Often times when there is an unwanted change in our life, the first thing we want to do is stick our head in the sand. We tell ourselves “it’s not my responsibility”, “I don’t have the time”, “I don’t have the energy”, “I don’t want to”, “this isn’t fair”, “this isn’t what I signed up for”. Really what we’re saying is, “I don’t know how to adapt and I’m upset that I have to!” These thoughts are totally natural, but unproductive. One of the best things we can do is get really clear on what is actually happening so we can get down to the business of dealing with it. M.J. Ryan, author of How to survive change you didn’t ask for” uses grounded brain science to walks us through change. Here are 17 of her best ideas to help you avoid spending precious energy on denial, blame, shame and debilitating fear and give you tools to deal with difficult feelings.
WE CANNOT CHANGE ANYTHING UNLESS WE ACCEPT IT. CONDEMNATION DOES NOT LIBERATE, IT OPPRESSES. – CARL JUNG
- Gather The Facts Like a Reporter
Gathering facts may seem obvious, but situations are sometimes very complex and it may not be clear what the facts are. Our mind can make big assumptions and send us into a panic. As a news reporter would, ask yourself:
What do you and don’t you understand about the situation?
Do you need more information before taking action?
How have you tried to resolve this or control it?
What is beyond your control?
What could you control right now that would make a difference in how you’re feeling and/or your situation?
What keeps coming u, though you keep putting it down?
What are you needing to attend to but don’t know how?
- What Other Information Do You Need?
Knowledge is power and power can help us feel more in control. If this is a change you’ve been hit with by someone else, here are some questions you may want to ask in order to understand what’s going on as fully as possible. They may seem basic, but given that change can trigger your fight/flight/freeze response, which cuts down on your capacity to think logically, a cheat sheet can be useful.
What factors led up to the change or what events drove the change?
What specific events/actions are going to occur?
When will these events/actions occur?
Who else is impacted by the change?
How was this conclusion reached and what alternatives were considered?
What options are available to deal with the impact on me?
What resources are available to help me through the change?
How are others in a similar situation dealing with this?
- The Truth Will Set You Free
Denial can take many forms. It can be a refusal to admit there’s a problem, or an ability to look squarely at the situation, or to take action on it. We can feel certain that any attempt to make it better is futile. Deep down we’re afraid the problem is too big to cope with. No one can make anyone change, but we can offer kind truth telling and support to help the people we care about turn and face reality.
- If You Can See It, It’s Yours To Deal With
In times of change we can’t afford to waste time on “Why can’t they see the building is on fire”. They can’t and you can, so it’s your job to help them see the situation for what it is and to think with them about all the resources. The acceptance you may need to find in a time of change is accepting that if you are the one who perceives it then you must initiate options and actions. Sound the alarm and get yourself and others to safety.
- How Could This Be Good Luck
If this is the first time you’re going through a major setback, it can be a shock to your system. You may have always thought you had good luck; that bad luck was for other people. Consider this – “luck” is found through your capacity to the the difficult as an opportunity and meet it with enthusiasm. Ask how this change could be good for you and how it could be used to your advantage. At the very least, remind yourself that his is not the end of the story.
- Worry Well
I HAVE BEEN THROUGH SOME TERRIBLE THINGS IN MY LIFE, SOME OF WHICH ACTUALLY HAPPENED. – MARK TWAIN
We can have a tendency to catastrophize; to scare ourselves with all the possible “what ifs” that might go wrong and obsess over them. Besides making life miserable it kills brain cells, makes us age faster and is toxic to our body tissue. Worrying well can help you find your way through. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Much of the time it’s not that big of a deal.If you find yourself stuck or limited, take that story all the way through the end so you can see that you can survive it by asking “Then what happens”. This process allows you to get in touch with your capacity to go on.
- What Core Issue Does This Trigger?
When you are unusually upset, preoccupied by a persistent emotion or behaving impulsively or inappropriately, that’s a clue that a core issue is not resolved. That could look like abandonment, deprivation, mistrust, exclusion, mistrust, failure, perfectionism, etc. This is deep work. What’s important here is to become aware that a core issue may be driving your response to the change you’re facing and making it especially hard.
- Relate To Your Fear
Relate to your fear rather than giving into it or trying to control it. A 5 minute meditation called BBLLISS helps. You can do it anytime you notice fear or anger.
B- Body- Without judgement, do a body scan from your feet to your head noticing where you feel pressure, tightness and heaviness.
B-Breath- Take 3 full, round breaths letting go of what is old and pause to notice the space at the end. Notice the inhale comes back all by itself.
L-Listen Out- Listen and notice the sounds around you.
L-Listen In- Listen to the stories you are telling yourself in the moment. Simply notice them without judgement.
I- Acknowledge the “I” stories- “I hear that I am telling myself…” Fill in your own story in the moment.
S- Sensations – Without judgment, notice the sensations that happen in your body as a result of those stories. Maybe your breath gets more shallow or your throat gets tight.
S- Sense – Finally, sense the life force pulsating through you and recognize you are alive. Name something you are grateful for.
- Send Out An SOS
When a wave of unwanted change hits, run as fast as you can to get help. From a friend, a colleague, a mentor. Having someone by your side will help your challenge feel less difficult. There are 3 kinds of support other people can give. 1- Tangible support like money, food, shelter 2- advice and help with problem solving 3-empathetic listening. Think about which you need most at the moment and who might be able to offer it.
- Recognize If You’re Milling
Even if you’re not in a life-or-death emergency where time is of the essence, it’s good to be aware if you’re caught in the milling that’s interfering with your ability to get into action. Do you find yourself slacking off? Pushing projects onto others, not being proactive, not getting to the important things on your to-do list? Or maybe doing things that are irrelevant to the task that results in some momentary relief but does little to remedy the problem. Ask yourself, “What do I need to get into action?” Is it more information? A person to talk to who may have experience and perspective to help you get what your brain needs to get going? Don’t beat yourself up for being lazy or procrastinating. Understand that milling is a natural human response to crisis.
- It’s Good To Bitch and Moan, But Not Forever
Our feelings are valid and it’s good to express them; to whine and complain. It’s appropriate for a while to let it all hang out. But there’s a difference between feeling your emotions and believing them. Relate to yourself as you would toward a child who is going through something difficult to avoid the victim trap. When a child can’t get his way, we are nurturing and caring at first, then we offer suggestions for making it better and moving on.
- Choose Carefully Where You Put Your Attention
You have the freedom to choose where you put your attention. You can focus on all the bad news, which most likely creates a sense of hopelessness, or you can focus on what you want to make happen, which creates energy and action.
- Avoid Shame By Remembering That Difficulties Happen to Everyone
One of our challenges in change is not to personalize it the problem too much. Things happen that we didn’t expect, and we’re often at the mercy of forces that are definitely beyond our control. When we remember that setback happen to the best of us, we stay out of shame and are able to get into the motion instead. Take the bold step of talking about your situation to others, even if you don’t feel like it. Once you get it out of your head, it’s not so ominous.
- Don’t Wait Precious Time or Energy On Blame
Blame can make us feel more in control to have a “why” that’s not us. But finger-pointing has unintended consequences. Forget blame, accept what is, and seek the best solution. Decide afterward if going back over the situation will yield any valuable lesson. If so, it’s appropriate to look back. But only if your motivation is to learn for the future. Then it’s not blame, but reflection that promotes better performance.
- Regret Well
We all know the painful experiences of regret. It feels awful to look back on decisions we made and wish we had made another choice. Interestingly, “what if” and “if only” thinking is a biological tool designed for ensuring survival. It exists for us to improve our lives. Psychology professor Neal Roese notes, “It’s a key component of a silently effective brain system by which people comprehend reality, learn from mistakes, move forward and achieve a bettering of their circumstances.” Neglecting the messages of your own emotions can mean persisting in counterproductive behaviors and missing opportunities for growth and renewal.
- Experience the Comfort of Forgiveness
It can be hard to get over the fact that we don’t see something coming. At times we give ourselves unreasonable and even ludicrous expectations. Have compassion toward yourself, knowing you did the best with who you were at the time. While we can’t force forgiveness towards ourselves or others, we can open our hearts towards the desire to forgive and be forgiven to help us recognize that we are all imperfect and all deserving of the mercy of forgiveness. Let go of bitterness, the hardness and the judgement of yourself.
- Stay Open to Miracles
Until the exact second we die, the possibility for miracles in our lives exist. We can’t force the miracle, we can’t demand it of ourselves or others, we can’t predict how or when it might occur. But we can keep ourselves available to its possibility by not closing the little door in our hearts.
Denial, blame, shame and fear are ways we stay stuck by limiting our possibilities.
Let’s work through that together to help you feel open to the possibility of something better. Call now for a free consultation.