BY LINDA HENRY
If there is one certainty in life, I believe it is change. It can be thrust upon us, or we can choose it. Either way, it is always present. It is not a onetime event, notes Britt Andreatta, an internationally recognized thought leader who creates brain science-based solutions for today’s challenges. Rather, it is a journey. Making something different, replacing, substituting, transforming, exchanging are all ways of viewing change. However we characterize it, many of us are uncomfortable with any kind of change. Some would even suggest that we are hardwired to resist it.
All of us have experienced considerable changes in our lives, both personally and as a society, due to COVID. Although we are into our third year of the pandemic, it continues to impact us and may do so well into the future. Many of us continue grieving the world we have now lost. Even far away events occurring in the Ukraine and other areas can affect us all, directly or indirectly.
Professionals working in the arena of change management, both at the personal or corporate level, tell us that facing change can bring a wide range of feelings from hope and excitement to anxiety and anger.
Years ago, I recall crying for hours as we began our drive to another state and a new job. Although relocating was our choice and a good decision, I had no idea how much the prospect of making the change would affect me. I wish I had a greater understanding of its effects at the time.
So, how might we cope to the changes in our lives, big or small? Consider the following:
- Acknowledge what you are feeling. You may experience shock, feel disoriented, or even angry before you can accept a new normal and move on. When COVID hit and the death toll began to rise, I was surprised at how angry I felt when I heard the stories of those who lost a loved one, when I was unable to see my family or attend church in person. It took me some time to realize that I was reacting to the changes around me.
- Identify those things that you can and cannot control.
- Take time to care for yourself.
- Substitute positive feelings for negative ones. Recalling how you felt when you received a promotion, began a new job, or welcomed a new baby into the family can help soften the negative ones.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Be in the moment. Identify and focus on what is most important to you.
- Plan for how you will face future changes. Recall how you coped in the past.
- Strive to maintain some normalcy.
- Incorporate some stress-relieving activities.
- Count your blessings.
It seems to me that embracing change means both acceptance and appreciation—like looking at two sides of a coin. On one side is accepting what life may bring, both the good and bad. On the flip side, it is appreciating new beginnings. Examine your coin. What do you see?
Linda Henry writes regularly on topics related to aging, health care, and communication, and is the co-author of several books, including Transformational Eldercare from the Inside Out: Strengths-Based Strategies for Caring. She conducts workshops nationally on aging and creating caring work environments. Her volunteer emphasis is age-friendly communities.