Raise your hand if you have been dealing with major changes in your life. Wonder if Google Maps can show everyone on this Earth raising their hands? 2020 has brought many changes - health protocols, job loss, financial difficulties, loss of loved ones. While we cannot always control what happens in our lives, we can certainly control how we deal with them. Here are four (4) ways to deal with life changes and stressors.
RIDE THE WAVE
I often tell clients, "You can either swim against the current or ride the wave until the waters calm." You will exhaust yourself swimming against the current that was brought on by disturbances, chaos, and changes. Or, you can "ride the wave" until the waters calm again.
Life's changes are typically out of our control. And, it is counterintuitive for us as humans to rest during those stressful times. Instead, we get anxious, depressed, or worried to the point the changes interrupt our wellbeing and daily functioning. Rather than trying to manipulate the situation and constantly pining for things to be different, try "riding the wave" instead. Initial resistance is natural when in survival mode. Just be aware of when this resistance is no longer serving you.
If you are feeling anxious about unexpected life changes, practice some techniques to address the anxiety directly. Techniques for anxiety can include meditation, taking walks, journaling, gardening, and art therapy.
FOCUS ON VALUES
Reminding yourself of what is important in your life - family, friends, spirituality, achieved goals, a dry place to sleep, food on the table, etc - can create a surprisingly powerful shield against life changes and stressors.
Values help you focus on living a balanced life
Values are priorities that tell you how to spend your time
Values can be used as a filter to make decisions
Geoffrey Cohen and David Sherman (2014) have shown in a series of studies spanning a decade that people of all ages dealing with life changes - new schools, new relationships, job changes - can strengthen their minds with a simple exercise: spending 10 minutes writing about a time when a value you hold has positively affected you. Reflecting on a personal value can help you see beyond the stress "fog" and help you focus on what is paramount to your life during challenging times.
Humor can be a great coping mechanism when it comes to life stressors and changes. Humor can help us to build resilience to stress as well as improve our overall (physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological) wellbeing. It also enables us with:
Looking at situations from different perspectives
Normalizing life's challenges
Researchers have found that 15 minutes of laughter daily can burn between 10 and 40 calories (Savage et al, 2017). So, let's laughing!
Self-care is probably the one component to thriving in life many of us find difficult to practice. Even as a counselor, I sometimes find myself "skipping" self-care. And, I pay for it dearly when I do! You may feel depleted, defeated, have no energy, or cannot concentrate on any one thing. When you practice self-care, you have the resilience to deal with life changes and stressors. Self-care includes:
Maintaining a schedule
Healthy eating habits
Healthy sleep patterns
Making time for hobbies
Making time for "ME"
Also, REACH OUT when you need help, whether from a trusted friend or family member or mental health professional who will support and guide you through the major life transition.
Try as you might...you cannot control every aspect of your life, nor, can you stop changes from happening. However, how you respond to those changes will greatly impact your overall life experiences and relationships. It can also help set you up for something great in the next Season of your life.
Cohen, G. L. & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention. Annual Review of Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115137.
Savage, B. M., Lujan, H. L., Thipparthi, R. R., & DiCarlo, S. E.. (2017). Humor, laughter, learning, and health! A brief review. Advances in Physiology Education. 41:3, 341-347.