'The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new’
If you have been on the receiving end of massive life change – be it divorce; the loss of somebody you believed you couldn’t live without; or an unwanted move to a wildly unfamiliar area - you will know that it SUCKS. It is frightening, it hurts and it has the potential to shake us to our very core. Why is change so hard?
Us human folk are fond of clinging to a known way of being - we like what we know and generally prefer our comfort zones - even if we KNOW that the situation we’re in is not good for us, and that variation from it is one thousand percent necessary.
My own history with change has been a tenuous one. It took me three terms to properly settle in to my high school, for no other reason than it was DIFFERENT to my old, much smaller school. I hated that institution with a vengeance and spent a fair portion of my time crying. Then, sometime during the fourth term, I managed to get out of my own way and make some friends. After this my perspective changed – for the next five years I loved the damn place.
My next existential crisis came after I gave birth to my first child. In the hazy, confused fog brought on by post-natal depression, I convinced myself that I was not worthy of being my baby’s mother and that I would surely ruin her life if I even attempted it. Again, with time and care I came out of the haze and grew to LOVE being a mother - more than I’d ever loved anything previously.
So why is change so hard?
When it comes to change, I actually believe two things:
Here are some other things I’ve learned in my various existential crises, which I hope will help YOU:
You need to GRIEVE the old situation
The end of any comfortable or secure situation is a death, of sorts. It may be an actual death, a divorce, a move from familiar surroundings or ANY other significant change. It is the end of the life you were familiar with and the end of various hopes and dreams. This is no small thing!
And, the end of this life needs to be grieved, just as any death is grieved. This grieving process cannot and must not be skipped. It can be painful, it can be uncomfortable, it can be a downright bloody agonising nuisance at times.
Make no mistake here - the temptation to simply block and numb the pain will strike! But for your own good, IGNORE this temptation!! Grieve, and do it well. You will be doing yourself and your future mental and emotional health a HUGE favour if you allow yourself the time and the energy to mourn your loss now, by allowing yourself to feel and process the emotions as they come along.
Whatever pops up – just let it be. Denial, anger, depression … acknowledge it, FEEL it, then let it pass. Do NOT act on the emotion. And if it comes again (it will come again) … repeat the process. Keep repeating the process. It will be gone soon enough.
You need to ADJUST YOUR THINKING on how things 'should' be
Nothing is permanent in life – good or bad. Situations and people naturally evolve and change over the course of time, and you will find that once you accept this life becomes a LOT less daunting, and change of any sort is nowhere near as scary as it potentially could be.
Accepting the change to your circumstances, rather than resisting it, is extremely important in helping you navigate your way through it. What has happened has happened – for better or for worse – so it is in your best interest to stop wishing it otherwise! You will only prolong the pain and delay your progress in moving through the grief if you spend time and energy wishing and hoping for things to be different.
You may not recognise it as yet, but there IS light at the end of that long dark tunnel you are currently scrambling through, and the change you are currently struggling with will one day be your new normal. I guarantee there is life after change and trauma … and it may just be a better life than you could ever have envisioned.
You need to deal with change in MANAGEABLE portions
Obviously, when change hits us with the force of a tsunami on speed it can be pretty devastating. We’re left feeling downright unsure of our place in the world and there’s not a lot of room for foresight and planning. But there ARE things you can do to ease the journey!
Try developing a plan of action for yourself – today I will do this, by next week I want to have completed that, by next month I want to have done these things. When we’re overwhelmed we tend to view the future as a big black confusing vortex. Thinking things through logically and breaking issues/tasks down in to manageable sized portions can give us PERSPECTIVE. We can only do what we can do ... knowing this should give us a sense of both relief and freedom.
Lastly, look after yourself. Manage your stress levels with some self-care - eat well, make sure you’re getting some decent shut-eye, and set aside time for relaxation and fun. It may not be easy, but do these things DELIBERATELY. They are a MUST!! Ask for support (both emotional and practical) from friends and family and if need be, seek professional help from a trained therapist. YOU’VE GOT THIS.
How is your relationship with CHANGE? Tell me in the comments!
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