Because we are human beings, the one thing we can all count on is the certainty of the unexpected. Like a rock thrown into a quiet pond, change will inevitably occur, sending waves in every direction of our lives. Sometimes it can even feel like the rock has been thrown AT us and it is easy to feel overwhelmed.
Change and conflict
• Changes can rudely remind us that we are not able to control all the people or events around us. We may feel our lives are out of control. This can translate into anger and be directed at those around us.
• It is very common for conflict issues already present in relationships to become more difficult, and for communication and decision making to become more strained.
• Expressing feelings in constructive ways, can improve and strengthen the quality of our relationships, families, and organizations during times of stress.
• In times of change, it is especially important to express our feelings and “ride the waves” as best we can together.
Change can be positive
• Naturally, it takes time to accept, work through, and understand changes that occur, but changes that seem devastating at first can become positive opportunities for personal growth and skill building.
• For many people the struggle to adapt to what we don’t have control over leads to a renewed sense of what we do have control over, such as our personal values, beliefs, and ideas for our goals for the future.
Turning points: 4 Stages of Change
Change often brings on a feeling of loss as we detach from the familiar and reach out to the new. It’s common to fear or resent the change, or to have doubts even when we have chosen to make the change. Healthy coping means accepting, letting go, and moving on. Along the way we tend to go through stages in a cycle:
Impact. When the impact of the change hits, we may feel shock, anger or panic. We may ask why and wonder what to do? There can be a feeling of inability to cope.
• Transition. This is the longest, most uncomfortable stage. It’s a time for reflection and for action. It’s hard to let go of the old, while we try to adjust to and implement the new. Patience is required until we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Brainstorming and prioritizing can help us focus. This is not a good time to make major decisions, start a new relationship or take on large projects.
• Adaptation. The fog of transition has cleared. We’re more confident and ready to engage in new goals, plans and directions. We have successfully integrated the changes into our lives.
• Re-evaluation. We’ve survived and adapted; now we evaluate the effect of the change on ourselves and others. It’s a good time to plan and prepare for future changes based on what we’ve learned.
Coping with the stress During times of change, it is especially important to take good care of ourselves:
• get adequate sleep • exercise regularly • eat well • stick with a basic routine • enlist supportive friends • be patient with yourself • recognize that this won’t last forever • use relaxation strategies • learn yoga