Dealing with Change // Expert Advice from Dr. Julie Zelig

Having difficulty adjusting to a change in your life? Our expert psychologist, Dr. Julie Zelig breaks down why we often have such a hard time with the unfamiliar, giving us some useful tips to stay grounded and glowy amidst life's many transition periods.

We asked Dr. Julie Zelig to provide some insight on the nature of change and advise us on how to feel a little bit more comfortable with it. Here's what she had to say:

“Change is just a natural part of life.” This is a saying everyone has heard a million times before. What this really means is that change is healthy and inevitable. Trying to prevent change is like trying to stop time; it’s impossible. Change has been described as both scary and exciting. How can something so healthy and natural result in such an extreme range of human emotions?

Perception is everything. And perspectives can also change over time. Your specific temperament, personality, experiences in your family, and past relationships, all influence how we approach and adjust to new situations. For example, a person might initiate personal change by seeking out therapy, yet at the same time, they could also feel ambivalent about letting go of comfortable patterns. These same cozy, familiar old habits can actually obstruct one’s ability to embrace a more effective way of living.

The experience of change is similar to that of anxiety. Change has been defined as “to make or become different, to alter, take or use another instead of.” Anxiety has been defined as “a desire to do something, typically by unease,” “a feeling of worry, nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” People often experience some level of anxiety about positive life changes, for example being promoted at work, getting married, and having a baby.

Anxiety is a normal human experience that everyone encounters at some point, to varying degrees. Just enough anxiety can serve as a motivating force, in which you feel propelled to take action. Too much anxiety can result in inaction. With appropriate skills and preparation, people can learn to manage and actually welcome uncertainty into their lives.

Anxiety and change understandably come hand in hand. Leaving our familiar and predictable landscape and venturing into the unknown can feel unsettling. Remember, there is a fine line between the arousal sensations surrounding fear and excitement. If you can tune into the thrill of a new experience, it can in turn, positively redirect your anxious thoughts. Let things unfold. The mystery of what’s on the other side is worth exploring.

Some tips for managing change and anxiety:

  •  Begin to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The more practice you get with stepping outside of your comfort zone, the easier it will get.
  •  Breathe in, and relax into the idea that whatever you are feeling is completely okay. Emotions tend to show up, run their course, and then they pass. There is no need to get rid of any emotions, as avoidance of discomfort prevents personal growth.
  • Slow down. Mindfulness strategies can be used to help get you through the present moment. Mindfulness is being aware of your experience in the moment, without any judgment.
  •  Simply notice how you're feeling, observe your thoughts, feelings and sensations, without judging yourself.
  • Treat yourself as you would a friend. Practice self-compassion by quieting your own inner critic and being more understanding of your struggles.
  • Reach out to others for guidance and support. It is common to want to isolate yourself when experiencing emotional difficulties, but instead, do the opposite.
  • Create a positive coping thought that can help to reframe the current situation, such as: “This feeling is uncomfortable, but it is an opportunity for me to grow,” or “Getting through this experience will make me stronger.”

Dr. Julie Zelig completed her doctoral training in California and is a NY licensed psychologist. She has a private practice in Manhattan and works with people virtually across the globe. Dr. Zelig provides individual and group therapy to teens and adults with a range of concerns; her areas of clinical interest and expertise include: anxiety, depression, disordered eating, social anxiety, coping with life transitions, building self-esteem and relationship concerns. Julie is a specialist in social anxiety and public speaking skills.

For more info and advice from Dr. Julie Zelig, visit her website: