, ask yourself if it is possible to take smaller steps. Taking things one step at a time will feel less jaunting to your spirit.
How well do you usually adapt to change? Are you open and flexible? Adventurous? Like surprises and challenges?
Do you identify as being organized, a planner, efficient? Or meticulous, cautious, not a risk taker, like to be in control?
Having personality traits such as agreeableness and openness will make it less likely that you will have anxiety about change. This is because you are more likely open to experiences of life adjustments and transitions and don’t resist them.
On the other hand, having personality traits that are more oriented in neuroticism, skepticism, and rigidity influence anxiety about change in routine. Approaching things with doubt, disbelief, or a closed mind makes the prospect of change stressful.
Certain personality traits experience life adjustments as very difficult and often resist or tolerate change with discomfort. If you struggle with adapting to change, consider which parts of your personality are showing up.
Do you have a positive or negative mindset and worldview? Are you usually thinking that something bad is going to happen (glass half-empty)? Or do you consider most things will work out somehow (glass half-full?)
Mindset is often described as a choice and we can choose to switch between a positive and negative outlook.
Having a positive outlook fairs better with dealing with life adjustments.
Practice reframing negative thoughts and negative mindset to more positive alternatives.
This is especially helpful in which you had no desire, motivation or control over the change.
Approach the situation with a positive mindset as much as you can to reduce stress.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Having generalized anxiety disorder causes a person to worry frequently about various different things. If you have a general tendency to worry, you may also have anxiety about change.
People experiencing generalized anxiety disorder will worry about one thing and when it is resolved, another worry will come up.
If you worry often, anxiety counseling can help to manage symptoms. It can be tiring and overwhelming to deal with it on your own. In addition, generalized anxiety can last a very long time if left untreated.
Maintaining Rigid Attitudes and Behaviors
A rigid attitude means that you are likely to maintain your own opinions and outlook about something. There is a strong connection to this belief and it is difficult to want to make a change.
In general, adjustments are not viewed as rewarding unless you judge them to be. You are likely to maintain your same behaviors unless you have a strong conviction in change.
Some ways to see if you hold rigid attitudes and behaviors is if you find it hard to pivot, go along with others, and relinquish control.
Therefore, change is often an unwelcome presence and can lead to anxiety about change in routines. There may be a fear of the unknown and making adjustments can feel like you are straying away from your beliefs.
Tips to Manage the Process of Change
Visualize Things Going Right
When thinking about an upcoming change, practice closing your eyes for a few minutes. Allow your mind to visualize a positive turnout. What would you like to happen? What is the best case scenario. Visualizing the positives can help reduce the focus on feelings of uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
A flexible mindset allows room for error and for things to flow naturally. Flexibility will help you roll with the punches and keep trying your best to adjust to new circumstances.
Practice Confidence and Believe in Yourself
Believe in yourself and ability to manage life’s challenges. No matter what life stage you are in, you will encounter many obstacles and wonder when a change is necessary.
Change is Necessary for Growth
Humans need to evolve and adapt in order to survive. We need to experience a variety of different life circumstances to develop to our fullest potential. But, it doesn’t mean that worrying isn’t part of the process.
It is common to worry about decisions that will greatly impact your life. Such as whether or not to let go of a longterm relationship, move to another city, have your first baby, etc. None of these life events come with a guarantee of a happy and problem-free life.
But, what will happen if you don’t take a change to pursue your dreams and goals? When worrying becomes too much and keeps you from making moves in your life, you may want to seek support.
Talk to friends and family or other people that you trust will be positive influences in your life. In addition, you may seek confidential and expert support from a professional licensed mental health counselor.
Find Support for Anxiety About Change
If are in New York state and looking for support, I am here to help. Schedule an appointment by calling 845-305-5322 or using the online scheduler.