Accepting change

Lucille Meisner, MSW, RSW
Counsellor, Employee Assistance Program
May 2, 2021

Imposed change – the kind of change that we don’t choose and can’t control – often brings with it uncertainty, fear and anxiety. We may feel like we are without a blueprint or a road map – we have been placed on a journey without knowing the final destination.

How we experience change will be influenced by other co-occurring circumstances in our lives but change is almost always a source of stress, particularly when we haven’t chosen it.

Change and transition impact us in a variety of ways. Change often happens quickly, but transition happens more slowly and at its own pace. A change is an external event in our lives, yet greatly impacts our internal world. Our transition through change is an individual internal response.

The experience of transitioning through change resembles the stages of loss. We may grieve the way things were before the change, feel anger that change has been thrust upon us, or try to bargain our way through the change.

Many things are outside your control during change you didn’t choose, but there is still much within your control and these things are the keys to navigating the transition effectively.

Gain control: Identify what you do have control over and take action. Remember you cannot control the change, but you can control your transition. Implement behaviours that support your well-being and resilience. Behavioural changes help break the mental commentary that plays in our mind and give us a sense of control. We can take a momentary break from our thoughts by attending to our bodies and our physical environment. Daily rituals help us transition through this time. We are not able to control the actions of others, but we can ensure that our own actions are affirming a sense of safety and security.

Gain a sense of belonging: Change and the way we respond to it can be isolating and has potential to divide groups of people. By cultivating connection through shared experience, we feel united and supported instead. Commit to staying connected and strengthening relationships. In addition to staying in touch with important supports, we are also enhancing feelings of belonging when we offer our time and skills by volunteering. These acts of kindness can create mutually beneficial connections.

Gain meaning: When your external world feels chaotic, connect with yourself. Lean into your spirituality to connect to something beyond what’s going on around you. Make time to do that which anchors you – be it listening to music, walking, getting extra rest or eating well. In times such as these we often reflect on our values and beliefs, on what matters in the grand scheme and what might shift for us when this passes.

Gain a sense of the future: The best way to trust in the future is to manage today. Notice how your thoughts influence how you feel and how you act. In uncertain times, our minds are constantly scanning our environment for threats to our security. This is a survival response deeply seated in our brains. We can become exhausted with overthinking, overwhelming feelings and bodily aches and pains such as headaches, muscle tension and general fatigue. Notice your thoughts and let them pass like clouds in the sky or like a leaf floating in a stream... allowing the commentary to go on in your mind feeds fear. If our attention is always on our thoughts, we are at the mercy of whatever arises. Our thoughts can be a constant source of stress. Conscious breathing can lead us to a deepened awareness of our body, allowing for the release of worry and tension. Focusing on the simple act of breathing can increase feelings of inner peace and well-being. Talking with a friend or spouse about plans beyond what you’re going through now can help instill hope for the future.