How to cope when Change is the only Constant
Making sense in the midst of change
It is said that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. I'd like to amend that to include change! If there is one thing I've learned in the past ten years, it is that change is constant and it happens regardless of whether we welcome it or shun it.
And, consider a life where nothing changed and life just went on the same day after endless day. It might be a bit like living in the fictional world of Pleasantville (popular movie) an idyllic world of peace, harmony and quiet. But, I can tell you that it would get boring very fast if your life were this predictable and harmonious. We seem to need a modicum of drama and conflict in order to strengthen our resolve and bring us to the game ready to play.
Just as we can grow stronger bones by putting stress on them, we need to stress our emotional bones with changes and challenges in order to grow. While in the throes of great change, one can feel tossed at sea and soon to capsize under the weight of the waters of change. But, the very act of navigating the stormy sea is building endurance, tolerance and the changes are happening even subtly.
Life simply was not meant to be lived in some static, predictable way. At least, my experience has been that change, while challenging is one thing that keeps us truly alive with our eyes wide open, and brains and hearts ready to receive.
Let's look at some of the common changes life brings and ways in which we might better cope with them.
Take it one day at a time
I know that the phrase "One day at a time" is popular in twelve step programs, and to some it may even sound cliché. But, in life it can be extremely helpful when one is enduring a lot of change to take it in increments. To expect to assimilate a big change all at once is ridiculous! You would not expect to lose 50 pounds in one week; nor should you expect yourself to adapt to large changes in your life over night.
Taking a "one day at a time" approach is a kinder, gentler way to adapt. I was noting the other morning on my walk in the neighborhood the ongoing construction of a vacant duplex on my route. One day I noted there were two nice new doors and a new gate. The following week I could see that there was brickwork being laid in the front yard. These observations made me consider "I wonder what's going on behind the windows and doors on the inside"? It was this thought that caused me to ponder the changes in my own life and how they manifest.
I recall that many times in life, even during a huge upheaval and lifestyle change, that the changes were not really visible. Certainly not to me, and not to anybody who might be observing me. But that didn't mean that changes weren't taking place; they were just taking place so slowly as to not be obvious. One day you look in the mirror and realize this change and wonder "when did that happen".
It is human nature to be able to turn off our conscious mind when something is bothersome or we simply don't know what to "do" with it, and thus put it on the proverbial back burner. But, change can be pleasant if taken in these small steps.
Surely, nobody thinks they will completely remodel a house in one or two days! More likely, it will be weeks, perhaps even months before a full remodel can be accomplished. Well, this is how it works for us as well. We may have a goal in our mind of where we want to be logistically in relation to where we are. Or perhaps we want to lose 20 pounds or grow out our hair, or some other physical change. We know, realistically that we aren't going to grow waist length hair from a pixie cut in 6 months, and we aren't going to lose twenty pounds of weight in one week. It is illogical and counterproductive to put that kind of expectation on oneself.
Better to take small, consistent steps toward your goal. By doing this, you incorporate the changes into your existing life, and it is not so dramatic or difficult to absorb.
There are other changes that we have no control of. The loss of a loved one to illness or death; the loss of a job or one's cherished belongings in a robbery or a fire. Let's now talk about how we can cope with the changes we didn't ask for but are happening any way.
Stuff Happens.....getting on with it
Life is change, change is life. If you are hoping to live a life free of change, you are wasting your time. Let's accept that change is inevitable and instead focus on how to be ambassadors of change. It is always better to be in control of a situation than to have control wrested from you. Even when you can't directly control something, you can control how you react to it.
For instance, you might be going along comfortably and suddenly you are told that you are going to have to move. Maybe you love your apartment and do not want to move? Maybe you have no extra cash to help you move into a place equal or better than where you already are? Maybe you simply just don't want to move. But, this situation is such that you have no choice but to relocate whether or not you like it.
While getting upset is counterproductive and won't ultimately do you any good, it is not unreasonable to react naturally and express your upset. To deny being upset, or try to hold it inside instead of reacting honestly is also counterproductive. I think it's healthier to react honestly and then when you've done so, get serious about a plan. If change is thrust upon you, then change you must! But, you have some control in how you handle it. You have choices about how you go about this.
I like to rely on a few daily tools that help me in coping with life stresses, and yes, with all the changes that I experience on a regular basis.
One such tool is that of meditation. It can be extremely beneficial to sit with a quiet mind for several minutes on a daily basis and just let your unconscious mind take over. One can meditate on their own, or there are multiple options to find group meditations held online or in person.
Another tool is that of being openly grateful. I have learned that to express gratitude for what one has and appreciates in their life will open you to that much more to be grateful for! It's like a cause and effect relationship; I am grateful, therefore I have something to be grateful for.
I also am a believer in journaling or getting in touch with oneself in some way. To journal can be very healing and eye opening. There is something about the act of writing one's thoughts that seems to imprint the intention on your brain. Thus, if you are feeling stressed about a life change, writing about how you wish to cope can actually cause the coping to occur!
You also can talk to somebody about what's going on. We aren't meant to suffer through this life alone without the help of others. Surely there is a trusted friend, spouse or coworker that you might talk to. A sister, uncle, parent? It can make all the difference in the world to simply be able to talk openly about something that is upsetting. By doing this you might actually stimulate some ideas that will ultimately lead to your not only getting through the change, but actually reveling in it!
Embrace the Change
Asking you to embrace change might feel like asking you to say thank you for being told you are fired from your job! But, I'm suggesting that it's not quite that bizarre a suggestion to lean into change and embrace it instead of flailing about trying to avoid it.
We can exhaust ourselves trying to dance ahead of some change that is coming or we can sit back, accept it and allow it to occur. The choice is always up to you. I think it sounds a lot nicer to be in control and to choose to accept a change than to fight.
Certainly, if there is some sort of illegal or unfair situation being thrust upon you, then fighting for what is right and fair is a very reasonable thing to do. But, in situations that you can't change but are unhappy with, maybe just accepting the situation is the best option. It can't be pleasant to rant and rave and rally against all that is unfair if ultimately you will have to suck it up and go through the change anyway. Wouldn't it be easier to simply express your displeasure then get on with the business of adapting to the new way things are?
Whether you are eagerly anticipating change, or struggling to accept that a change is happening in your life that you didn't ask for, it's a given that change is going to happen. It's up to you how you handle it.