Coping with Change

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.–Robert Frost

It’s not unusual for me to sit with a client who says, “I hate change.”  And I’ve been in that space myself.  Change disrupts things. Change requires response from us.  Change means that our routines might not work any more.  Because even if our status quo is unhealthy or difficult, it is what we know how to do.  We have figured out a set of responses that works for now. Change requires that we learn new responses, that we stretch our boundaries, that we challenge ourselves. Mostly, change is not comfortable.

Comfortable or not, change is a non-negotiable part of life.  It is a guarantee.  That means, if we are choosing how we focus our energy, we have choices to make.  Are we going to use our energy to rail against change? To talk about how much we dislike it? How unfair the changes that we face are?  Those choices are okay.  In fact, those choices may be where we need to start. It’s perfectly natural to want things to stay as they are (particularly if life has been calm and good).  Change is going to happen with or without our consent.  So, while resisting and having a symbolic temper tantrum are responses that make sense, it’s not useful to stop there. We need a “so then what” plan.

Change is going to happen whether we agree to it or not, and that means that change is not under your control.  Once you accept that, then you get to focus your energy on those things that are under your control.  And you get to make choices about how you respond to the change.  Here are a few of my favorite ways to respond to change:

  • First, remember to breathe. Breathing helps bring us into our bodies and into the present. It’s hard to cope when your mind is racing.
  • Sometimes change includes great things like new jobs, relationships, or other adventures. If you can let yourself view the change as an opportunity, not an imposition, that makes a huge difference.
  • If the change is one that was handed to you without your choice (a loss, transition, illness, or traumatic event), what small ways can you remind yourself of what is under your control? Can you focus on healthy food, or some extra movement, time with friends, or a mental escape?
  • Give yourself space to express your reactions to the change. That can be journal time, talking it out, taking a walk, or just having some venting time–whatever works best for you.
  • Remember that there is support out there.  Whether it is friends, family, online communities, or a therapist of your own, you don’t have to cope with change alone.

And while Frost tells us that “nothing gold can stay,” he doesn’t talk about the fact that change can make space for new experiences and important moments of growth, so it doesn’t need to be the villain of your story.

Do you have your own favorite coping with change tip?  Please feel free to share in the comments.  And, if you need support, you know where to find me.

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