The shifting sands of our daily lives often bring unwanted change. Divorce, bereavement, job loss, moving to live in a new area or even setting up home with a new partner… These all mean that we must adapt and change to our new circumstances.
Even changes we look forward to sometimes seem harder than we expected. This is because, while change in circumstances can happen suddenly, transition – the psychological adjustment to new circumstances – takes time. There is no point in struggling against it, indeed fighting it only makes things seem worse. Instead, there are few steps we can take to help the process along.
I’ve been working with people and change for the past 25 years, and during that time I’ve also been through major changes in my own life. As a professional, helping others as a consultant and therapist, I thought I was able to help, and my clients certainly seemed happy as a result of our time spent together.
But then I had to put the ideas to work in my own life it took me to a whole new level of understanding about surviving and flourishing when fate seems intent on drowning us under waves of uncertainty, panic and even fear.
So I have thought a lot about change and I’ve also learned some useful tactics to help with the transition that it makes necessary.
1: Be kind to yourself
Recognise that any change in personal circumstances means we have to adjust. Change can happen overnight, people need longer to accept and adapt. Often there is a sense of loss, we pine for the old and even try to recreate it. Avoid the temptation to do this. Accept where you are, be patient yourself and nurture a new you.
2: Set your own agenda
This often means ignoring advice from others. Even though the people around us mean well when they say things like ‘Time to move on’, or ‘You have to get back on the horse’, they are forgetting that we all heal and adjust at our own pace. Focus on what you need, not what others think is best for you, however well-intentioned it is.
3: Don’t try to fix it
We live in a world which believes in a quick fix for everything, but while that might work for machines it’s not so easy with people. Have faith in the inner workings of your mind and body, trust your instincts and your natural wisdom. Paradoxically, the less we push ourselves to get better the easier it is to heal and change. Go with it.
4: Build your life
Stop worrying about what’s not working or struggling to put back what’s lost. Instead, focus on doing things that create a sense of purpose and enjoyment. Activities like making things and learning new skills not only divert us, they also help to build self-esteem. Whether it is yoga or the saxophone, being involved in a class or personal project can help re-build enthusiasm for life. Go for it.
5: Take it seriously
As the experts say life change is all about opportunity for growth. Numbing it with unhealthy habits or dumbing it by denying yourself the time to you need won’t avoid it in the long run, it’ll just make the process longer if you paper over the cracks. Embrace the ‘new normal’ and see the need for change as a chance to put your life on a more solid footing.
In life, we have to close one chapter before we can successfully embark on another. Once we’ve realised this we can allow ourselves the time we need to adjust and heal. Remember the words of French writer Anatole France, who said:
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”