CHANGE IS INEVITABLE, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S EASY
Big changes can bring up a lot of feelings, both positive and uncomfortable ones. Some examples of large life changes are retirement, graduation, adult children moving out of the home, divorce, the death of a parent. How can you move through these life altering moments with resilience and self compassion? Mindfulness is one simple way to keep you present, with your feet solidly planted on the ground during times of transition and turmoil.
WHY DO WE RESIST CHANGE?
There are all sorts of reasons to resist change, even positive changes, but one of the most common reasons is around fear of loss and fear of failure. We believe we will lose something of value if we change or we’re afraid we will not be able to adapt to this new way of living. This is the stuff that keeps us up at night.
Doing new tasks and working with new people is exciting, but there is more opportunity for failure (what if my best work isn’t good enough, what if I say the wrong thing and come off as a weirdo to my new coworkers?)
The trick is to expect that at times you will fail, you may say something that sounds weird to your coworker, your best work might still need some tweaks before it’s ready to be given to the clients, those things may happen. If you play out those scenarios in your head but then keep the tape running…after you say something silly to a coworker, you could just say “that was a weird thing to say, I think I need a cup of coffee” and your co-worker will probably shrug and then go about his or her life, not giving it another thought. That item you worked so hard on for this new client, if your boss lets you know it still needs to be tweaked, view it as an opportunity to learn, let them know you’ll fix it up and thank them for letting you know what needs to be better, so that next time it will come correct the first time.
HOW MINDFULNESS HELPS WITH NAVIGATING BIG CHANGES
If the big changes you’re facing have more to do with living in a recently empty nest, or NOT going back to work and learning what it means to be retired, mindfulness can help. After a lifetime of driving to the office or worksite, suddenly waking up in the morning with no obligations can actually be panic inducing.
Mindfulness can help by getting you to take a step back and look at your situation more as an observer than a participant. If your best friend was telling you about this experience, what would you be rooting for them to do? Perhaps it may be something as simple as encouraging them to start the day the same as when they went to work, but instead of heading out in the car after breakfast, a walk outdoors could be a productive option.
Taking a moment to think about how you would encourage a friend if they were in a similar situation helps to remove all of the strong emotions that may currently be weighing you down. If you’re currently feeling overwhelmed, mindfulness can also help to ground you back into the present moment. Simply begin to focus on one small aspect of your body, maybe it’s how your feet feel on the floor, you can also try flexing and relaxing different muscles in your body, moving from your toes, all the way up to the top of your head, by the time you reach your eyebrows, your feelings should become more manageable and less intense.
BABY STEPS ARE GREAT FOR ADULTS TOO!
Another approach to regaining a sense of control during times of change is to reduce big changes into small steps. Perhaps you’re facing a divorce and it feels like every part of your life is changing. Every week, make a list of things you need to get done, and that can reasonably be completed in a week’s time.
Make it easy on yourself, instead of having a list like:
- Pack up house
- Tell all friends and family
- Find an apartment
- Call Gina and ask her if she knows any good realtors.
- Talk to mom and ask her to tell all immediate and extended family about the divorce.
- Price around for cheapest dumpster rental.
IS IT WRONG TO EMOTIONALLY CHECK OUT WHEN THINGS ARE TOO HARD?
Sometimes change is very hard to deal with, especially when it’s unexpected. Many of us have gained weight during the past 18 months (the media is calling it the COVID 15) due to the stress of the unknown, and food is a common way for folks to temporarily numb or soothe frayed feelings. There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time (or a little dark chocolate) before facing the fact that your world is changing. It’s when that day or two turns into months of avoidance that new problems can arise along with the new changes.
WHEN TO GET SUPPORT
You know yourself best under normal circumstances, but not when you’re living in fear and denial. If friends and family are coming to you and expressing concern about your health or behaviour, then it may be time to seek out professional help. That could mean talking to your primary care provider, or reaching out to talk to a therapist. If you’re feeling frozen by fear around change, speaking with a trained professional may be able to help you to tap into the inner resilience that we all have.