4 Things to Remember When Dealing With Change
Change is scary, and beautiful, and wonderful, and devastating, and heartbreaking, and most importantly constant. It is the thing that we thrive on and avoid like the plague – something we yearn for, but also something that keeps us stuck. It is usually a single event or a decision that becomes a transition to a whole new way of existing. Maybe this means becoming a new parent, or caretaking for your own parents. Maybe it means navigating retirement, or divorce, or maybe it’s deciding to follow that pipe dream that you never thought was possible. Regardless of how change is showing up in your life, in those moments of frantic survival, there are some important things to remember:
YOU WILL HAVE FEELINGS – A WIDE RANGE OF FEELINGS – AND THEY MAY EVEN SHOCK YOU!
Whether the transition was your choice or not, the whole spectrum of emotions may show up to greet you. You may be caught off guard by finally getting pregnant (excitement) and experiencing sadness at your changing responsibility or relationships. You might reach retirement and have all the financial resources to be comfortable, and still feel bored and struggle to find purpose. You may even be overwhelmed with grief at the loss of a loved one and experience relief that their struggle is over. The point is that there is no “supposed to” with feelings and you can experience seemingly opposite emotions in the same second.
BEING AFRAID IS PART OF THE EXPERIENCE. IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN AND ITS EVOLUTIONARY. CHANGE IS SCARY.
At some point along the evolutionary path, we learned that “not knowing” could kill us. The biggest thing about change is that it isn’t our normal and therefore we can’t anticipate just what the full picture looks like. For that reason, we feel anxious. It could be excited anxious, or want-to-throw up anxious, but it is uncomfortable and, as a species, we’re not big fans of that. Like with any other feeling, engaging in a battle of wills with your feeling doesn’t work. It is important to remember that your brain is designed to create this feeling to protect you. Hold this reality in kindness, and politely say “It’s ok body, feel how you’re going to feel – I got this”. Be afraid AND show up anyway.
AT SOME POINT, YOU’RE GOING TO DO IT “WRONG”
Change can be messy. Any time we venture in to uncharted territory we have expectations of how things will go. Often, the reality ends up somewhat different than what we intended, expected, or wanted, which doesn’t necessarily mean “bad”. We also often make “mistakes” in our journey to forge a new path. Mistakes are the best thing to learn from and it is important to have compassion for our own learning process. That doesn’t mean there won’t be growing pains, but even growing pains signify growth and every decision has the potential to get you closer to where you want to be. Do it wrong and make mistakes, “Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.” - Neil Gaiman
NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU PLAN, YOU WON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS
In your periods of greatest change, it is important to have flexibility to go a different direction. You may not have been in control of getting the ship out to sea, but you can change its course. Your needs may change, or you may find yourself approaching your transition in a different and unexpected way. You are rarely too far down a path to change your mind. The path may also change without your control and in those moments, too, it is important to be open to the possibilities that may arise.
In these crazy, exciting, excruciating moments, ground in to the reality that YOU ARE STILL YOU. No matter how much has changed, or how “out of sorts” you may feel, you are still the same person, with some added experience. Practice participating in your small moments and being part of the process. Practice noticing the small things that make you still feel at home in your own body or that bring you joy. Practice noticing even the blah moments that aren’t totally notable, but aren’t skin-crawlingly uncomfortable either. It is easy to get caught up checking off boxes and logistics of events without remembering the details – Someone you love’s smile, or the grounding silence of a hand on your shoulder. Take note of the small things. When you’re in the midst of the chaos also remember that you are in control of participating in your life – the good and the bad, the boring and mundane – and that is the important part in that moment – and if you can make it through this one, you can carry on to the next.
Brooke Madera, LCPC, CADC is a clinical therapist and co-founder of Green Door Therapy. She supports individuals experiencing anxiety, addiction, and life changes. She is located in Villa Park, IL.