Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, has been quoted for saying “change is the only constant in life”.
Look outside the window, where the leaves are currently changing with the seasonal change. Despite change being such a natural process – an inevitable part of life – we often seem resistant to change finding it difficult to handle both in private and in business.
This summer was all about change for me. Despite my healthy lifestyle and eating, my health suddenly weakened and I learnt that I had to go through surgery.
It was like experiencing the domino effect of change: from being an active independent business owner to recognizing instable health causing several relationships to change and business processes having to be handled differently or put on hold.
The surgery changed my mobility and independence (reduced for months on-going), which again changed my normal work pattern leading to taking major private and business decisions in a very short time.
Sat with all the jigsaw puzzle pieces around me, I again and again was told that it was amazing, how I could continue to be strong and see things so positively when all was one big chaos.
So I started reflecting on this, and came up with a few techniques, that you might find useful, when dealing with change and the feelings of overwhelm, lack of control, fear and resistance:
1. Accept the change
Acknowledge the change for yourself. Sometimes we deny and fight “bad” change so intensely that it becomes unhealthy. Step outside the box, gain perspective and comfort yourself that whatever happens, you will handle it.
Also accept that even a positive change, like getting a new job or moving in with your boyfriend can be stressful – and this is ok as well. It only makes you human.
Now, what worked in the past often doesn’t help you build the future – and sometimes we just need to trust the process, keeping our focus on the bigger vision of what we want to become.
If you are unsure of what you want, then working on getting this clarity and be willing to explore new ideas out of your comfort zone, while help you embrace the change and get the best out of it.
3. Reflect on your habits
Keeping our every day routine best possible throughout challenging situations, serves us to keep a bit of stability in our lives.
Yet, if we are honest, some of our (daily) habits are not serving us. So when faced with change, spend some time exploring what you can do differently in the future. A more appropriate reaction or take on things? Anything behavioural or physical to change or to adjust?
4. Give yourself a break to be self-compassionate
Feeling out of control in time of change is absolutely normal. Now is the time to step back and allow yourself to not function 100% all the time. This summer I myself was introduced to the importance of self-compassion and giving space to think and explore new ways. Accept that it is more than enough to be perfectly imperfect. There are no mistakes, only wisdom and good stories for later.
5. Letting go
It can be truly hard to accept certain changes, yet letting go can change your feelings immensely.
Letting go does not necessarily mean to get rid off. It merely meana to “let be”.
Holding on to pain doesn’t fix anything and replaying the past while wishing it was different, doesn’t serve you.
All you can do is accept whatever it is you’re holding on to and then let it go. Try to do it, even if it feels almost impossible. Let go and feel lighter.
6. Take action
I’ve learnt that on of the most powerful actions to get to terms with the overwhelm and feeling of being stuck when undergoing (in-)voluntary change is to be proactive and take action. This helps you to move forward in the best possible and focused way. Staying active also limits the time I spend on dwelling on what could have been.
7. Eat healthy, stay active
When going through challenging times, many of us tend to reach for comfort foods – bread, chips, muffins, cake etc. It comes naturally as such carbs boosts serotonin, a chemical in your brain that can be depleted when under stress.
Comfort food is ok – in moderation.
If you know that you have a tendency to reach too much to comfort foods, try to become more aware of this by keeping track of what you eat. Either write it down or use an app. Step back, go through the list and think twice before you reach for the carbs next time. Find ways to incorporate healthy foods during your day – focus on having a healthy balanced lunch instead of a quick white sandwich in front of the screen.
Also, if you tend to have an increased use of alcohol or other substances when facing stress, becoming aware of the habit by keeping track can help here as well.
Staying active and exercising can also help you through change. Stick to your regular routine, or if you have not done any exercise until now, try to incorporate it into your life. Even a brisk walk can work wonders!
Exercising regularly (2-3 times per week) has been found to decrease depression symptoms and make you feel better. And the good thing is, often your motivation for exercising and taking action in general will kick in throughout the activity.
8. Use your support system
As an independent person, asking for help is rare and can prove itself difficult. Yet try to think about it. The word TEAM says it all: Together Everyone Achieves More.
It’s a fact that no one gets through life alone. It is okay to ask for help.
Look at it as a sign of strength to be able to ask and receive, to realize when you need some support. Be creative. Make a list of friends and family, neighbours, acquaintances – chances are that they are more than happy to help you getting through the challenging period of your life.
9. Fun and Laughter
We often forget to laugh and have fun in every day life.
Part of being self-aware and self-compassionate in times of change is to remember to also have fun and laugh.
Try to incorporate more, play, fun and laughter into your life.
Laughing increases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins that make you feel good. It decreases cortisol, the stress-producing hormone, so laughter can sometimes really be the best medicine. Try it out!
10. Be grateful
Being in a changing environment can make us feel empty and fearful. At times it can feel as everything and everyone are against us. Here expressing gratitude can be a strong tool to stay on track and remaining positive.
Think about all the things and people you are grateful. Make it a habit to create a list of things that have happened to you during the day. Those can be big and small. Important is that they matter to you.
Personally I aim for a list of 10 things that I am grateful for each day. My coach says it is too much, she goes for 5 things. Pick your number of things you want to aim for to list and feel grateful for every day. Just please do make it more than 3!
11. Focus on the positives that have come from the change
Again use your creativity to come up with a list of positive things that have come out of the change. Maybe you have bonded more with some friends or family, maybe you have changed some habits that you realize were not serving you anymore, maybe you have become more assertive, more clear about your life. Maybe you have taken up a new hobby, or eliminated time wasters or complainers from your life, become better at eating healthy or taking time for yourself?
The list is endless, when we first start being creative and focusing on the positives! Things just become better as a result – and so does your mood!
Now get out, embrace the change and enjoy the ride !