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  • Annette Barton, LMSW, ACSW, BCD, has worked in the mental health field for more than 20 years and ha...

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Wed, May 1, 2013
Changing Your Change Experience
Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.
~  Eckhart Tolle


Change.  What makes it so difficult for some and seemingly so easy for others? 

For one thing, change brings about a whole bunch of unknowns.  How can we control something we don’t know or understand?  What happens if the change is worse than what we already have? 
 
A lot of us would rather stay in our familiar discomfort than risk the murky areas of that unknown horizon.  We know what to expect and that knowledge gives us comfort.  Stability and constancy provide security.  Watch any child who has that and compare it to a child who doesn’t and you can see the benefit of that consistency. 
 
Even our brains like routines.  When things happen over and over again, our brains can form neural pathways that make repeating those activities easy and effortless.  We can function in auto-pilot without much effort.
 
But what are the costs of avoiding change?
 
One of the biggest costs is our growth.  One can’t grow without changing.  A butterfly would never emerge from its chrysalis without change.  The flower would never emerge from the seed and that precious baby would never be born without change.  Without change, we become stuck in a rut, rehashing the same thing over and over again.  What provided constancy can quickly become boring.  Additionally, if we don’t challenge ourselves to new things, we can stagnate much like the brackish water in an unmoving section of river.
 
If we fear and avoid change, like any fear, the anxiety can increase until it becomes exponentially larger.  At that point even small changes can seem huge.  We can become frozen in that fear.  We also deny ourselves new experiences, which can broaden and enrich our lives.  Even seemingly negative changes can have long lasting positive benefits when you review it years later.
 
Change really doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  It can actually be beneficial.  We can have rich new experiences.  We can feel more vibrant and alive.  Change can help us to feel more confident in ourselves and our ability to adapt to what life sends our way.  We can become more flexible.  We can also become more intelligent as we learn what the new experiences have to teach us.
 
So what makes the difference between whether change is scary or exciting? 
 
It’s our perspective and what we focus on.  Are we going to pay attention to what we’re losing or are we going to embrace what we will be gaining?  One way will make us miserable and the other will energize us. 
 
Here are a few techniques that can help to manage and even embrace change.
 
  1. Reframe the experience.  View change as an opportunity, rather than a difficulty.  Look for the benefit and focus on that. 
  2. Look for new experiences and practice stepping out of your comfort zone.  Then give yourself lots of kudos for a job well done.  With each new experience, you give yourself the courage and strength to try another one.  You will maintain and enhance a flexible attitude, which will assist you throughout your life.
  3. Gather information.  Learn as much as you can about an upcoming change.  Research the change on the Internet.   Talk to others who have gone through that change and ask them what helped.  The information will help your mind and emotions to feel more in control and better prepared.
  4. Visualize the change and how you would like it to occur.  With visualization, you can practice going through a change.  With each visualization session, your mind and emotions feel better prepared to handle the experience.
  5. Look at change as a process with incremental steps.  It’s not an all or nothing thing.  Going through change takes time.  Be patient with yourself and the process.
  6. Practice relaxation exercises.  Remember to breathe.  Try some yoga and stretching to keep your body from tensing up.  Body tension increases your emotional tension.
  7. When you have control over a change, set up step by step goals that will allow you to ease into the change successfully.
  8. Recognize your feelings about change and start to work through them.  Write about your feelings in a journal and/or talk to family or friends.
  9. Reach out for support.  Join a support group or talk with a therapist about your changes.
  10. Remember to hang onto your sense of humor.  Humor is a very powerful tool.  It instantly refocuses you and helps you to feel better.

Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life.  ~ Herbert Otto
 
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.
Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
~ Lao Tzu

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