Being human can be hard. There are often things that need to faced that we would rather not. Change is one of the parts of life that can be hard to navigate. We may want to dig in our heels and refuse (honestly, it may feel like the equivalent of a toddler temper tantrum). Some people may say that they hate change and that might become a part their narrative. But it is just a story. The truth is, we have all successfully navigated changes in life. The changes we see as positive are often a little easier to deal with than the negative ones, but both can bring up big emotions. Fear, embarrassment, shame, even joy and excitement can leave us feeling untethered and unsure of how to successfully manage times of change.
As we enter fall and the start of the school year, it is often a time of reflecting on what is changing and the myriad of feelings that go with it. Maybe this year instead of wishing for changes to stop, it is an opportunity to think about how we handle change and what we can do to adjust our approach.
Here are some ideas on how you can become more comfortable managing change:
Change is Inevitable
It is important to understand that change is inevitable. You will change jobs, maybe even careers. Your child will move from elementary school to high school then to college or post high school jobs. Friends will sell homes and move across the country. Loved ones will get sick and pass away. You will retire. These are big life changes, but every day is filled with smaller changes. If we can learn to handle the small ones, we can build our resilience to change. It doesn’t mean that big changes will be easy, but recognizing that you have already successfully managed other changes can make you feel more equipped to handle other changes on the horizon.
Changing the story
You are wired for story-telling and as you deal with changes, the narrative can become one of focusing on what could go wrong. This can lead to a fear of failure and therefore an unhelpful fear of change. You may forget to include thoughts about what might go well. It’s important to also remember that even if you fail, you WILL learn something in the process. It is important to recognize when you are focusing on the negatives and try to find some balance in your story. Talking to a friend or journaling can be great techniques to explore this.
Self-compassion is the act of treating ourselves kindly, like we would a good friend we care about. Rather than judging and evaluating ourselves, self-compassion involves generating kindness toward ourselves as imperfect human beings. As you think about the changes in your life, pause for a moment and think of what you would say to a close friend who was facing the things you are. It is often easier to think of what we would say to others, so practicing self-compassion is an opportunity for us to treat ourselves in that same way.
Becoming more mindful
Be gentle with yourself. Change can trigger many thoughts and feelings. If you push them away, they will come up again, and often more intensely. You may find yourself crying at something small or yelling at a loved one. These are signs that you have displaced the feelings onto something that feels “safer.” Taking time to be mindful and becoming aware of how you are feeling particularly in your body can help better manage our emotions during difficult times.
Whenever things change in life it can be challenging, but it can also be an opportunity to grow and learn. Nothing is perfect and there will be many chances to experience change in new ways using mindfulness and self-compassion.