Coping with Change

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.”  There’s no doubt that everyone experiences changes throughout life.  Some changes are welcome and others are unwanted.  Some changes are gradual and others are sudden.  Some changes are expected and others are unexpected.  Some changes are small and others are big.  Examples of big changes are moving, going to a new school, the death of someone you care about, getting married or divorced, having children, or a new health condition for you or a loved one.  I think of small changes as the little daily improvements we make within ourselves.  Small changes can lead to big changes over time.  I’m going to focus in this post on changes that make us nervous and how we can appropriately handle them.

When I was in school, I moved across the United States twice.  Going to a new school was always an adjustment, even when I didn’t leave a state.  My cerebral palsy added an extra layer of worry.  Would I be able to get the physical help I needed during the day, and would I be able to participate effectively in my classes?  One thing my parents and I did whenever I attended a new school was have a meeting with my new teacher, the special education director, and a school administrator before the start of the school year.  At this meeting we introduced ourselves and talked about my needs and found out how the school could help.  It took effort to set up the meeting, and it was a little boring to go to, but it helped me feel calmer and set me up for success.

One way to be less nervous about a life change is to plan ahead as much as you can.  Researching what to expect is useful.  However, you need to be careful not to over-research or over-plan, which feels overwhelming in its own way.  When I was writing a college research paper, my temptation was to keep searching until I found the perfect sources to consult, even when I had found five good sources already.  Planning is essential, but there comes a time when you should start moving forward and make course corrections along the way.

Another thing you can do when you’re facing changes is to find things that anchor you and turn to those things to relieve stress.  One thing that anchors me is praying to my Heavenly Father and reading my scriptures.  Another of my anchors is reading fiction novels.  Reading about the struggles of characters and how they’re dealing with them motivates me to face mine.  Yet another anchor is talking to people who care about me.  I’m sure you can come up with your own list of anchors.

Another useful idea is staying in the present moment.  The past already happened, and the future hasn’t happened yet, so in a profound way, the present is all we have.  The present is all we can control.  Taking a deep breath and closing your eyes for a moment can center you.  Then, when you open your eyes, start noticing little things around you.  What can you see, hear, and touch?  Focusing on your five senses can help ground you in the moment.  If this sounds complicated to you, remember that it takes practice.  The more you practice staying present, the more natural it can become.  Staying in the present could include expressing gratitude for what’s around you.

Change may be constant, but there are healthy ways to deal with change.  I hope you find these tips helpful.

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