Dealing with Change Can Mimic the Grief Cycle

We all go through changes in life.  Some are welcomed other changes we struggle with.  These tough transitions can be challenging even when we are intentional about them.  Dealing with change can mimic the grief cycle. 

As I work with clients, I hear many opinions about change.  Some of their comments remind me of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s Grief Cycle.  We go through different stages as we deal with loss…. even the loss of a habit. The cycle is not linear.  People change and shift at their own pace. Here is an overview of the Grief Cycle as it relates to habit changes.

Grief Cycle:

Denial-avoidance, fear, or reluctance to buy in to new behaviors

Anger-frustration or anxiety in giving up current, comfortable routines

Bargaining-searching for understanding or rewriting your belief system

Depression-feeling hopeless or overwhelmed with the thought of something different

Acceptance-putting a new routine in place and trying to move on

It is helpful to reflect on how you have managed change in the past, even to remember challenging changes and the steps you took to succeed. Acknowledging where you are in the cycle can also help the process.  In addition, talking to others about change can help to solidify that you can tackle this.  Review what you are currently doing, transition, and settle into the new behavior. 

Stacking behaviors is a strategy used to help you settle into these new routines.  Pick a current habit and “stack” the new habit on with it. 

Stacking Habits Examples:

  • Floss your teeth daily-set the floss next to your toothbrush and floss before brushing
  • Drink water in the morning-place a water glass next to your coffee pot and drink a glass while waiting for coffee
  • Walk 30 min daily-add the activity to your calendar before or after breaks, meals, or specific activities

Be kind to yourself as you face new challenges. Allow yourself time to process and go through the grief cycle if that is what is needed.  Remember your success from past journeys, no matter how small they were. 

Because dealing with change can mimic the grief cycle, outside resources are helpful navigating that process.

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