They say that two things are certain in this life: death and taxes. But there is another aspect to our reality that weaves inexorably through our lives, from our first breath to our last -- the certainty of change.
We are constantly and forever changing. From developmental changes (infant to adult to elder) to circumstantial changes (jobs, homes, partners, pets, living companions, health). We even face cultural, economic, and political changes -- the rise of the computer, the proliferation of cell phones, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Great Recession.
Sometimes, out of fear, we attempt to stave off change or try to avoid it altogether. But more often than not, change is thrust upon us without our consent. And, whether we are blindsided or see it coming, one thing is for certain -- change is inevitable.
Resisting the continuum of change is futile. You may as well row a boat into a stormy ocean. Resistance, in fact, only increases your pain and suffering. Instead, honoring the change, accepting it, and even using it as fuel for better living is a healthier strategy.
The following five steps will help you to meet change with less stress and a greater feeling of ease:
1. Assess -- First, you have to determine what is within your power to change and what isn't. If you're in a toxic job situation, for example, you might mobilize yourself to seek other employment options. However, if your spouse is having emergency surgery, you need to recognize that acceptance is your goal. To paraphrase Reinhold Niebuhr's oft-cited serenity prayer, look for serenity in what you cannot change, courage in what you can change and the wisdom to know the difference.
2. Grieve -- Change has loss implicitly embedded within it. It's a natural human reaction to experience sadness as a result of loss. Let yourself feel the poignancy of an ending, the sweet delicacy of a door closing. Allow yourself to experience your full range of human emotions.
3. Open the window -- Change brings an end to one era but ushers in the possibilities for something new. Look for the new opportunities that arise. Anticipate what lessons might be learned, what paths might unfold as a result of this change. Learn and grow with curiosity as you open the window to the new.
4. Flow -- You can either feverishly resist the current of life or flow with it. And flowing is always less stressful. So get in the habit of intentionally flowing with "what is." In my book, Shortcuts to Inner Peace, I suggest aligning yourself with flow every time you wash your hands during the day. As the water touches your hands, use the sensation as a cue to say or think the words, "I go with the flow of life."
5. Now -- Knowing that change is occurring at every instant can intensify our pleasure in the moment. This present moment is where and when we experience all of life. Rather than waste it with worried anticipation or regret, you can heighten your experience of its preciousness with awareness. Stop what you are doing and savor the amazing details right in front of you, right now. Breathe in this one moment with gratitude.
When you get "good' at change, life becomes a miraculous adventure. So stop complaining about how things used to be better in the good old days. Stop hunkering down, hoping that change will pass you over. When change comes knocking at your door -- and it will -- open up and say, "Welcome."
For more by Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.