In the state of Connecticut where I live, change is in the air… literally. The air has turned crisp and there are colors being reflected all around me. Frankly, it is stunning, and I feel lucky to have the chance to enjoy it. I even put up a video of me driving through town over on my Twitter page. Whether or not you live in a place that experiences the four seasons, change may be in the air for you, too.
Driving around this season has had me considering change, and I’ve come up with a few conclusions:
Change can be exciting and beautiful.
The change of seasons isn’t the only beautiful change. How about the birth of a baby, the beginning of a marriage, or even a new hairstyle? When things around me are changing, my mind and energy are turbocharged. New stimuli and challenges keep me on my toes, and I have the chance to be learning and growing.
Change can be unwanted.
As someone who loves routine, change is often something I avoid. I like everything to be predictable. When things are good, I want them to stay that way. A few things I never want to see change are strong relationships, warm weather, good conversations, and positive experiences for my children.
As it happens, change is inevitable. In some cases, that will mean a change away from a situation I am enjoying into one that I don’t like.
The anticipation of change makes me anxious.
A funny thing I’ve observed in myself (and others) is how hard it is to manage our emotions when we are approaching a planned change. In fact, this period of anticipation often ends up being more unpleasant than the new event or situation itself. Waiting can be brutal, as fear of the unknown overtakes us.
Change can be something I crave.
When things aren’t going particularly well, I can feel like I’m just trying to hold on until a desired change arrives. A few examples:
- Spring after a long winter
- Health after an illness
- Reunification with loved ones after an absence
- Potty training after years of diapers
- A raise after a period of scraping by
- A promotion after unrecognized effort in the trenches
There are times in life when change feels like the sun finally emerging after days and days of rain.
Some changes are unwanted and beyond my control.
On the other hand, when I’m content with the status quo, the last thing I want is for things to change. When we finally feel like we have things figured out, that is frequently the moment when change comes rushing in. The vote goes against us, the job is pulled out from beneath us, a spouse walks away, a loved one passes.
These changes can catch us by surprise, and periodically shock us so deeply that we have a hard time finding our footing.
* * *
If change is inevitable (and it is!), what can we do to enhance our enjoyment of the good and soften the impact of the bad? Are there ways we can better prepare for change?
A few thoughts come to mind.
Whether a change is good and wanted or difficult and unwelcome, it is likely to usher us onto a road that is a bit bumpy. In modern society, we tend to highly value comfort, and strive hard to maintain it. I personally am constantly trying to avoid being cold, moving from one heat source to another all throughout the winter. [My new car has a heated steering wheel, and I know it is going to be my new favorite thing!]
At the same time, progress and triumph will probably require that we walk through some unpleasant spaces. We might need to alter the way we are accustomed to doing things, a process that can be rough.
- Do I want to have an organized home? I will need to spend time walking around and putting things away.
- Do I want to feel better physically? I will need to eat healthy foods and exercise.
- Do I need to get a new job? I will probably have to persevere through a lot of rejection.
- Do I want to get a promotion? I may need to do the task that no one else will do.
- Do I want to have more friends? I might have to put myself into potentially awkward situations.
- Do I want to find a way to prevail through an emotionally crushing experience? I might need to seek counsel or solicit some other support.
In the midst of change, it is easy to get discouraged. We can second guess ourselves, regret decisions, blame ourselves and/or others, feel insufficient, or worry that things will never improve.
Everybody needs a little hope in unsteady times. Hope is critical for forward progress because it gives us a reason to stay focused and not succumb to negative voices.
If you are feeling hopeless in the midst of change, find something positive to hang onto. This might be a person, a food, a song, a mantra, a visual, or something else.
Years ago, a friend told me that she was a big believer in lifelong learning. I had just left college at that point and learning was the last thing on my mind. However, as the years have passed, I’ve realized that the aquisition of knowledge and wisdom is what makes life rich. No time is better for learning than in the midst of change. Unfamiliar circumstances, new challenges, fresh perspectives, and unusual trials all require that we wake up, pay attention, and think.
When change is in the air, so is the opportunity for me to stretch, grow, and learn new things.
Embrace writing things down
Change can test our ability to focus and remember. One of the reasons for this is that our pre-frontal cortex, the part of our brain that handles decision making, is under duress. We can’t rely on habits and familiar patterns, but rather have to keep thinking, processing, choosing, deciding, and otherwise “figuring out.” It can feel like the equivalent of running a cerebral marathon.
Even if you’ve never had to write things down in the past, you will likely find it helpful to write things down during periods of change.
For example, you may want to start using a more formalized planning approach. Or you may find it helpful to journal about your feelings. Maybe you want to start using checklists to keep yourself on track.
Writing things down (either on paper or in digital form) allows your brain to offload some of the cognitive overload that your brain is managing.
One of the hardest aspects of change can be its intensity. Unexpected calamity can turn our world upside down, and even changes we desired and sought can thrust us into periods of exhaustion and overwhelm. Whenever change is in the air, it is wise to be mindful about giving ourselves the chance to pause, breathe, and periodically think about something else.
There are endless ways to take a breather, including:
- Going for a walk
- Working on a puzzle
- Taking a bath
- Playing a game
- Serving someone else
- Watching a movie
- Playing with children
Find something you enjoy that takes your mind off of yourself and the challenges before you. The human brain can only handle so much. Every now and then, it needs a break; a chance relax and recharge.
* * *
Whether wanted or feared, change of some form is in your future. How do you experience change? What do you do to help steady yourself as you work your way through?
18 thoughts on “When Change is in the Air”
I love the way you talk about change, here, Seana. There are a couple of sayings regarding change that I will share with you here. I don’t know who originally said them. “Change is good but no change is better” and “Nothing changes until something changes”.
For the first one, I’m with you and love to keep the status quo when things are working well. Change makes me a little anxious for all the reasons you stated above but mostly fear of what will happen once things change.
For the second quote, when you want things to change you must work at it. Nothing can change until you change the way you are doing something.
Thank you for these wise observations about change.
Diane N Quintana recently posted…5 Tips To Staying On Task When Working From Home
These are terrific quotes! I think that intentional change often starts off strong, and then our energy can wane and we give up. We have to have not only a desire for a better outcome, but a mindset that commits to whatever action is necessary to bring the change to fruition.
I enjoyed this post. One of the ways I have handled an unwanted change is to put some of my energy into doing what I enjoy like workig with my clients. When my mind is busy coming up with ideas to assist them, I have less time to dwell on my personal worries.
Jonda Beattie recently posted…Organizing Your Refrigerator and Freezer in 10 Minute Blocks
I also find that serving others, whether professionally or in a volunteer capacity, is a wonderful way to get my mind off of myself and my own situation. It’s practically a relief from myself to focus on someone else! Serving others, therefore, not only benefits them, but also me. What a win/win!
Great post, Seana! You’ve made me think about change in interesting new ways.
I don’t mind some types of change, but I usually want them to happen all at once, which is rarely the way life presents them. The transition period is brutal, but your tips just might have a solution next time I’m in that place.
Janet Barclay recently posted…How I Combined Five Interests for an Awesome Experience
Change is hard to get a handle on because of the very reason you mention, Janet. It comes in like an amorphous blob. Just when we think we have grabbed on, it can shift or take on a new form, and then we are on shifting sand again. It is rarely clean and tidy. Our bank just went through an acquisition, and in spite of everyone’s efforts to make the transition smooth, there have been glitches. Patience, tenacity, and writing things down have all been required!
I gravitate to hope when there is a change in my life. Recently, I have parted with a few clients that had ended their need for my services. It was scary, but it allowed me to readjust and revisit areas I had ignored then. Great advice for anyone who needs support. Thank you, Seana!
Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…43 of the Best Small Gift Ideas to Minimize Clutter
Hope is sometimes the only thing that keeps me going when times seem dim. It seems like even happy changes have challenges embedded within, so staying focused on brighter days and the benefits of a change can be so helpful!
I’ve been an advocate to embrace my own change for years. I call it embracing possibility.
I try. It isn’t always easy. I hate change when things are going well. At the same time, I can acknowledge that change is normal, and that “embracing possibility” is the best way to to face it. 🙂
My friends and clients have heard me say this often: I love novelty, but I hate change. To my mind, novelty is self-chosen and positive, and that scary change is forced from the outside and unwanted. It’s all the same animal, but one feels like a fuzzy kitty and the other like a crocodile.
From the oncoming winter and the end of Daylight Saving Time to Elon Musk buying Twitter, from moving from an old computer to a new one (even when I know the new one is zippier), from spiraling in an unworkable situation to walking away and starting fresh, I always want to bury my head in the sand. But you’ve provided excellent ways to reduce the stress and move on confidently, with resilience. For me, walking, practicing Italian, and talking to my BFF are the best ways to cope with unwanted change.
Julie Bestry recently posted…Organize Your Writing Time for NaNoWriMo 2022
I love your coping strategies! Practicing Italian – outstanding!
I can relate to the “head in the sand” desire. I have that a lot, usually when technology issues are plaguing me. Alas, I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know by trying to learn and go with the flow.
Positive change is great of course but sometimes even not so positive change can be good too. It can help us to look at things with a different perspective and possibly push us to make some great changes.
Agreed! Periods of change can be the times when we grow the most. It’s great to try and stay open that that possibility.
As change applies to the seasons I love it. I like that I wear different clothing, eat different foods, do different activities and work differently. I like that there is variety in my life. I have come to look for variety and that sometimes comes from changes in my children’s lives, changes I make to stretch myself to try new things and learn new things or changes forced on me by circumstances. It is easier to handle change if you have a plan, ask a friend to help you through the situation, they may have experience with it. Talk yourself through the part that scares you and let yourself know you can handle it. My advice to those who do struggle with change is to practice in situations that have a limited impact. Try changing what you eat, try a new restaurant, go to a movie by yourself and learn how to make change fun and not scary. Then when the bigger changes happen you will have had practice adapting and have taught yourself ways that work for you.
I love this idea of “practicing” change in a way that has limits and boundaries. Going to a movie alone – yes, you can actually do that!
The hardest changes for me personally are the ones that are not of my choosing and have to do with something I love “just as it is.” Nevertheless, change is inevitable, so learning how to move through with peace is worth the effort!
This is so inspiring.. to know others struggle and that some are mixed bags, in that we experience it in both good and bad ways. Sometimes at once! I do lean in to hope and rest and action.
Tamara recently posted…Pumpkin Cookie Dip Recipe For Fall
Great combination, Tamara: hope, rest and action! I love this.
I do think that everyone struggles with change at some point, so we are all in good company. 🙂