‘There is nothing permanent except change’ – Heraclitus
It is a time of change right now, as we contemplate moving from the breezy warmth of summer into the throes of September. For a lot of people the only certainty we know is that life is about to change whether we like it or not. For some people this will seem an exciting concept and for others it may fill them with anxiety and fear. When change is not what we wanted we can feel like the passenger on a train that is screaming out of the station with us on board. We try to slow the train down, grasping tightly to the handrail, with our heads bowed, not wanting to look where we are headed. We try to control situations, grasp tightly to people and fight the one realisation that the train has left the station, and we are on it whether we like it or not. When we try to control the uncontrollable we bring anxiety, stress, tension, fear and yes sometimes panic into our minds and our bodies. And in extreme circumstances this can play out as frozen panic, where we refuse to get out of bed or in the sad contemplation of ending a life because it is all too much.
We may not be able to change the unchangeable but we can discover new ways to manage our behaviour, our thoughts and our feelings about the change. As Nikos Kazantzakis said “since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality”.
MY SURVIVAL GUIDE TO CHANGE
ACKNOWLEDGE the fact that when you keep saying “it shouldn’t be happening’ it is akin to asking the sun not to set or the moon not to rise. Consider this, “I may not like this situation, but right now I am in it even if I don’t like it”. Yes, this can be hard to contemplate but can ultimately lead to less blame of yourself and a relaxation of some of the tension you have been carrying.
WHAT’S THE WORSE THAT CAN HAPPEN? Contemplate the worst and the best of change. What is controllable and what is uncontrollable right now? And start from there.
CONTEMPLATE THE POSITIVES – is there anything about this situation which is positive, either now or for the future? What is happening can seem very daunting at first and with contemplation and a little trust it may lead to a better outcome. Just contemplating any positives might help shift some of the anxiety and fear around the situation and as Nido Quebein once said “change brings opportunity”. Are you willing to look?
MANAGE YOUR ANXIETY AND STRESS
Change can create anxiety and stress; it is a common reaction to an unfamiliar situation. Take a breath, slow down and evaluate your situation. Write an emergency self-care list that you can go-to whenever you are feeling overwhelmed. It might be a good idea to compile your list with a professional who can help you pinpoint tools and strategies that will work for you in times of stress. On my emergency self-care list is music, meditation and breathing. What’s on yours? Look for healthy ways to sooth yourself and then implement them. This is your emotional life line which needs to be pulled out whenever you feel the fear or panic of change taking hold. Keep the list in your wallet or handbag so that it is always accessible. Just looking at your list can help you to feel more reassured.
Look at the change objectively, mind dump all of your hopes and fears about the change then actively look at how you can manage the situation. Set goals and then break these down into manageable steps which help you to bend outwards, motivating you towards the change.
As Rona Barrett said “The strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it”. Invite your friends and family to support you and seek professional support when the going gets tough. A professional can help you to develop your own strategies and confidence to deal with change.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” –Socrates. Are you ready to take the first step?