Life is full of curveballs. We’ve surely all had the experience of heading down what you believe is a predictable and logical set of next steps only to find that the path you thought you were taking is somehow unavailable. Change is unavoidable, but we can get better at handling it.
Headlines recently have been filled with news of layoffs, compliance violations and regulatory fines and fees, budget cuts, relationship changes, graduations (and the attendant flying from the nest), geopolitical strife, illness, death, etc.
Some of the changes may be quite welcome, like a much-awaited addition to a family or an anticipated move, but other changes may be unexpected and, frankly, unwelcome. When change happens, we have many options available in terms of how we navigate it. However, when we focus on the change that inevitably will occur, we expend energy that could be better used deriving moments of joy for ourselves and those we care about.
As we become aware of imminent change, especially changes we do not want to happen but can’t stop, we have a key moment of revelation about our own resilience. By being aware of the world around us, hopeful and pragmatic, we can navigate change in a way that can improve the quality of our own lives (including overall physical and mental health) and can enhance the quality of the relationships we have with others.
Today, I would like to share with you four ways to handle unwanted change in a positive and productive manner while embracing compassion to ourselves and others. In this way, we can reduce anxiety and potential depression while modeling to others how to navigate well through unwanted situations.
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Radically accept the truth of inevitable change
Sometimes the head can understand what the heart cannot comprehend. Understanding that change is happening is easier and more natural than simply accepting the truth of an unwanted change. Our brains and emotions are wired for automaticity. We tend to do well with “same old, same old.” When there is a shift to expectations, we have to go through the process of grieving what we have known so that we can move forward to something new. It is a reminder that savoring the present is critical at all points in time because we may not know when the next change upends everything. That said, the sooner we can emotionally come to terms with change, the faster we can embrace the possibility in the next phase of the journey we are on.
Maintain routines in other areas of your life that provide stability, strength and tranquility
During times of change, routines that tend to other areas of our lives are critical to health and well-being. We are human beings, not human “do-ings,” and being in the moment requires support in every domain of a person’s life. So, when things get stressful and challenging in one area of life, it is even more important to “control the controllable,” as my mentor would often tell me. Taking care of the physical and emotional parts of life outside of the area of change can provide stability and the extra strength needed to manage the demands in the area of change.
Surround yourself with others who are supportive and uplifting
Often, people who see the opportunity and fortune in situations can help you to identify areas of hope and give you the support needed as you continue to adjust to the change. Expressing your fears regarding the inevitable change that has either happened or will happen with hopeful and supportive audiences reduces the amplification of the worst-case scenarios that might be playing out in your mind. Sharing concerns with the cheerleaders and supporters in your life may show you to be more resilient and capable of handling challenges that are imminent — and perhaps showing that some of the fears about change are unfounded and unlikely to manifest. Those who lift you up may be able to form a support team for you and help provide connections and resources you might otherwise not have had.
Savor and be present now instead of dwelling and becoming absorbed in thoughts of the unwanted future or the disappointments of the past
Wishing for things that aren’t in our best interests is part of human nature; musical artists as diverse as Garth Brooks and the Rolling Stones have sung about this phenomenon. Unwanted moments are opportunities for growth, awareness and times to reassess how we wish to prioritize and reorder our lives going forward. It is a stark reminder that the life we are living now cannot continue exactly as it is. Change forces us to become engaged with the present, which gives us an opportunity to bring our best selves, be thoughtful with our words and kind with our actions.
Unwanted changes in our lives can actually become teachers offering a lesson on how to improve the quality of our lives.
Feeling the emotions of change is an important step but not one to get lost in. Find your support, take care of yourself physically and emotionally and connect with prior situations in which an unwanted change became a blessing. You can’t avoid change, but you can live a life of resilience. You can embrace transition and see challenges as opportunities to thrive.