Part of the human experience is enduring changes and transitions. In fact, change is something that happens naturally. Seeds grow into plants. Day turns into night. Wednesdays become Thursdays. We're used to those natural laws of changes. But what about those other changes that aren't always rooted in nature and logic? Things like losing or getting a job, becoming a parent, relocating and losing a friend or loved one.
These transitions are often scary, painful or filled with anxiety and tension. But is there a way to sit with these feelings or push through them to come out on the other side transformed? Of course there is. Honoring your feelings as you go through changes is important. Part of the discomfort we experience while we are in transitions comes from trying to push down our feelings. Don't ignore how you are feeling. Ever. We have to use those feelings to get to the heart of the matter.
A Lesson from Death
When I was 19-years-old, one of my best friends died of cancer. Dorrett was a fun loving girl with lots of sass. She waited for no one and did what she liked. She made things happen and didn't care about what stood in her way.
She knew she was dying, so when she told me she was going to die, I just couldn't bring myself to accept what she was telling me. But late one October evening, I got a call from a mutual friend saying that she was gone. I couldn't believe it. I was crushed.
It took me years to come to grips with her death and why I was so deep in a self-destructive pit of grief and despair. Although we had only known each other for 5 years, she was a huge part of my life. Why was I taking losing her so hard? Then the answer came as I was talking about Dorrett with another high school friend many years later.
What was really eating at me was the fact that I hadn't been as great of a friend to her as she had been to me. While she was trying to live her best life despite the fact that she was dying, I wasn't there for her. She told me she was going to die and I totally dismissed the news. I was busy doing a lot of stuff that didn't even matter. I made her death about me and my shortcomings. It had nothing to do with Dorrett. I was grieving the person I thought I was. I wanted so badly to apologize, to do better and to just have my bestie back.
Making Sense of Change
When changes come, and they undoubtedly will, we have to analyze our feelings. We have to ask ourselves why we are feeling and reacting a certain way. Looking into these answers can help us to make sense of things and better cope with what's going on. When I got to the heart of my grief, I was able to make conscious efforts to do things differently. I've become a better friend and learned that it's okay to let old stuff go.
If you're making a big move away from everything and everyone you know and love, you may find yourself to be all kinds of anxious. But the move just might make you a better person. Maybe the real issue is that you know you'll have to make things happen for yourself or learn to do certain things for yourself. Perhaps you're afraid of failure when you haven't even defined success for yourself.
Tips for Handling Change
1. Go Easy on Yourself
Be patient and gentle with yourself while you move with the change. Allow yourself to slow down and take it all in and sort things out.
2. Write It Out
Take a moment to write down the positive things that will or can come from the change. Write down your feelings and your concerns. Vent on the page so that you can look back on this time and reflect.
3. Find Support
If you're really becoming undone due to transitions, there is no shame in seeking help. A counselor can help you create healthy habits for dealing with change. And sometimes a trusted friend can be more than enough to help you cope.
4. Get Physical
Exercise and meditation are great stress relievers. Even welcomed change is stressful. Putting time and energy into your physical body does wonders for your mental body.
When transition comes your way, don't deny it's happening. Denial doesn't make it go away. Changes have the ability to expose weaknesses and create new strengths. They allow us to upgrade ourselves and become another iteration or version of ourselves. We don't have to simply react to the transitions that come our way, whether they're self-imposed or forced upon us. We can choose to interact with the changes and be an active part of the construction or destruction.